During his “State of the School” presentation, Dr. Dennis D. Spencer, interim dean of the Yale School of Medicine, discussed the present state of the school and its potential for improvement. Spencer emphasized the importance of multidisciplinary disease-specific teams and the integration of research with clinical care.
The Yale Medical School, which is ranked among the top five medical schools in the country, is known for its high educational standards. But this year Yale was only eighth in total National Institute of Health (NIH) research awards, fifth when adjusted for faculty size. Yale is currently expanding and improving its facilities, which should secure increased funding.
In addition to recent campus renovations, there are plans for expansion to George and Temple streets and the Long Wharf area. Further plans include the renovation of the research component of the cancer center as well the transformation of an already existing facility into a neuroscience building.
There is also the possibility of building a bridge over the rail tracks, which will bring in patients from Interstate 95.
Spencer said money is already being invested but there is still a need for more funds.
“We probably need those investments to double to get us where we want to be in the next few years,” Spencer said.
At present, scientists and students doing interdisciplinary disease-specific team research are often in jeopardy because they encounter problems with promotion and financing, Natasha Archer MED ’06 said. But Spencer said the school is already trying to encourage this type of research.
“We want horizontal integration: integration across departments,” said Spencer.
Archer said collaboration among “all of our sister schools” is even more important than collaboration among the different departments of the Medical School.
Spencer also placed special emphasis on the strengthening of the Medical School’s relationship with the Yale School of Public Health. The two schools are co-sponsoring global public health programs.
But many of the programs sponsored by the Medical School are still focused on the basic sciences. The public and the legislature, however, are pushing for results from their investments in the form of disease-oriented research and treatment.
“Yale’s strength is our basic sciences. We are starting to take the bench to the bedside, but we must excel in that endeavor,” pediatrics and neurology professor Laura Ment said.
Archer said there are compelling academic and moral reasons to engage in disease-specific research.
“You do basic science research [to get the foundations], but you need disease-oriented research to apply what you’ve learned from basic science research and see if there is room for improvement,” Archer said.
Spencer stressed the importance of integrating research with clinical care.
“We need the technology and the computational science but we also need hands-on experience,” said Spencer.
He said the challenge for Yale is to sustain and improve both its world-class faculty and the essential infrastructure for all forms of medical research.