College of Medicine Institutes Have High Aspirations

Community support, collaboration and growth were common themes in a series of presentations this week about College of Medicine institutes.

“There are multiple common themes woven through the fabric of where the institutes are going,” said Myles Pensak, MD, senior associate dean for clinical programs and CEO, University of Cincinnati Physicians. “Central to all three institutes and central to where our clinical enterprise is going is the patient. There is a human being who is being taken care of, who has parents, brothers and sisters, a spouse, children and friends. As long as we remain true to our humanistic tendencies I think we’ll be able to achieve everything we want to do scientifically.”

Patient safety, ease of access and patient satisfaction are especially important, Pensak said. This July UC Health physicians will begin receiving individualized scorecards defining how well they practice medicine. The goal of the project is to ensure optimal, safe, efficient and high-quality care.

Pensak asked the three institute directors to join in his senior leadership presentation April 7 to share their visions and upcoming developments. The institutes are a partnership between the College of Medicine and UC Health and tightly weave together the clinical care, education and research missions.

William Barrett, MD, director of the UC Cancer Institute, opened his remarks by prophetically reading a 2024 newspaper article describing the ascendancy of the cancer institute.

“The University of Cincinnati cancer program last week was named in the top five of cancer centers in the United States culminating one of the great success stories in modern American medicine,” Barrett said, reading the futuristic news article.

“According to current leaders there, the keys were true institutional commitment, credible leadership and engagement of the local community. The key elements began with the embracement of the Cincinnati community led by local corporations which decided to make cancer care in Cincinnati a special priority for the good of the citizens and for the auxiliary benefits of economic growth.”

The “article” compared the meteoric growth of the cancer program with highly successful Banks and Over-the-Rhine neighborhood development projects. Broad community cooperation and strong corporate investment fueled both efforts.

Barrett suggested that this could also happen to the UC Cancer Institute if we embrace community hospitals and receive significant local corporate investment. This would make “Cincinnati a national and international destination for cancer care,” he said.

Joseph Broderick, MD, director of the UC Neuroscience Institute (UCNI), built on Barrett’s message of community support citing the institute’s two named centers, six endowed chairs and an endowed laboratory. “Without community support we would not be where we are today,” he said.

Despite significant success, including the recent naming of UCNI as the national coordinating center for all National Institutes of Health-funded stroke research, Broderick said the institute needs to bring patient care, research and educational efforts together in one location. To that end, he unveiled designs for a new neuroscience facility. With a suggested location on the current site of Piedmont Mews apartments—land currently owned by the university—the facility would enhance cross-disciplinary care and integrate clinical research into patient care.

“We also would have a first-class educational space, not only for educating ourselves, our medical students and residents, but also for the community. This place would be not just a place for clinical care but patients would get educated about their disease,” he added.

Broderick emphasized that while the building is not imminent, with strong community support the new facility is “a very likely possibility.”

Richard Becker, MD, director of the UC Heart, Lung and Vascular Institute, joined via a videotaped message because he was at Stanford University in California giving grand rounds and discussing future collaborations between institutes at the time of the presentation.

Becker described the vital role institutes play in academic health centers by facilitating collaboration, providing best-in-class care and establishing a fast track for growth. He also reminded the audience of the strength and history of the Cardiovascular Center, the forerunner of the current Heart, Lung and Vascular Institute; in the last 20 years more than 500 doctoral and postdoctoral students have been trained, and the faculty has received $500 million in extramural research funding and published more than 1,500 scientific articles.

Becker announced a new degenerative heart disease program coming soon. Calling it “first of its kind in the U.S.,” he said staff will treat heart valves, blood vessels, heart muscle and irregularities of the heart’s electrical system.

“This is timely given  an aging population, increases in comorbid illness and environmental stressors. With this program we will introduce new strategies and continuums of care such as transaortic and transpulmonic valve implantations and mitraclip—a non-invasive way to repair a heart valve,” he said. “And we will develop, through sound science and clinical research, new therapies to treat a weakening of the heart muscle known as cardiomyopathy, new treatments of the most common arrhythmia in the U.S.—atrial fibrillation—and new strategies for the prevention and management of atherosclerotic disease involving the coronary and peripheral vessels.”

The presentation, titled “Healthy Discontent as the Prelude to Progress,” was the fifth in a series of talks by College of Medicine senior leadership this academic year. All can be viewed online at The next is May 12 with Alex Lentsch, PhD, senior associate dean for faculty affairs and development. Richard Lofgren, MD, chief executive officer of UC Health, will speak on June 10. Both presentations begin at 12:15 p.m. in Kresge Auditorium.

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