MUSC News Center
MUSC President David J. Cole celebrates inauguration day
By Dawn Brazell | MUSC News Center | October 9, 2014
MUSC President David J. Cole (center) and wife, Kathy, during a prayer in his inauguration ceremony.
David J. Cole, M.D., stooped down so his wife Kathy could heft a Presidential medallion around his neck marking his inaugural day, Oct. 9, at the Medical University of South Carolina on what turned out to be a picture-perfect fall day.
The couple, married for 26 years, shared a quick kiss with Kathy quickly wiping any lipstick off in a brief, tender moment shared in what was otherwise a formal occasion.
Cole became the university’s seventh president July 1, succeeding Ray Greenberg, M.D., Ph.D., who left last year to take a position with the University of Texas Health System. Greenberg and James B. Edwards, DMD, MUSC president emeritus, also attended the event.
Cole paid homage to his predecessors while setting the stage for where he hopes MUSC is heading.
“When I first started down this path, I believe I was motivated by a general thought that I could possibly do some good in a field that I found interesting,” he said of his work as a surgeon and researcher. “What I discovered as I continued in this career was a simple truth - medicine is about people, not achievements, surgical procedures, grants or clinics. “
Health care providers are given the unique opportunity and privilege to have a direct and lasting impact on patients’ lives, he said. “But I will tell you that it took me 10 years to come to understand that what makes the difference, or not, is your ability to connect with your patient as a person, in other words… your humanity: for them to understand that you actually care, and that you will do everything in your power to help.”
Harkening back to MUSC’s past, Cole referenced the seven physicians who in 1824 shared the bold belief that the state should have its own well-trained doctors and access to the best health care possible.
“I imagine those seven men would be astonished by what MUSC has become in the years since then: A comprehensive academic medical center that is recognized as one of the best in the country, consisting of not one, but six comprehensive colleges.”
MUSC has a dedicated staff and faculty of nearly 12,000, serving more than 2,700 students and 1.2 million patients each year. Researchers are on the cutting edge of innovations in patient care, generating more than $230 million dollars in extramural research funding each year.
Visitors lined up after the inaugural ceremony to congratulate Cole. Third-year medical student Arielle VanSyckel, who was the flag bearer for the College of Medicine, said she was honored to be part of the occasion.
“It made me feel encouraged and inspired to think that a physician could have that sort of impact on the world around him and to be such a significant person in the lives of so many people. It really set him apart as an individual and as a leader. I feel really blessed to be here in the school at a time when he’s going to take ownership of the future.”
Cherry Seabrook, a former MUSC nurse who volunteers to help cancer patients, said she had to be at the ceremony. She’s known Cole for years, and he was the surgeon for her brother. “Dr. Cole is a wonderful person. He’s dedicated and he means what he says. He’ll be great for MUSC.”
Republican state Rep. Jenny Horne said she found Cole’s remarks to be heartfelt.
“I am very excited about his vision for leadership for MUSC. We in the general assembly look forward to working with him to achieve his vision. He puts the patient first, and that’s what we should be doing in this state. Not only patients, but people first in government and health care.”
The same theme rang true for Patrick J. Cawley, M.D., executive director and chief executive officer of the Medical Center and vice president for clinical operations for the university. He said it was a great day for MUSC in general and exciting to have community, faculty, staff and students gather to celebrate a new era.
“To me, (Cole’s) singing the things I love to hear. Patient-centered, teamwork, diversity, all the themes I feel are important to deliver health care in the future. Dave feels the same way. He feels very strongly about all those things.”
Cawley looks forward to how Cole’s leadership style will shape MUSC.
“First of all, he’s a practicing physician. I think that brings a different kind of perspective. Not necessarily better, but a good, different perspective from previous presidents. He’s going to constantly talk about patients, patients, patients. What are we doing from a research perspective, from an education perspective? I like it. I come out of the clinical enterprise. I think at the end of the day that’s what it’s all about: patients.”
Cawley said that Cole lives and breathes what he talked about in his speech. “I know Dave, and these are not just things he’s throwing out there. He’s sincere. What you see is what you get. He lays it out there in a manner that’s honest and cuts right to the core. That’s how he is every day. He’s not just rising to the occasion for an inaugural speech.”
Q: How does it feel to have made it to inauguration day?
Q: Now that you have had time to settle into the job somewhat, what are some of the key projects you are excited about taking on as priorities?
Q: What has been the biggest adjustment?
Q: How do you see your leadership style developing?
Q: If you could get one key message out to staff and faculty at this point, what would it be?
Q: What are some innovative plans in the works to move us forward?
Q: Would you elaborate on why the Horizon Project and what’s happening with the Foundation for Research Development is important?
The MUSC Foundation for Research Development (FRD) interfaces with industry in the area of technology transfer. These activities result in a contribution to MUSC’s overall economic impact for our state and nation. Most importantly, by collaborating with industry, cutting-edge discoveries have the opportunity to become real life solutions to today’s medical problems. With new leadership and direction, the FRD has over the past three years had a remarkable trajectory of developing new patents, licensure and interface with industry that is very exciting. This represents a real opportunity for MUSC to leverage our intellectual capital in a meaningful way for the future.
Helen Adams of Public Relations also contributed to this story.