Last Friday, I was asked to be the keynote speaker at Clinical Career Day. Not knowing what to expect, I was very impressed to find approximately 320 students from over 21 high schools in Connecticut and Massachusetts waiting to hear me speak in the Massey and Patterson Auditoriums. The students who participated in Clinical Career Day had the opportunity to ask questions, explore career choices at various booths and participated in breakout sessions that provided information on topics such as rehabilitation services, diagnostic imaging, anatomic pathology and dentistry. Some students even got a chance to go the Operating Room area to view a demonstration of a heart-lung machine and to learn about perfusionist training. I believe this is a fantastic way to introduce high school students to health professions in a fun and interactive environment and an important component of our educational mission as an academic medical center.
Today, seventy-four students at the UConn School of Medicine participated in Match Day, a defining day in their careers. These graduating students found out where they will serve their first few years as a hospital intern and resident. It was an outstanding success for our medical students as 94.6 percent of those seeking residences were matched with some of the most prestigious programs in the country. Sixty-five percent of the class, 48 of the 74 students, were matched with residency programs in New England, with 32 remaining in Connecticut. I extend my congratulations and best wishes to the medical students as they begin the next step of their medical training.
I am proud to announce that the UConn chapter of the American Medical Student Association (AMSA), the nation’s largest, independent medical student organization, has been awarded the prestigious 2009 Paul R. Wright Award for Excellence in Medical Education. The award was presented at AMSA’s 59th Annual Convention in Arlington, Virginia last week. This is the first time UConn has received this prestigious award. AMSA established the Paul R. Wright Award to recognize a medical school, chosen by the nation’s medical students, whose exemplary achievements in medical education foster the development of socially responsive physicians. The area of concentration changes each year to reflect a different dimension of medical education. The emphasis of the 2009 award is Local Advocacy and Activism.
UConn was awarded for its initiative toward achieving quality, affordable, health care for all. Medical students Erica Hinz, Teresa Doucet, Shan Shan Jiang, and Shubha Venkatesh spent a year planning the event. Held last October, their event “Projections: The Faces of Hartford,” not only raised awareness within the community but has provided essential leadership training for local medical students. The event gathered a cross-section of the Hartford community, consisting of health care providers, students from a wide range of disciplines including the health professions, state senators, city officials, teachers, community leaders, and those from the creative community. Congratulations!
Senator Chris Dodd hosted a celebratory event at the Health Center on Saturday to commemorate the nation’s renewed interest and commitment to stem cell research. On Monday, March 9, President Barack Obama signed an executive order allowing federal funding of embryonic stem cell research, overturning a Bush Administration policy. A state law enacted in 2005 appropriated $100 million in support over ten years for stem cell research.
Connecticut’s investment in stem cell research is paying off. Last month, Health Center researchers revealed that they have created two new lines of human embryonic stem cells. Only four universities in the nation have that capability. I am very excited about this new and promising era in stem cell research. By unlocking the power of stem cells, advances in treatments for Parkinson’s disease, ALS, diabetes, and some cancers may be on the horizon.
Joining Dodd was Congressman Chris Murphy who was instrumental in helping to pass Connecticut’s legislation while a member of the General Assembly. Also attending were A. Jon Goldberg, Ph.D., Director, Center for Biomaterials, UConn Health Center; Ted Rasmussen, Ph.D., Department of Molecular and Cell Biology, and Xiuchun (Cindy) Tian, associate professor of animal science, University of Connecticut, Storrs; Haifan Lin, Ph.D., Director, Yale Stem Cell Center; Lauren Cassot, stem cell research supporter, members of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, and stem cell research supporters.
I was inspired by comments made at the event by Lauren Cassot, an articulate 8-year-old girl. Lauren told the audience of what her life is like living with type 1 diabetes. She wears an insulin pump, monitors what she eats, and medical instructions accompany her on play dates. Lauren looks forward to the day when she can live a “normal” life without the complications of diabetes. She was thankful to President Obama for lifting the restrictions on embryonic stem cell research. As a parent and a clinician-scientist, I look forward to the day when no child has to live with diabetes or any chronic disease.
On Monday, I attended the ribbon cutting ceremony and dedication of the William Raveis-American Cancer Society Patient Navigator Program at the Carole and Ray Neag Comprehensive Cancer Center. The patient navigator program provides free and confidential guidance and support to cancer patients. Attending the dedication reminded me that receiving a cancer diagnosis can be a life-changing experience for patients, their families and their caregivers and that no one should have to go through it alone. Navigators provide support every step of the way, from explaining what to expect with therapy, to making sure patients have transportation to and from appointments.
The program was made possible by a groundbreaking pledge of $750,000 from the William Raveis Charitable Fund. The commitment by top leaders at William Raveis Real Estate, Mortgage & Insurance has been outstanding. They have engaged all of their employees to help raise funds for this cause. The gift enabled the Neag Comprehensive Cancer Center to partner with the American Cancer Society to launch the patient navigator program and to provide attractive, physical space for patients and families to meet with the navigator program staff.
I am proud to announce that the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering has inducted Dr. Jay R. Lieberman, director of the New England Musculoskeletal Institute, into its College of Fellows. Dr. Lieberman was nominated for significant and sustained contributions to understanding the biology of arthroplasty implants, and for innovative strategies for bone regeneration using gene therapy and materials science. The honor puts Lieberman in the exclusive company of the top 2 percent of medical and biological engineers in their field, including distinguished professors, researchers and heads of engineering and medical schools at major universities, as well as entrepreneurs, directors of research and development, and corporate leaders.
Dr. Lieberman has been and continues to be a major contributor to the advancement of the science of biomedical engineering. The work being done in Dr. Lieberman’s lab, as well as the translational research taking place at the New England Musculoskeletal Institute under his leadership, is of unquestionable benefit to the patients of today and tomorrow. This is a proud day for UConn Health Center, the New England Musculoskeletal Institute, and the University of Connecticut as a whole.