From Excellence to Eminence: Eyeing the Next Benchmark at UCNI

A Bird's eye view of UC Health's campus

Members of the UC Gardner Neuroscience Institute’s leadership team came together recently to present a “State of UCNI Address” to influential members of the Greater Cincinnati community at a meeting hosted by UC President Gregory Williams on the UC campus.

In his welcome, President Williams, pictured below, said that the university’s strategic plan, UC2019, which points toward UC’s upcoming bicentennial year, embraces a vision of excellence that is mirrored by the UC Gardner Neuroscience Institute. “We want to benchmark ourselves, and be competitive, against the best universities in the nation,” President Williams said. “We want to invest in excellence and our strengths. An exemplar of this, without question, is our Neuroscience Institute, whose stature is acknowledged nationally and globally. UC is truly fortunate to have nationally and internationally recognized programs that make a difference in the lives – and the survival — of so many.”

John M. Tew, MD, Clinical Director of UCNI, expressed the UCNI community’s appreciation for President Williams’s thoughtful words while noting his personal admiration for the leadership qualifications exemplified by UC’s 27th president. “Dr Williams’s calm and effective demeanor has rapidly inspired the entire community and has made all of us Proudly Cincinnati,” Dr. Tew said.

UCNI, founded in 1998 with four primary focus areas, has achieved a rarefied benchmark in the years since then, gaining national recognition in 13 neuroscience specialties. “We’ve come very far in a very short time,” Dr. Tew said. “Our mission and vision have remained constant. By working together to advance research, education and patient care, we are living our vision and have become a benchmark neuroscience institute.”

Joseph Broderick, MD, UCNI’s Research Director, said that in funding for public medical schools from the National Institutes of Health, “UC’s departments of Neurology, Psychiatry, Emergency Medicine, Neurosurgery and Otolaryngology all rank in the top 20 in the nation.” In addition, Dr. Broderick noted that UCNI’s stroke and cerebrovascular teams lead five NIH-funded stroke studies that are international in scope, including the largest interventional stroke trial in the world.

UCNI is also a leading center in the Traumatic Brain Injury and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Clinical Consortium funded by the Department of Defense, a charter member of the National Network of Depression Centers, a Udall Center for Parkinson’s Disease, a SPOTRIAS Center for Acute Stroke, and a member of the Neurological Emergencies Treatment Trials.

Anya Sanchez, MD, MBA, Administrative Director of UCNI, reported that inpatient satisfaction scores have improved significantly over the past five years through the combined efforts of the UCNI team. “Our physicians, nurses and administrative staff have been working with singular effort to ensure that even though we are growing rapidly, our patient satisfaction is also improving,” Dr. Sanchez said. “Our improved scores reflect the good work of people who are passionate about patient care.”   Other highlights presented:

UCNI is attracting thousands of people annually to its educational and fundraising events, which include the Sunflower Revolution, Research Innovations for an Epilepsy Cure, and Walk Ahead for a Brain Tumor Cure. Centers within UCNI also have received generous gifts from the Jerry Wuest-Pete Hershberger Dinner Gala & Golf Classic, the Mary Luau, and the Janet Nemann Memorial Swim.

In 2011 UCNI will host the International Vasospasm Conference for cerebrovascular specialists from around the world and the national patient symposium for the Acoustic Neuroma Association. In 2012 UC will host the Princeton Conference on Cerebrovascular Disease , the oldest and most prestigious stroke conference in the world.

UCNI has benefited greatly from philanthropic donors, including the Bever, Schottenstein, Waddell, Gardner and Lindner families. Also making magnanimous gifts are the Schott Foundation, the Farmer Foundation, the Parkinson’s Disease Support Network OKI, Lee Carter, Eric Yeiser, the MS Clinic Fund at the Greater Cincinnati Foundation, and the John C. Griswold Foundation.

Ronald Warnick, MD, Director of the UC Brain Tumor Center, reported that the Center, which has experienced an increase in surgical cases of nearly 40 percent since 2007, is a model of collaboration, as demonstrated by its work with several UCNI departments, its role within the UC Cancer Institute, and its rapidly developing relationship with its Community Advisory Board.

Michael Privitera, MD, Director of the UC Epilepsy Center, reported that Charles Shor has created a foundation for epilepsy research at UC that is focusing on how stress can trigger seizures. Funding from the Epilepsy Center’s annual wine-tasting event has led to studies about the safety of generic substitution of antiepileptic drugs.

In the evening’s closing remarks, Santa J. Ono, PhD, Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost, congratulated Drs. Tew and Broderick and their colleagues for articulating so well why the UC Gardner Neuroscience Institute is recognized around the globe as a leading treatment, research and teaching center for neurological conditions.

“What has been accomplished in a very short period of time here is simply breathtaking, and shows you how anything can happen with inspired leadership,” said Dr. Ono, pictured above. “Although we are lucky at the University of Cincinnati to be home to an astonishing array of programs that lead the world, from Classics to Paleontology, Art to aerospace engineering, architecture to theater design, inflammation research to research on hormone receptors, more and more, scientists and physicians I encounter anywhere talk to me about UC Neuroscience.”

But what is most exciting, Dr. Ono said, is what the UC Gardner Neuroscience Institute will become. “By 2019, our university’s bicentenary, I have a dream that UC will be known worldwide for not only an excellent Neuroscience Institute, but an eminent one. Medical students, graduate students, clinical and research fellows will choose UC over any other center because it will be where the action is, where everyone goes to train.

“For those who say it is a stretch, I ask you to close your eyes and remember the following names:  Albert Sabin – the developer of the oral polio vaccine; Michael Graves – world renowned architect; Vinod Dham – developer of early versions of computer chips; George Hull – conceptual artist for the blockbuster movie Avatar; Joseph Strauss – designer of the Golden Gate Bridge; William Howard Taft – President of the United States and Supreme Court Justice. Remember the stories about notable faculty members, past and present. About their brilliance and in some cases eccentricity. In thinking of the legions of people who have preceded us at the University of Cincinnati, notice the common threads interwoven among these stories, connecting us here today to the past and helping us to appreciate the very special ethos here and to understand how the University of Cincinnati was able to rise to such heights since its founding in 1819 as Cincinnati College and the Medical College of Ohio.”

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