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Hogan announces plans to restructure

Seeks to boost research, promote collaboration

by Elizabeth Omara-Otunnu - January 22, 2008


A plan to reorganize the central administration has been announced by President Michael J. Hogan. The plan is intended to strengthen the University’s research and graduate education and foster greater collaboration between the Health Center and the Storrs campus.

Under the plan:

  • the research enterprise of the entire University, including the Health Center, will be headed by a single individual. That person will hold the title of vice president for research and graduate education and dean of the Graduate School, and will report to both the president and the provost;
  • all deans at the University, including those at the Health Center, will report to the provost. The vice president for health affairs will report to the provost in his or her capacity as dean of the medical school, but will continue to report to the president regarding clinical and administrative matters.

The changes, which involve amendments to the University’s bylaws, will be discussed by the Board of Trustees at its Jan. 22 meeting and are expected to be finalized at its February meeting. Searches to fill the top research post and the position of head of the Health Center have been modified to reflect the proposed changes, which will take effect with the new hires.

“We need to have one university, not two; one provost, not two,” Hogan says.

“We need a unified mission when it comes to research, as well as education and the larger academic agenda. These changes must be made in order for the University to achieve its major goals.”

One of those goals is to expand the University’s research agenda and elevate the standing of the graduate and professional programs.

Hogan says the vice president for research will work with the provost to set a vision for the entire institution, leveraging all the resources, expertise, and skills at the University.

The changes were prompted by the recognition that the future of research and scholarly work lies in cross-disciplinary collaboration, he says, and that the University needs an organizational structure that will facilitate such work.

Hogan points to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Clinical and Translational Science Awards (CTSA) program as an example. Researchers at the Health Center and Storrs are currently preparing to apply for one of these awards.

The program, now in its third year, is intended to speed up the translation of scientific research into practical applications in the medical field – “bench to bedside science.” The NIH is expected to distribute half a dozen grants of about $14 million this year.

“The CTSA reflects the new way NIH is going to allocate funds for research,” he says. “A CTSA is a vehicle to help us become more competitive for future grants from NIH and other funding agencies.”

Hogan says there are already some good models of collaborative research involving faculty at the Health Center and at Storrs: stem cell research, for example, the Center for Health, Intervention and Prevention (CHIP), and nano medicine and nano technology.

“We want to encourage more of that,” he says, “because that is the future. Students coming to this institution will need to gain experience working in cross-disciplinary team environments, and this organizational change will also help us provide opportunities for students to learn in such environments.”

As provost at the University of Iowa, Hogan helped organize a Clinical and Translational Science Institute that led to a successful CTSA proposal involving a broad range of disciplines in the arts and sciences, social sciences, and engineering, as well as biomedical science.

A CTSA application is currently being prepared by a committee headed by Judith Fifield, a professor of family medicine and director of the Ethel Donaghue Center for Translating Research into Practice and Policy, and Dr. Peter Albertsen, professor and chief of urology and medical director of the UConn Medical Group, the Health Center’s physician practice. The committee includes several faculty members from Storrs. The target date for submission is June.

The proposal will involve a number of specific research projects, but will be characterized by an organizational model for cross-disciplinary work. It will include a plan both for training students and for connecting with physicians in the community.

Hogan says the success of the medical and dental schools is closely connected to UConn’s standing as a research and teaching university. But, he notes, the trend toward cross-disciplinary work is not limited to health sciences.

“We will see more interdisciplinary collaborations involving scholars in the arts, humanities, and social sciences, too,” he says.

“Now is the time to ensure that we will have the academic and research infrastructure in place to support this far-reaching trend.

“The success of the research enterprise affects everybody in the University community,” he adds.

“Building our research will enable us to bring in more resources, and attract outstanding faculty and students. It will be good for the University and good for the state.”

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