Alpern plans future of Medical School

Under the leadership of recently-appointed Dean Robert Alpern, the Yale School of Medicine is preparing to develop and strengthen many new programs in research and clinical care, including a project in stem cell biology.

Alpern, former dean of the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, assumed his position as dean of the Yale School of Medicine on June 1. He said the School of Medicine will go into a “strategic planning process” in the coming months to create a list of priorities to pursue.

“I would say that the school is in excellent shape … but I do think that there are a lot of opportunities. What we want to do is aggressively pursue these opportunities. It’s going to involve concerted planning of facilities and in investments and recruitment of faculty,” Alpern said.

Alpern, who received his M.D. from the University of Chicago, outlined a series of programs that will become the immediate focus at the School of Medicine.

“We’re going to develop a program in human immunobiology … [and] a program in stem cell biology,” Alpern said. “We’re in the process of starting up a PET center, and we’re focusing on the cancer center … that’s probably priority number one. We’re also building a liver transplant program and many, many more.”

Carolyn Slayman, deputy dean of the School of Medicine, said the programs showcase an array of research possibilities at the School of Medicine.

“The range of programs that the Medical School typically has is all the way from basic biomedical science, to translational research programs, to clinical research programs,” Slayman said. “The examples fall at various places along that continuum.”

Slayman said the stem cell and human immunobiology research are basic science research programs that may yield breakthroughs in the future. She also said the PET, a type of diagnostic imaging, and cancer centers will function in both research and clinical capacities, and that the liver transplant program will focus on research, but promises benefits for clinical science.

While these programs are good examples of the types of initiatives the School of Medicine will undertake, Slayman said they are shorter-term projects and will only be some of the ones highlighted in the larger review in the fall.

“With [Alpern] here, we’re starting … to try to set big goals for the next 10 years,” Slayman said. “These were programs that had already surfaced … but we’re sure they’re going to be part of the priorities that will be spelled out during the coming semester.”

Alpern also said the School of Medicine is working to strengthen clinical research in general.

“We’re probably more successful in basic science research than in clinical research,” Alpern said. “We will be recruiting clinical researchers and developing more infrastructure to [expand] clinical research.”

Alpern said Yale medical students should benefit from the programs under development.

“It always helps the medical students to have all these programs here,” Alpern said. “Although lot of them are clinical and research programs, the students interact with [them]. The better the cancer center, the better it is for students to learn about cancer.”

Alpern said the curriculum for Yale medical students is under review, but he does not expect serious changes.

“The school has decided to examine its educational mission, and to decide and review whether the curriculum matches the mission,” Alpern said.

Alpern added that the School of Medicine will be recruiting chairmen for the Department of Internal Medicine and the Department of Diagnostic Radiology.

In the meantime, Alpern said he will continue his personal research in nephrology, having renewed his grant from the National Institutes of Health for four more years.

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