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October 13, 2016

Med school ended FY16 in the black, Levine says

scaife proposed exterior

Fundraising is underway to expand and renovate the medical school’s home in Scaife Hall. A $100 million multiphase project that would include the addition of a seven-story west wing is envisioned.

Pitt’s medical school, which encompasses a budget of approximately $2 billion, finished fiscal year 2016 with net income of $47.4 million.

“The point is we ended the year in the black rather than in the red,” Arthur S. Levine, senior vice chancellor for the Health Sciences and dean of the School of Medicine, told faculty last week in a wide-ranging annual state of the medical school address that highlighted the school’s integration with UPMC operations.

He pointed to investment by UPMC in Pitt’s medical school, citing support in FY15 totaling some $190 million.

“There is not another medical school in the country that gets this kind of largesse from its associated hospital system,” Levine said, adding that the funds are directed to a variety of endeavors including teaching and training; scholarships; startup packages for new assistant professors; and infrastructure.

Working together in an integrated system is important, the dean said, noting, “This is the only hospital system in the United States associated with a University that has its own insurance plan.”

He elaborated: “If we as physicians know how to keep people from getting sick, or at least how to make the length of their illness shorter, then the insurance company saves money and can reinvest its retained premiums into us. … This is a critical dimension of how UPMC operates and how we operate as a consequence.”

He made note of the new UPMC Enterprises division, which focuses on commercial endeavors with an aim to increase profits.

“That, in turn, links back to us,” he said. “We’re not going to get $190 million a year from UPMC unless it remains as successful as it currently is.”

NIH funding up

Pitt ranks No. 5 in the number and dollar amount of National Institutes of Health (NIH) funding, based on a five-year average for the years 1998-2015. The University ranks behind Harvard, Penn, Johns Hopkins and the University of California-San Francisco, Levine said.

He added that for the first time, Pitt exceeded more than a half-billion in NIH funding, clearing $504 million in the federal fiscal year that ended Sept. 30.

Pitt was one of only six schools that improved over the previous year, up 9 percent, he said.

Fundraising lagging

An area that needs improvement is fundraising, which is a goal for this year and the years to come, Levine said.

Medical and Health Sciences Foundation and affiliated hospital foundation fundraising stood at $101.2 million in FY16, its lowest level in 11 years, dropping from $125.4 million in FY15.

“It’s particularly important for us to raise money for basic research,” he said, citing a trend among federal and philanthropic supporters toward translational research, rather than in funding discovery and invention. The shift is unfortunate, he said. “If you haven’t discovered or invented something, there’s nothing to translate.”

Board of Visitors “in awe”

“Our peers see us as being fortunate indeed,” Levine said, reflecting on a recent Board of Visitors meeting that included leaders from such institutions as Penn, UC-San Francisco, University of Washington, Albert Einstein Medical School and Yale.

“My own impression was they not only admired what we have accomplished, one or two of them said they were in awe of our stability, our success, productivity and our relationship with our hospital system,” he said.

Vice Dean Ann E. Thompson concurred. “They obviously face some of the same challenges that we face, including perhaps most significantly the conflicting pressures on our clinician-educators trying to find time to educate when the pressure to generate RVUs (relative value units) is great, and for investigator-educators who are pressured to bring in grant money instead of teaching.”

She noted the discussion yielded no solutions to the problem, but said the Board of Visitors members were “in awe” of the resources here.

“When we are feeling pummeled by our environment, I think we can be aware that, compared to some other excellent places, we are doing pretty well,” she said.


Levine’s full state of the School of Medicine address is posted at:

—Kimberly K. Barlow

Filed under: Feature,Volume 49 Issue 4

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