Dean of the School of Medicine Robert Alpern delivered his annual address to the student body Thursday on the state of the school amid a difficult economic climate and the school’s push to expand its facilities.
Sponsored by the Medical Student Council as part of its Perspectives on Medicine series, the address aimed to inform the student population of the latest initiatives and changes to the school. During the speech, Alpern touched on the school’s financial aid polciies, new building construction, alliances with pharmaceutical companies and hiring of new faculty. According to Alpern, the school’s finances have thrived despite a slow economy and reduced funding for medical research.
“[Although federal sources are tightening their funding,] this is not influencing our financial aid package,” Alpern said. “We tend to raise it with the endowment, which generally keeps going up. Although the endowment went down last year, we kept the financial aid the same. We have to supplement financial aid. I would have liked to have improved it further, but I haven’t been able to do it.”
Alpern began his address by stating the school’s three main missions — education, research and clinical practice — as well as stressing the importance of maintaining its influence in a “complicated world.” The federal government may cut clinical reimbursement and research funding for the National Institutes of Health, he said, adding that although the NIH budget is still increasing, it is not increasing as fast as inflation.
He also said the School of Medicine is working to prevent such external changes from negatively influencing its operation.
“The financial aid package we offer is very generous. Students graduate with $50,000 less in debt than at other schools,” Alpern said. “[Changes in NIH funding] is not influencing our financial aid package.”
He explained that the Medical School is searching for ways to become less dependent on NIH funding. One of them, he said, is the alliance formed with Gilead, a pharmaceutical company that is offering the school $10 million to fund research, especially cancer-related projects. He added that the school is currently negotiating with another company for additional funding.
Contracts with pharmaceutical companies, he said, do not hinder the school’s freedom to conduct independent research. He explained that “Yale gives up nothing” as contracts are carefully developed so that the school owns any intellectual property that comes from research.
Alpern also remarked on the strength of biomedical science research at Yale, citing the NIH’s recognition of the Genome Center as one of three Mendelian Disorders Sequencing Centers in the country. To continue the success of biomedical science at Yale, he added, the school has plans to erect two new buildings that will serve as research centers and will open in 2016.
He noted that the School’s rapid growth motivated this project, adding that in the last five years the school has hired around 300 new faculty members.
Many of the new members, he said, joined the new department of urology, which used to be within the department of surgery.
Three students who attended Alpern’s address said that they enjoyed the speech and found it informative.
Dipankan Bhattacharya MED ’18 said he appreciated the speech because it gave Alpern a rare chance to address the whole student body.
Regina Melendez MED ’15 agreed, adding that, as a first-year student, she appreciated Alpern’s willingness to include students in discussions about the school’s future.
“It’s very easy to be aware of the specific student-related happenings, but you don’t often realize how much more there is to the Medical School,” he said.
The Perspectives on Medicine Series brings together speakers for talks on medical education, clinical medicine, public health and biomedical research. Past speakers have included University President Richard Levin, former surgeon general Everett Koop and pediatric neurosurgeon Benjamin Carson ’73.