A magazine for friends of the Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University.

The Path Forward

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The Division’s strategic plan sketches the next ten years.

When Dean of Medicine and Biological Sciences Jack A. Elias, MD, arrived at Brown in September 2013, he was charged with crafting a strategic plan that would fill out key areas of President Christina Paxson’s Building on Distinction: A New Plan for Brown. Thus began 18 months of assessing, researching, and planning to chart a course for the Division of Biology and Medicine.

The process included a frank assessment of the Division’s existing strengths and challenges. Among the strengths are foundational research programs that could be expanded and capacity to build new programs. Other positives include a superb medical education program; a highly competitive medical school and state-of-the-art facility; and committed faculty who value teaching.

But the challenges are significant: with a financial structure different from most US counterparts, Alpert Medical School does not have many revenue streams to support research and educational investments. The existing research structure at Brown also includes little team science, translation, or commercialization. Other challenges are external, such as the fact that National Institutes of Health funding is at historic lows.

As a result, the strategic plan needed to address those issues while maximizing chances for success in a grant funding environment that emphasizes translational research—research that is used to create therapies or diagnostics that improve patients’ lives. After discussions with faculty, leadership, and advisory groups, Elias became convinced that they could create a structure in which translational medicine would thrive at Brown.

“Our dream is that we make discoveries, take them into the clinic to understand disease pathogenesis, and then we can work within our means or with companies and venture capitalists to make them into therapies,” Elias says. “Developing new therapies for disease is a wonderful thing.”

The plan calls for investments in physician-scientists, new research initiatives, expanded medical education programs, and, possibly, a new research facility. What follows is a breakdown of the plan.

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