Earth - shattering! Ground - breaking! Cage - rattling! These were the adjectives that came to my mind at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. each work day this summer as the contractors at the Sherman Center prepared the site for our new education and research complex, a structure that will transform our campus. I realize that some people may have thought of different adjectives to describe all the action. And I’ll admit that I, too, had a few days when other words came to mind, words probably synonymous to yours, words like momentous, stunning, nove, and tremendous. Accordingly, when preparing to speak to you today, I realized that all these words could indeed act as perfect metaphors for everything that is occurring on our campus and in the world of health care as we begin this new academic year. Good morning! It is a tremendous privilege for me to have the opportunity to welcome all of you to the opening of our Convocation activities and to wish you well as we begin our new academic year. Who could have imagined that what began with 16 students in the small Shaw building on the corner of our campus would have blossomed into our great university academic health sciences center complex? When Dean Soutter stood before those student pioneers almost 40 years ago to this day, I am sure that he was filled with a sense of pride as the University of Massachusetts began to realize its vision of opening a medical school that would better serve the health care needs of our commonwealth. On that day, a few founding faculty members greeted a class of students and together they continued the tradition recounted by Hippocrates in his great oath: “to consider dear to me, as my parents, him who taught me this art; to live in common with him and, if necessary, to share my goods with him; to look upon his children as my own brothers, to teach them this art.” All of us who have taken an oath, received a pin, or defended a dissertation as we prepared to enter into our learned profession have committed to uphold this tradition. We each have willingly accepted a responsibility to educate those who come after us, to cherish dearly those who teach us, and to collaborate generously with our colleagues in furtherance of the science and art of nursing, medicine, and the health sciences. This is indeed a high calling! As we begin this academic year, there is much to celebrate. As we look to the recent accomplishments of our faculty, staff, and students, there is much that brings us pride. Yet, as we look to the future, though we approach its prospects and opportunities with confidence, we recognize that health care delivery as we know it is likely to be transformed. The uncertainty that surrounds the reform of our health care system is a constant cause of anxiety and concern. We know that it will not be possible to be passive participants—onlookers, if you will—as the drive to reshape our health care delivery system occurs before our very eyes. In fact, I believe that we, as members of this great university, have an obligation not only to participate in the discussion of reform, but to lead the way to it. Faculty RecognitionLet us begin our time together this morning, with optimism and celebration, as we recognize the accomplishments of our faculty. The heart, soul, and mind of a great university lie within its faculty. We are fortunate that our university campus continues to attract the best and brightest minds from across the world. There is a seriousness of purpose to the academic pursuits of our faculty. The accomplishments, drive, and determination of the faculty exert a force that compels like-minded scientists and clinicians to be drawn here, wanting to be a part of what is so special about this academic health sciences center at this time in its history. Over this past year, we have been most fortunate to draw so many wonderful new colleagues to our campus. Each of the 129 new members of our faculty is accomplished and gifted, with records of scholarship and clinical acumen that deeply impressed us. Our campus community is enriched by their presence. Please join me in welcoming all those who are new to our faculty over this past year! Faculty Tenured in Academic Year 2009-2010Equally exciting and deserving of recognition are the accomplishments of those who have been long-standing colleagues. This year, as in years past, we have witnessed many members of our faculty receive confirmation from our university that we wish them to spend their academic careers with us. When our university awards tenure to a faculty member, it chooses to establish a life-long academic relationship with that committed scholar. These rigorous decisions, reached after much scrutiny and a thorough process, acknowledge outstanding accomplishment in scholarship, teaching, and service to our campus and to the wider academic community. It is a privilege to recognize those members of our faculty who, for their outstanding accomplishments and commitment, were awarded tenure this past year: • Schahram Akbarian, MD • Marc R. Freeman, PhD • Dale L. Greiner, PhD • Jeanmarie Houghton, MD, PhD • John F. Keaney, MD • Nathan Lawson, PhD • Stuart M. Levitz, MD • Nicholas R. Rhind, PhD • Heidi A. Tissenbaum, PhD • Albertha J. Walhout, PhD • Scot Wolfe, PhD Faculty Promoted to Full Professor in Academic Year 2009-2010 A faculty relies on its most senior scholars to provide leadership and mentoring. Our academic community benefits greatly from the wisdom of its full professors. At this time, I would like to recognize those members of the faculty who have been recently promoted to full professor: • Edward Boyer, MD, PhD • Lawrence Hayward, MD, PhD • Ronald M. Iorio, PhD • Julie A. Jonassen, PhD • Glenn R. Kershaw, MD • Lori Pbert, PhD • Nicholas A. Smyrnios, MD • Andre J. Vanwijnen, PhD Faculty Tenured and New to the University in Academic Year 2009-2010 It is most unusual for a university to award a full professorship as well as tenure to new members of the faculty. Such awards occur only in the instance of superior scholarship and in recognition that this member of the faculty is among the finest in the world in that academic discipline. The following full professors have the distinction of being both tenured and new to the university: • David M. Harlan, MD • Thomas K. Houston, MD, MPH • Robert J. Goldberg, PhD Chancellor’s MedalsIn my Convocation Address last year, I asked the provost to seek counsel from across the campus community regarding faculty recognition, with the goal being the establishment of Chancellor’s Medals in the areas of education, research, and distinguished service. I was pleased that this idea received enthusiastic support and am privileged now to present the first of these medals. Before I begin, let me express my appreciation to the provost and to the chairs and members of the committees he appointed, who reviewed the many nominations for awards in these three areas. I was pleased to visit with the chairs of each of the committees as they presented me their group’s work: Dr. Michele Pugnaire for Distinguished Teaching, Dr. Victor Ambros for Distinguished Research, and Mr. Thomas Manning for Distinguished Service. It was wonderful to learn that there were many nominations from across the campus. Because the commitment of our faculty is outstanding, it was most difficult to select the recipients. I want to express my appreciation to all who participated in and supported this thoughtful process. Each recipient shall receive a campus medallion and shall be accorded the privilege of wearing this recognition of our esteem at all formal university functions. In addition, a $2,500 stipend shall be awarded to each individual. Distinguished TeachingBecause education is the hallmark of a university campus, I shall first present the Chancellor’s Medal for Distinguished Teaching. It is a distinct privilege to recognize a visionary teacher who has consistently received recognition from both students and peers for achievements in education. Please join me in recognizing the first recipient of the Chancellor’s Medal for Distinguished Teaching, Dr. Susan Gagliardi! In her nomination dossier, Dr. Gagliardi was recognized as a teacher who utilizes a learner-centered approach, who listens to her students and acts on what she hears to create a series of interactive experiences in and outside of the classroom. She is known for her efforts to provide a set of learning resources that can accommodate a range of learning styles and preferences. She places a high value on her students becoming partners with her in learning and teaching, both during her courses and long after they have been completed. Dr. Gagliardi’s innovative teaching methods have received national acclaim. On this campus, she has been repeatedly recognized as a superior teacher and is the recipient of more than twenty Outstanding Basic Science Educator and Clinical Educator Awards. A leader in curriculum development and implementation, Dr. Gagliardi has used her many leadership roles to advocate for educational approaches that encourage medical students to discover the connections of basic science with its clinical applications, for exploration and evaluation of innovative teaching methods, for greater and more effective use of technology in medical education, and for support of faculty in their roles as educators. Susan, it is my privilege to invite you to present the inaugural campus-wide Last Lecture, a celebration of education that we have established to recognize the importance of teaching in all that we do. The Last Lecture will occur in the spring of each year. This year we shall invite our entire campus community to become students in your classroom. Please accept my congratulations as the first recipient of the Chancellor’s Medal for Distinguished Teaching! Distinguished ResearchOn a research-intensive campus such as ours, it is most difficult to single out one scientist among all the accomplished investigators who conduct their research within our institution. Yet, in this instance, it is a great privilege to recognize an individual who has made important contributions to the body of scientific knowledge and who has brought outstanding acclaim to our institution. Please join me in recognizing the first recipient of the Chancellor’s Medal for Distinguished Research, Dr. Michael Czech! Dr. Michael Czech has made seminal contributions to our knowledge of insulin signaling and metabolism that have formed the basis for the recent explosion in metabolism research. In fact, it has been said that Dr. Czech’s work on the insulin and IGF receptors, as well as the mechanisms of insulin action on glucose transport and adipocyte differentiation, are fundamental to the field of Type II diabetes and adipocyte biology. He has published more than 300 original articles in the most influential scientific journals and has been recognized with the most prestigious awards in diabetes research. Dr. Czech has received continuous funding from the National Institutes of Health and the American Diabetes Association since 1981. He has an unparalleled track record of mentorship and training and has brought worldwide acclaim to our university, through his own research as well as through the work of those he has recruited to our campus. He is the founding chair of the Program in Molecular Medicine and has played a sentinel role in the development of the basic sciences on our campus. Michael, it is my privilege to invite you to present the keynote lecture at this year’s Research Retreat, a fitting recognition for the recipient of this honor. Please accept my congratulations as the first recipient of the Chancellor’s Medal for Distinguished Research! Distinguished ServiceAs we celebrate the 40th anniversary of the initiation of classes at our campus, it is fitting that we recognize an individual who has an outstanding legacy of service to our university. It is a wonderful privilege to recognize an active member of the faculty who has given a lifetime of service to our university and the wider community. Please join me in recognizing the first recipient of the Chancellor’s Medal for Distinguished Service, Dr. John Sullivan! For over 31 years, Dr. John Sullivan has served our community and our medical school in multiple capacities: as a clinician, a scientist, a teacher, and a leader. Throughout his many years on our campus, his deep and abiding affection for all that is UMass has served this university in ways untold. As a leader of our research community, he has been instrumental in recruiting and supporting outstanding scientists on our campus. At the national level, he has played an important role in helping our university receive national distinction as an exceptional institution of nursing, medicine, and science. An internationally recognized viral immunologist, Dr. Sullivan has made a significant impact on efforts to diminish the AIDS virus by his efforts to discover and develop nevirapine, a drug that has been used for over a decade to prevent mother-to-child transmission of HIV. It is not hyperbole to state that the lives of millions of people throughout the world have been affected through this effort. Over the past several years, Dr. Sullivan has mobilized our campus community to come together in an effort to apply for and receive recognition from the National Institutes of Health as a recipient of a Clinical and Translational Sciences Award. Dr. Sullivan would be the first to proclaim that this was a campus-wide effort. Yet, his vision for how we should present our university efforts in clinical and translational science, his constant support and encouragement of all those who came together from across our university to collaborate in the compiling of our application, and his passion and coaching as we approached many critical deadlines, were all examples of distinguished service. Over the years, there has been no greater champion for our university and our community. Whether it be through efforts to support the Hanover Theater or steward a university need through a complicated community process, Sully has always been an ardent supporter, enthusiast, and leader. Dr. Sullivan, it is my privilege to invite you to carry the mace at formal university functions including this year’s Commencement ceremony. As the standard bearer for our faculty, this position of prominence is well deserved for one who has given such outstanding service to our university throughout a career. Please accept my congratulations as the first recipient of the Chancellor’s Medal for Distinguished Service. It Is Our MomentWe are fortunate that our university continues to attract such outstanding faculty. The classes that we recruited this year are similarly distinctive. We continue to receive record numbers of applications, and the academic records and accomplishments of our students continue to excel and impress. It is our moment. Our partnership with UMass Memorial Health Care and our other clinical affiliates continues to grow stronger each day. We have begun to place increasing numbers of students in clinical rotations, and their clinical clerkship experiences continue to be outstanding. Our first-year class has begun its academic experience with our new curriculum. At the forefront of medical education, our faculty has created curricular offerings that are competency-based, integrated, inter-professional, and learner-centered. We appreciate the drive and determination that occurred over the past several years which brought us to the point where we could launch the new curriculum this fall. We recognize that such an undertaking does not come without some anxiety, but we are incredibly pleased that faculty and students are immersed in this innovative educational undertaking. Our campus is replete with new facilities. The Integrated Teaching and Learning Center opened as students returned to campus. This state-of-the-art teaching and learning facility shall greatly enhance the educational experience for all on campus. We can be proud that such a facility can go from concept to reality in real time! In partnership with our health care system, the Ambulatory Care Center opened in late summer. This outstanding clinical and research facility stands as a beacon for the type of care experience our patients have come to expect. The centers of excellence in our academic health sciences center shall be housed in this facility, which will be a magnet for patients and caregivers alike. It is wonderful to see the smiles on the faces of our patients and caregivers as they interact with each other in this new facility. The efforts that were undertaken to design, construct, and initiate care within the ACC can serve as a model for the types of interaction that should occur among partners. It is amazing what can be accomplished when those involved are not concerned with who receives the credit for a job well done. So, too, is the case with our new child care facility that is housed in the original medical school structure, the Shaw Building. Credit goes to the faculty who urged us to locate a center within the boundaries of this campus and to those who came together to make that ideal a reality. Earlier, I mentioned that throughout this summer the earth has moved on campus, both literally and figuratively. On what once housed the Basic Lot is a structure that will be everything but basic: The Albert Sherman Center has begun to receive firm footings and shall soon rise into the sky. This education and research complex is an outstanding testament to all that is happening on this campus. At a time when others must put such plans on hold, this dynamic campus boldly prepares for a future where the sparks of innovative research and teaching come together to create a fire of translational discoveries that could change the face of medicine. It is our moment! Throughout our university, whether it be in the new research facilities at the MassBiologics laboratories in Mattapan or through the innovative programs housed within Commonwealth Medicine; whether it be through collaborative efforts with the other campuses of the University of Massachusetts or through outreach initiatives within our local communities, our academic health sciences center is at the forefront of teaching, research, and clinical care. The Challenges of Health Care into the FutureFrom this position of strength and determination, we face a future clouded by many unknowns. Our nation continues to grapple with the costs of health care, with inadequate numbers of primary care providers, with quality challenges, and with seemingly inadequate resolve and determination to make things right. Our system of health care delivery is adrift amid the maelstrom of controversies caused by special interests, and there does not seem to be a clear path to calmer waters. We know the challenges. We can appreciate the difficulties. We are in search of leadership. This is where our university can shine in the year ahead. Amid all else we are doing so well, we have the opportunity to lead health care reform initiatives in our Commonwealth and for our nation. We have witnessed partisan bickering and been present as disgruntled activists made calls for legislative leaders to back off reform efforts. We are mired in debates about whether new taxes are the answer or tax cuts the solution. Some argue entitlement mentality is disrupting the system, while others counter benefits must be reduced. Everyone calls for care and quality to be improved, albeit at a lower cost. Many argue for the status quo, at least until they can retire; others posit our system is bankrupt and should be put into receivership at once. Solo practitioners are a dying breed, primary care practitioners are in short supply, and specialists fear a drastic reduction in compensation. Many call for competency-based, not content-based, education, in a setting that highlights the importance of learning and practicing as an integral member of a team. The weight of aging bricks and mortar is like a mill stone around the necks of the capital-constrained, yet, at the same time, we must spend billions on information systems on which no cornerstone shall ever be appreciated. We are straddling the fee-for-service present and an uncertain global payment future, and it has become increasingly uncomfortable the further apart those two realities become. In fact, if we do things today that will make things better in the future, we are concerned that tomorrow we may go broke! Whew! What a world! Still, all that said, I remain a firm optimist who believes that a bright future awaits our students, our faculty, our university, and our health care system partner, and, therefore, I believe our academic health sciences center is poised to be the leader that can effectively sort out the uncertainties of these circumstances. In the strategic plan we jointly crafted a few years ago, first among our many priorities was our commitment to create the health care system of the future. We knew that a health sciences campus, teamed with a well-led health care system, stood at the front of the line when it came to leadership of reform efforts. This is our proper place and this is the time to answer the call. Looking to the future of health care, I believe we must create at our university what I shall call the science of health care reform—and I am asking each of you to be a part of it. Efforts would be geared toward fulfilling our commitment to create a health care system of the future, but, in addition, the science of health care reform would build upon our commitment to clinical and translational science efforts and would focus on quality and safety, comparative effectiveness, and patient and community engagement. Such a commitment would require everyone at our academic health sciences center to participate in transforming our health care system. In the science of health care reform, everyone matters! It is not happenstance that the focus of our Convocation programming this year is on such quality and safety imperatives. With our summer reading, through our lectures and didactic presentations, by the leadership of our health care system, in full knowledge that each of us can make a difference, and among those who have wept so that we would do better, we know that the quality and safety of our health care system must be an imperative to a reformed health care system. We join together in this determination. The science of health care reform will need comparative effectiveness studies that we are most adept at performing. Using the breadth and reach of our health care system as a laboratory, if you will, and through collaboration with our Department of Quantitative Health Sciences, other academic departments, and Commonwealth Medicine, we can mobilize campus efforts to conduct science that demonstrates more effective ways to provide care, administer our health care system, provide transparency throughout the system, and develop best practices that everyone can adopt throughout the nation. Additionally, we must foster enhanced patient and community engagement. I continue to believe that we will not bend the health care cost curve until patients are closer to the purchasing decision. It is essential that we provide patients with the information they need to make the lifestyle and care decisions that are in their best interests. Also vital are wellness initiatives that curb our epidemic of obesity, cease the use of tobacco, stem domestic violence, and foster greater engagement of patients in their own health decision making. It is easy to complain about cost. It is much tougher, however, to lose weight, stop smoking, end violence, exercise regularly, and control diabetes and hypertension. And, of course, we must persist in translating knowledge so that basic science discoveries can impact clinical science. With patients as our focus, the importance and global impact of such efforts cannot be overstated! All of these initiatives are what can make our science of health care reform efforts successful. Yes, the American health care system has challenges, but together we can help figure them out and make a considerable difference. Make the DifferenceA few weeks ago, we welcomed new classes of students to our campus. We offered words of welcome, reviewed our ideals, and gave them encouragement that their futures were bright. It is truly a privilege for us to be entrusted with the education of these future nurses, scientists, and physicians. Rushing to a meeting after the conclusion of my opening lecture, I passed by the front door of the hospital. There I encountered an elderly couple trying to make their way in to see a new clinician. The gentleman was standing frozen by the door of his car, one hand grasping the top of the car door window, the other holding onto the body of the car. He could not move. It was a hot day, but he had on his woolen sweater, his flannel shirt, and warm slacks. His slight wife stood holding him around the waist. It reminded me of a slow dance from junior high days. Yet, as I hurried by, I sensed something wasn’t right. I looked closer at the man and saw tears running down his cheeks. I heard his wife offer words of encouragement. They were alone and afraid. It wasn’t supposed to be this way! With the help of the valet, a porter with a wheel chair, his wife, and I, a passer-by, we were able to help the gentleman into his wheel chair. All of us were able to help him prevent a fall. He asked if I could be his doctor. His wife gave me a big hug and off they went inside the hospital. Later that day, during a quiet moment, I thought about this encounter and how special it was to get that hug, dry those tears, and be part of the team that helped a patient. Ours was a simple act of kindness. For the patient, it was an important intervention. I wondered whether he would be seeing a neurologist because he had Parkinson’s disease. Or would it be an endocrinologist because his diabetes was out of control. Perhaps it was a family physician, an orthopedist, an oncologist, or a nurse practitioner. Regardless of his needs, I was very happy that he had come to UMass because I knew we would take good care of him. Why do I tell you this simple story? I am not looking for a pat in the back. Far from it! I want you to know that I almost walked right by this patient in his time of need. I was very busy, expected elsewhere, and running behind like so many others on so many other days. The purpose of the story is to ask you not to walk by. Our health care system needs you. It needs each of us, working together as UMass to make a difference in the lives of patients around the world. Be inspired by Sue Gagliardi and become a better teacher—perhaps someday becoming the best! Be inspired by Mike Czech. Give your all every day and perhaps you may cure a disease or recruit someone here who will. Be inspired by Sully. It must be wonderful to go to bed each night knowing you have had a positive impact on the lives of millions. Be inspired. And be inspiring. I will, and often do, admit freely that I happen to have the best job at this university. And, as often, I admit how fortunate I feel to be in my position. So it is with great anticipation that I personally begin this new academic year, because, quite frankly, I am continually inspired by the people and the work at UMMS and our academic health sciences center, and that is part of what makes my job as good as it gets. Therefore, well into the future, I look forward to being here with you as we endeavor individually and collectively to make our difference felt in this world.