Denise V. Rodgers, MD – President (Interim)
To the Senate Higher Education Committee
Thursday, June 14, 2012
Presented By: Steven Andreassen, University Chief of Staff for UMDNJ
We have debated the structure of higher education in New Jersey for more than a decade. The legislation you consider today has the potential to conclude that debate. Speaking on behalf of my colleagues at UMDNJ, we do want to conclude this uncertainty, but not at the expense of appropriate deliberation.
During the past ten years, UMDNJ has continued to uphold the four missions that define us as a health sciences university: educating students, caring for patients, conducting research, and serving our communities.
UMDNJ is to be recognized not only for our efforts and success in our health professions programs, but also for the tremendous value we add.
To that end, we believe that the proposed new structure has the potential to create a university that will have an enhanced national stature.
However, transformational change at large institutions is not easy. This is a vast and complex undertaking. Under a new organizing structure, we must ensure that UMDNJ’s missions do not change. The University and University Hospital play a crucial role in the health care safety net for the State of New Jersey. While the gains inherent in the broad outlines of this new structure are apparent to us, they are not without challenges. Blending two large institutions like Rutgers and UMDNJ will take time.
There are many outstanding issues that need to be resolved before the legislation is enacted, and we believe that until these issues are resolved, this bill should be held. Several outstanding issues to call to your attention include the following:
- Sweeping changes to the structure of individual institutions of higher education must be vetted and approved well in advance of the effective date of this legislation by the regional accrediting body;
- Consideration should be given to the creation of an administrative structure for all health and health care entities that currently exist in both UMDNJ and Rutgers;
- A consistent structure must be in place to address medical malpractice claims and the necessary fund reserves;
- Clarification that University Hospital will continue to be a public entity covered by the tort claims act and the primary teaching facility for all the UMDNJ Newark-based schools;
- Appropriate regional balance in university governance to protect and enhance those programs and assets based in northern New Jersey;
- Lastly, as indicated by our Board of Trustees, we maintain that the School of Osteopathic Medicine, its students, and patients are best served by maintaining its historic link to UMDNJ or its successor institution.
If UMDNJ does become part of Rutgers, we will enter the merged university as a strong partner - united in our mutual goal to advance higher education across New Jersey, especially the northern region of our State. In fact, it will be the addition of UMDNJ’s valuable portfolio of assets that will make the path to greatness possible and help lift Rutgers to a higher echelon as a national university. Our schools and units will form the basis of the health professions education, biomedical research and clinical resources of the proposed merged institutions. Toward this end, we welcome continued discussions to ensure all of the institutions involved go from “good to great.”