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Looking Forward to an Inspiring Academic Year

Dear RBHS Community Members,

The past fiscal year has been one of the most challenging faced by RBHS since its inception in 2013. Yet, thanks to the dedication and resilience of our faculty, staff, and students, the past year was also marked by some of our greatest accomplishments.

Since last summer, despite several surges of the pandemic, we continued to deliver high-quality patient care, conduct laboratory and clinical research, provide clinical training, and educate our clinical and nonclinical students, including offering substantial portions of our training and instruction in person and other parts virtually. This commitment to our mission has enabled us to garner many noteworthy achievements.

First, we continued our dedication and commitment to treating patients and saving lives amidst the worst pandemic in a century. During a time when many private practices were closed, Rutgers School of Dental Medicine adapted to social distancing and new PPE protocols to continue teaching and offering treatment as the state’s largest provider of oral health care. Rutgers Vaccination Centers administered thousands of COVID-19 inoculations, and our schools, centers, and institutes launched countless studies, programs, and services to support the health and well-being of New Jerseyans and others around the world. School of Graduate Studies-Biomedical and Health PhD students were in the vanguard of the early phases of the return to in-person research, and made important contributions to our COVID-19 and related research advances. We have surpassed $57 million in extramurally sponsored activity related to the pandemic since February 2020 and proudly served as a COVID-19 vaccine clinical trial site for Moderna, Johnson & Johnson, and Pfizer.

Second, we served enormously important roles assisting the state in its efforts to combat this pandemic. Rutgers New Jersey Medical School’s New Jersey Poison Control Center (NJPIES) operates the State of New Jersey’s COVID-19 hotline, which is geared toward handling medically oriented questions. NJPIES has answered more than 100,000 calls since the start of the pandemic. University Behavioral Health Care and University Correctional Health Care served over 36,000 clients, trained 65,000 behavioral health staff statewide, and handled more than 500,000 calls in their national call center, including those on new lines dedicated to providing COVID-19 and health care worker support. Robert Wood Johnson Medical School’s Eric B. Chandler Health Center has administered more than 13,000 doses of vaccine, working with community organizations to ensure access to underserved populations. The Rutgers School of Public Health (SPH) trained more than 2,000 contact tracers, and helped design an exhibit about contact tracing at Liberty Science Center. Our Global Health Institute and the SPH both worked hard to provide testing and vaccination in less privileged areas. Ernest Mario School of Pharmacy (EMSOP) faculty members participated in immunization administration training programs for more than 90 pharmacists and 30 pharmacy technicians across the state and helped train more than 400 student pharmacists to support vaccination efforts statewide. EMSOP also partnered across RBHS and helped manage the inter-professional training of many members of our vaccination corps.

Third, in our role as key advisors and respected practitioners we continued to work with the university’s central administration to keep the Rutgers community healthy. This was accomplished thanks in no small part to the tireless and dedicated individuals who planned, managed, and supported tactical implementation of strategic testing, vaccination administration, and record verification and management. Many of our students played a critical role in these efforts, making test kits, staffing hotlines, scheduling appointments, and more. The success of the past year would not have been possible without their dedication.

Beyond COVID-19 our educational efforts continue to be recognized nationally with several programs achieving top rankings from US News and World Report. The School of Nursing launched New Jersey’s only Doctor of Nursing Practitioner (DNP) Acute Care Pediatric Nurse Practitioner education program, complementing their roster of highly ranked DNP (#15) and Master of Science in Nursing (#19) programs. The School of Health Professions, EMSOP, and SPH also boast programs in the top 50. Interest in our academic programs increased beyond the national trends across RBHS, with SPH’s new student body experiencing a 55 percent increase in applications, and our medical schools each receiving well above 6,000 applications for 165 and 178 entering places. The School of Health Professions also successfully increased its philanthropy dollars by more than 500% over the previous year, thanks to its focus on cultivating relationships for both annual and major gifts.

The RBHS office of Diversity and Inclusion launched several programs to enhance funding and support for diversity, equity, and inclusion and social justice initiatives, including the Health Equity and Social Justice pilot grants, RBHS-IDEA mini grants, the Antiracism Taskforce, the Advance Engage and Mentor program for faculty, and the Staff Mentoring Program. They hosted the first RBHS Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Symposium, and continued to encourage dialogue in safe spaces via monthly Virtual Cafes, We-Meet hours with senior leadership, and Racial Healing Circles. The office also coordinated with the Rutgers Diversity, Equity and Inclusion office to complete the University Equity Audit and contributed to universitywide Diversity Strategic Planning efforts. Diversity, equity, and inclusion has also been identified as a major pillar within the RBHS Strategic Planning process which will culminate this semester.

Our overall research awards topped $528 million, representing a $163 million or 44 percent increase compared to FY‘20 and a 240 percent increase compared to FY‘14. RBHS’s NIH funding reached $157 million – a more than 17 percent increase compared to last year.

RBHS’s fundraising efforts experienced another successful year. The grateful patient major gift program exceeded its goal by 55 percent, securing $15.5 million in gifts. We also grew our donor population by 5 percent since last year and our annual giving dollars by 10 percent. These efforts combined with others to total more than $91 million in funds raised in FY’21.

We renewed our longstanding and unbreakable commitment to University Hospital in Newark, expanding clinical services, joining them in calling for the construction of a new University Hospital building, and beginning the renovation of the Newark Medical Science Building.

Rutgers University and RWJBarnabas Health (RWJBH) signed an Integrated Practice Agreement, achieving a significant milestone in our mission to build jointly a premier academic health system that is dedicated to delivering the highest-quality and advanced health care to the citizens of New Jersey. This step toward integrating the clinical services provided by the Robert Wood Johnson Medical School and the RWJBH medical group practices created one of the largest integrated practices in the country.

In June, RWJBH and Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey broke ground on the Jack and Sheryl Morris Cancer Center. Set to be completed in 2024, the center will bring the most advanced cancer treatments available to our community via its inpatient, outpatient, and ancillary services and state-of-the-art research laboratories.

Although unfortunately we will continue to battle COVID-19 for many months to come, the unprecedented scientific rigor, ingenuity, and collaboration that we have seen and contributed to this year promise a new horizon for patient care that is rich with potential. Please join me at 8:30 a.m. on Thursday, September 9, as I restart my live Health Briefings to provide up-to-date information regarding the pandemic and the university’s activities in the fight against COVID-19. The On The Pandemic podcast with Mary Marchetta O’Dowd, Executive Director for Health Systems and Population Health Integration at RBHS and former NJ Health Commissioner, will also return in September to offer in-depth discussions with expert guests. Please take care of yourselves, make use of our wellness resources, and continue to adhere to the guidance from our health agencies.

As I look forward to the year ahead, I am hopeful that society’s renewed appreciation for science, wellness, and the health professions will usher in a renaissance of life-changing discoveries, ground-breaking and integrated treatments, and a commitment to ensuring that all of our community members receive the care they deserve. The future of human health is being shaped today, and it is clear that RBHS – as a place where solutions are discovered and applied, leaders are trained, and innovation flourishes – is poised to influence its growth.

Thank you so much for all that you do. I am grateful and proud to work alongside all of you as we create one of the best academic health centers in the country.

Sincerely,

Brian L. Strom, MD, MPH
Chancellor, RBHS
Executive Vice President for Health Affairs, Rutgers University