January 20, 2009
Yesterday, we celebrated the official holiday marking the birth of Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. Today, we pause to honor the inauguration of Barack Obama as the 44th President of the United States. These two events, occurring in such close proximity, bring to mind Dr. King’s dream that future generations would “not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.”
Today, as we struggle with great financial challenges, we may draw further inspiration from another one of Dr. King’s speeches, in which he said, “The nation is sick. Trouble is in the land. Confusion is all around . . . but I know somehow, that only when it is dark enough, you can see the stars.” Here at the Medical University, looking into the night sky of our budget challenges, we are beginning to see some of those stars. I am pleased to share with you an update on our situation.
Last week, the State’s Board of Economic Advisors updated their revenue projections for the state and concluded that things were relatively stable since their December estimates. Key pieces of information, such as sales tax collections through the holiday season and corporate tax collections will not be available until February, so some caution is warranted. In the meantime, we have asked the individual financial teams within the Medical University to prepare contingency plans for further budget cuts, hoping that these plans will not have to be implemented this year.
We continue to explore ways in which we can operate more efficiently. These evaluations are far-reaching, covering the spectrum from basic business practices to the organization of our academic programs. For example, the College of Medicine has a retreat scheduled at the end of the month to review possible efficiencies in their structure and operations. The College of Nursing held a faculty retreat already in which important decisions were made about focusing their educational efforts. These and other discussions across campus will help to set future priorities.
Equally important, we have launched discussions with other institutions to explore how we might partner together to find savings. A series of four working groups has been created with representatives from MUSC, the College of Charleston and The Citadel to develop proposals for sharing of infrastructure. We are beginning separate discussions with our colleagues at Clemson and USC to investigate whether we can find efficiencies with them.
On the revenue front, we are exploring opportunities at both the state and federal levels. The U. S. Congress is considering stimulus legislation that could have a significant impact on MUSC, including increasing money for the Medicaid program, and increasing the budget for the National Institutes of Health and other federal research agencies. We may also benefit from new resources for clinical information technology.
At the state level, perhaps the greatest opportunity in the new legislative session will be an increase in the cigarette tax. Several proposals are being developed and there is optimism that one will pass this year. Possible funding opportunities include Medicaid support, as well as support for training and research into smoking-related illnesses.
In sum, the Medical University is continuing to work on many fronts to address our financial challenges. There can be no more urgent call to this task than Dr. King’s belief that, “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is: what are you doing for others?” Here at the Medical University, thousands of people are brought together by the shared goal of helping others and that mission will not be compromised as we move forward.
Thank you for all that you do to serve South Carolina.