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Welcome to the the Office of the President

Inaugural Address

March 30, 2000

Dr. Rowland, other members of the Board of Trustees, Surgeon General Satcher, honorable officers and representatives of the State of South Carolina, distinguished colleagues from other universities, faculty, students, alumni, coworkers, family and friends, I am deeply honored to begin service as president of the Medical University of South Carolina. In so doing, I am acutely aware of the chain of leadership that stretches back to the founding of this institution over 175 years ago. At the distal end of that chain is Dr. Thomas Prioleau, the first dean, who served from 1824 through 1828. At the proximal end is Dr. James Edwards, president of the Medical University for the past 17 years. As the link to the future, I hold fast to the legacy of what my predecessors, and Dr. Edwards in particular, have built here.

The Medical University has grown to dimensions that could not have been imagined when Dr. Edwards took office. Our six colleges collectively house over 1,300 faculty and more than 2,400 students. We offer courses of study leading to more than 50 different degrees, ranging from the baccalaureate level to the doctorate. Through distance education, our outreach extends to sites from Greenville, to Columbia, to Florence, to Conway.

Over the past decade, our research funding grew fivefold, and we are the first university in South Carolina that has surpassed $100 million a year in extramurally funded research. Each year, we admit almost 30,000 patients to our hospital, with about 600,000 patient visits to our clinics. We employ almost 9,000 persons, which makes the Medical University the largest employer in Charleston and one of the largest state agencies. Our annual budget is almost $1 billion, with only 15 percent derived from state sources.

Signs exist, however, that the era of growth and prosperity may be coming to an end. The combined effects of the federal Balanced Budget Act of 1997, deeply discounted private health insurance, and the growing number of medically uninsured patients have stretched our resources to the limit. Our faculty and staff are working harder than ever, yet we are operating on the thinnest of possible financial margins. Understandably, the toll on faculty and staff morale has been significant.

As I come to this office, therefore, it would be easy to be overwhelmed by the challenges that lie ahead. However, I say to you today that the Medical University can and will rise to these challenges. Our future will be even brighter than our past.

Under such circumstances, how can I be so confident about the promise of our success? First, we will succeed because our faculty and staff have the talent and determination to do so. They want this academic health center to be the rival of any in the country, and they will work to assure that it is. Their accomplishments in recent years, such as a top ten ranking for our Nurse Midwifery program and a top twenty ranking for our Occupational Therapy program in national surveys, are merely the prologue to even greater achievements ahead. As success breeds success, we will ask more of each other and more of ourselves, constantly raising the bar to new heights.

Second, as I have traveled around this great State, nothing has impressed me more than the outpouring of good will and support for this institution. The Medical University has touched the lives of many of our fellow citizens, especially through our health care services. Often with great emotion, they tell me of loved ones who have been treated here with knowledge and skill, but equally important, with dignity and compassion. For example, a successful businessman here in Charleston, has described to me how his Medical University cardiologist has become more than an understanding clinician; he has become a dear friend. Our patients and their families will stand by us, support us, and take pride in our accomplishments.

Third, we will succeed because South Carolina itself is in a period of ascendancy. This state, for so long afflicted with fiscal deprivation, now has an economy that is robust. As we look to the emerging industries of the 21st century, the revolutions in information management and biotechnology will lead the way. The three research universities in this state, Clemson, the University of South Carolina, and the Medical University, will play a central role in educating the skilled workforce needed in these areas. Partnerships with the private sector will flourish as companies license the technologies developed on campus and apply them to improve health.

No doubt, many other reasons exist for us to be optimistic about our future. However, none is more compelling than our core purpose itself. The Medical University exists to: "preserve and optimize human life in South Carolina and beyond." Such a noble calling transcends all of our daily efforts. Training health care professionals, advancing scientific knowledge, and delivering health care are merely means to a greater end. It is that end - preserving and optimizing human life - that remains the benchmark against which we must measure our progress.

Such a goal may seem elusive, especially in a state such as South Carolina, with historically poor indices of health. Clearly, no single institution can address this broad mandate in isolation. We must partner with others, leveraging our collective resources to the greatest possible advantage. Those partners must include the other colleges and universities in South Carolina. As we attempt to deliver educational and outreach programs across the State, we will do so in collaboration with colleges and universities in those communities. As we build scientific programs, we will seek strategic partnerships with our sister research universities, Clemson and the University of South Carolina.

Our partners must also include our colleagues in private practice. We will commit ourselves to rebuilding the bridges to those who have been disaffected in recent years. We will look for ways to share costs of expensive medical equipment, to jointly operate patient support services, to expand access to participation in clinical trials, and to deliver together community outreach programs. Above all else, we will strive to assure that the medical community speaks with a unified voice in support of the patients we serve.

Finally, as Secretary Shalala and Surgeon General Satcher have so strongly advocated, we must partner more effectively with the public-at-large. As we look to the goals outlined by the Secretary and the Surgeon General in Healthy People 2010, we will serve as a source of information on health concerns and educate our citizens about adopting healthier lifestyles. We will make a special effort to reach out to the historically underserved population, with the goal not just of reducing, but actually eliminating health disparities. We will partner with schools, with churches, and with other community organizations to deliver educational programs to those with the greatest needs.

In conclusion, I have outlined for us an ambitious agenda. It is predicated upon the notion that the Medical University can and must enrich the lives of South Carolinians. The citizens of this State have entrusted in us their confidence, faith, and resources. This is a sacred trust and one that we as a university must always remember. Toward that end, we seal today a covenant with the people of South Carolina.

It is my pledge to you that the Medical University will place the interests of the people of this State above all else. We will utilize the resources that you allocate to us responsibly and efficiently. We will educate your daughters and sons to become caring practitioners of the healing arts and sciences. Through discoveries in our laboratories and clinics, we will advance the understanding of human health and illness. Through educational outreach, we will strive to maintain your good health. When you are ill, we will attempt to restore you to health through skilled and compassionate care.

We will do all of these things, not for the glory of this university or for ourselves, but for the benefit of the public we serve. My faith in this mission is absolute. It is a legacy that I carry forward from my greatest teacher and most important role model - my father, Bernie Greenberg. As an academic leader, as a public health scientist, and as a compassionate human being, he lived a life of service to his fellow citizens. It is in his honor that I dedicate these remarks and pledge my commitment to the people of South Carolina. Thank you.