D. COOK, M.D.
A LEADER FOR THE NEW MILLENNIUM
Dr. Stuart D. Cook Inaugural Address
April 9, 1999
I look into the audience today and see that I
am surrounded by exceptional people, people who are academically
talented, who are committed to scientific excellence and who provide
state-of-the-art, compassionate patient care.
I am deeply honored that so many of my colleagues
and friends are here today. I am also proud that on this day, as
on every other day, members of the University family are carrying
out business as usual. Faculty are teaching students. Health care
providers are caring for patients. Scientists are performing experiments.
As we near the new millennium, I ask you to consider
the advances in science and medicine which will occur within our
Imagine that the human genome is completely sequenced
and the function of each gene is known.
Imagine that, as a result, heart disease, cancer,
and Alzheimer's disease are prevented or even cured.
The knowledge needed to develop effective treatments
for diseases previously thought to be untreatable is now within
our grasp. Great research opportunities lie before us ... opportunities
to understand the cause of human disease...opportunities to apply
that knowledge to treat and prevent disease...opportunities to better
the human condition.
Our track record of achievement as a University
bodes well for our ability to be leaders in the fast-paced and continually
changing world of the 21st century.
Our University was established only 28 years ago.
But in this relatively short period of time, we have established
a record of remarkable accomplishments.
This is due largely to the leadership of my predecessor,
Dr. Stanley S. Bergen, Jr., the University's founding president.
Stan, your vision led us to becoming the nation's largest public
free-standing health sciences university. The citizens of New Jersey
owe you a debt of gratitude for your dynamic and insightful leadership.
Thank you, Stan. I promise you our University will build on your
foundation and become even greater in the years ahead.
On the cusp of a new century, where is the University
headed? Over the past 10 months, I have listened to your ideas about
the direction we should take as we continue our trajectory to excellence.
I have listened to our faculty, our students, our staff and our
alumni...I have listened to our patients...I have listened to the
University leadership...the board of trustees...and the leaders
of our state.
From these conversations and my own convictions,
I have concluded that the path to excellence requires bold moves
in many directions.
Today I present to you an ambitious agenda for
the University, an agenda which is forged from our mutual hopes
and aspirations. This agenda will enable us to recruit the best
available faculty and students, increase support for research, and
advance our commitment to high standards of teaching and community
service. Successfully implemented, it will raise the University
to the top tier of academic institutions...nationally recognized
for their uniformly high caliber of scientific inquiry... innovative
teaching methods...and clinical expertise.
Achieving our goals is important, not only for
the University, but for all New Jerseyans. Public interest about
health issues has never been greater. Look at your own experience.
How often do you find yourself in conversations about health-related
issues--with colleagues at work, with family members around the
dinner table, or talking with neighbors?
In fact, what you've said about the future direction
of the University echoes what citizens of New Jersey said in a recent
Eagleton poll. They ranked health care as the most important industry
in the state...with the pharmaceutical industry close behind. The
overwhelming majority of people polled...also said it is important
for our state to have nationally recognized medical schools, for
our University to conduct research with New Jersey's pharmaceutical
companies and for advanced medical care to be available in New Jersey.
The findings of this poll validate the vision
we have created together...and that I will present to you today.
I believe a major pathway to national recognition
for academic excellence is through research.
To propel us into national prominence, I am challenging
our schools to double their research funding within five years.
To reach this goal will require that we develop and expand programs
that will increase our support from the National Institutes of Health,
the public sector, and the pharmaceutical industry.
Achieving this goal will give us not only the
national recognition we seek, but also provide revenues to the University
that are necessary for its continued growth and development.
Now I know from conversations with faculty on
all campuses, as well as from my own analysis of space utilization,
that we urgently need additional laboratory space to grow as a research
institution. I want the faculty to know that I am committed to providing
that space. But space alone is not enough. We need to attract more
outstanding scientists to UMDNJ.
To accomplish this, I am proud to announce a new
University initiative. Today, I am establishing 25 University professorships,
five per year for the next five years. These professorships will
enable us to bring some of the best and brightest research scientists
in the nation to UMDNJ, expanding the nucleus of world-class faculty
on all of our campuses and in all of our schools.
The men and women we bring on board will be leaders
in their fields working at the cutting edge of science. They will
join a faculty already participating in more than 800 research projects,
which address the health concerns of New Jerseyans and all Americans.
In addition to its research initiatives, the University
is also committed to teaching excellence.
Twenty-five years ago, the National Science Foundation
asked that generation's leading scientists what they felt was the
most important factor in their education. The answer was almost
uniformly the opportunity to work closely with a great and inspiring
teacher. That same answer holds true today. I firmly believe that
education is a university's unique and most important mission.
As we travel on our path to excellence, we must
provide our students with the highest quality education. In an increasingly
competitive world, our efforts must be focused on graduating students
who are sought after for the best job opportunities and the finest
graduate educational programs. In recognition of the importance
of this mission, I believe it is essential that we recognize and
reward our best and most dedicated teachers.
Towards that end, I am announcing the formation
of a Master Educators Program. Its purpose is to recognize University
faculty who set the highest standards of academic excellence and
have a true gift for teaching whether they are in the classroom,
in the research laboratory, or in a patient care setting. I know
that these Master Educators will inspire others to excellence in
their education efforts and I hope that ultimately every member
of our faculty will receive this designation. The selection criteria
will be developed with input from many people, including faculty,
but most importantly these criteria will reflect what we hear from
As I have visited our schools and campuses over
the past 10 months, I have been impressed by the social and ethnic
diversity of our student body, and the vitality this produces in
our educational environment. But we cannot rest on these laurels.
We must renew our efforts to recruit the best
and the brightest New Jersey students for admission to our schools.
At the same time, we must maintain an academic environment that
provides our students with the opportunity to learn in a culturally
diverse setting so that they develop the professional and personal
skills necessary to succeed in a growing multicultural world.
This University has long been a national leader
in the recruitment and retention of students from under-represented
populations. I am personally committed to ensuring that we increase
the number of qualified minority students on our campuses over the
next five years. To do so will require increased funding of our
To help create an endowment for this purpose,
I ask the leadership of the Foundation, the deans of our schools,
our alumni and the Champions to raise more funds for academic scholarships
for deserving students. So far, I have presented initiatives to
expand our research program--a commitment to increase space and
a plan to recruit new talent through University professorships.
I've defined initiatives to foster academic excellence--a Master
Educators Program and a commitment to increase funding for student
But University faculty are also health care providers
with a commitment to providing the best possible patient care. We
are justifiably proud of the high quality of clinical service we
provide, in concert with our more than 100 health care affiliates,
to New Jerseyans throughout the state. Health care institutions
nationwide are facing unprecedented financial stresses due to the
impact of managed care on the health care delivery system. These
stresses require a new focus if we want to remain successful in
such a competitive environment. In order to maintain and enhance
our patient care programs, we must consider a cultural shift within
our institution. We have always been proud that our eight schools
are unique and have nationally recognized strength in their own
But if this University is truly bound for greatness....If
we are committed to securing large research grants, recruiting the
brightest students and providing the highest quality patient care,
we must now take an important step in institutional maturity.
We need to see ourselves as a university not limited
by profession, by school or by geography. We must function as members
of an integrated whole rather than as totally independent entities.
To this end, I ask each of you today to increase your efforts to
seek and develop projects that promote inter-school and cross-campus
To promote the growth of these relationships,
I am announcing that our deans and I will create eight to 10 University
Centers of Excellence.
These Centers will serve to translate outstanding
research and development into the highest quality patient care for
the citizens of New Jersey, no matter where they live.
Basic science and clinical research will be coordinated
with greater efficiency and effectiveness.
The University Center of Excellence designation
will mean that patient care within the center is provided by University
faculty who are recognized by their peers as clinical and scientific
experts in that specific discipline.
The center may be based on one or multiple campuses,
or coordinated through a specific school of the University. But
the clinical care component will be integrated and provided in more
than one location.
The intent of these new University Centers of
Excellence is to ensure that New Jerseyans, regardless of the complexity
of their disease, will not have to travel to New York or Philadelphia
when they are ill to find the highest quality of care.
We already have two University models that are
prototypes for University Centers of Excellence. The first is the
Cancer Institute of New Jersey, right here in New Brunswick. The
majority of its clinical and scientific staff are University faculty
members. In five short years, the Cancer Institute of New Jersey
has grown its patient base from zero to 30,000 patient visits annually.
Its statewide network has grown from five founding partners to 15
clinical affiliates. Research funding to Cancer Institute scientists
has grown impressively. And the University's goal is to build on
that success through the development of cancer programs in Newark,
Stratford and Camden.
The second model I offer, the University's Violence
Institute of New Jersey, is a dynamic microcosm of the best of our
University. It consists of faculty from all of our schools, faculty
who teach, conduct scientific research or provide clinical services
in fields ranging from domestic violence to child sexual abuse.
In addition to enhancing clinical care, our Centers
of Excellence will increase the University's ability to form additional
research partnerships. As a unified University, the resources we
bring to a clinical trial, the scientific expertise and a large,
diverse patient base, make us a top contender for major pharmaceutical
and federal research projects. That is great for us, for our patients
and for New Jersey's economic well-being.
Today we set in motion our quest to gain national
recognition as an enterprising and innovative leader in teaching,
research and patient care. The strategic goals I have presented
reflect a great deal of thought and discussion. Achieving these
goals will enable us to fulfill the University Board of Trustees'
strategic intent: The pride of New Jersey today. The pride of the
This plan is ambitious, but eminently achievable
through the joint efforts of our faculty, students, staff, alumni,
administration, Foundation, and Board of Trustees. I am excited
about leading the University into the new millennium as a nationally
prominent health sciences institution.
Through our short, but extraordinary, history,
we have been seen as a young university with a dream. We are proud
that our programs in research, education, patient care, and community
service have made a significant contribution to the health and well-being
of New Jersey's citizens. We are proud of the role the University
plays in contributing to New Jersey's economy.
We are proud that this University has and will
meet the promise made by state leaders to citizens nearly three
I thank Isabel Miranda and the University board
of trustees for the confidence they have shown in me. I thank the
deans and academic leadership in each of our schools for their commitment
to the vision we've developed together. Thank you to the University
community. It's been a privilege for me to come to work here each
day for 27 years as a teacher, physician and researcher. And it's
an honor to now be the president of the University of Medicine and
Dentistry of New Jersey.
I offer a special thank you to my wife, Josie,
my children, my grandchildren, and other family members who are
here to share this wonderful day with me. Thank you for always being
there for me. As we go forward, we must remember the responsibility
we have to our students, to our patients, to each other, and most
importantly, to the citizens of New Jersey who have invested so
much in each of us.
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