July 1, Rutgers celebrated the integration with most of the former University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey (UMDNJ). Governor Chris Christie hailed this historic event as an opportunity to change higher education in New Jersey, saying that Rutgers is “on the path to becoming one of America’s great research universities.” And former governor Tom Kean, who chaired the Higher Education Task Force and took part in the celebrations, predicted earlier that the integration would “take Rutgers from where it is now, which is good, and make it great.”
The integration has not only transformed higher education in New Jersey; it has also reshaped the landscape of health care delivery in the state. Rutgers is now a truly comprehensive university, with programs across the full range of disciplines that will allow our students to pursue emerging fields and areas of specialty. But with our ability to move research from the lab through clinical trials to hospitals, and with agreements with hospitals throughout the state, we’re also creating an integrated health care delivery system that will benefit residents of New Jersey.
We have combined former UMDNJ schools, clinical practices, and centers and institutes with related long-standing Rutgers entities, such as our schools of pharmacy and nursing, to form Rutgers Biomedical and Health Sciences (RBHS), and we have named an extraordinarily gifted scholar, physician, and academic leader—Brian Strom of the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine—as its inaugural chancellor. The collaborations that are now possible between the members of our newly expanded faculty in the biomedical and health sciences, and their interaction with faculty in the life sciences, law, philosophy, and other disciplines, will enrich the intellectual life of the entire university.
My goal for RBHS is to take maximum advantage of the synergies inherent in these cross-unit collaborations while enabling each of the schools and units to grow and excel individually. Though these two objectives might appear to be in competition with each other, I’ll know we’ve been successful when we have achieved both. Indeed, in many ways, this challenge mirrors the nature of modern health care: while there is a proliferation of areas of specialization, the true advances and breakthroughs in research and health care delivery happen when these areas of specialization collaborate with one another.
In addition to providing cutting-edge graduate opportunities, RBHS offers a broad range of undergraduate programs. With so many new options, students have an even greater ability to begin their undergraduate studies on one career path and end up somewhere completely different. New joint-degree programs will enable students to tailor their undergraduate experience according to their own interests and passions—and according to contemporary industry trends. Moreover, RBHS will provide even more opportunities for students to work in research-intensive settings so that they can experience the exhilaration of academic discovery during their undergraduate careers.
The new Rutgers will be well positioned to compete with other research institutions for federal funding from granting agencies, like the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health, for life-changing research in cancer, autism, nutrition, and other critical areas. And the integration will encourage public-private partnerships that both generate jobs and improve health care delivery. With a more coordinated and research-enhanced platform, RBHS is going to not only improve health care services for New Jersey residents, but also accelerate the discovery of better treatments and new cures for intractable diseases and illnesses that will benefit all of us.
The process of integrating our systems is going smoothly, but it is far from complete. Realistically, with an integration of this size and scope, it takes years to fully implement the necessary steps to combine two large and complex institutions. But we will get there. And it will mean better health care delivery for the patients in our clinical practices, greater opportunities to translate our research into new medical breakthroughs, and deeper partnerships with the pharmaceutical, biotech, and other health care industries that are so vital to the state’s economy. Most importantly, the new Rutgers will be a national leader in higher education, a comprehensive research university to which we can all point with enormous pride.
— Robert L. Barchi