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Record-Breaking Year for UTHSC, Chancellor Schwab Reports

UTHSC Chancellor Steve J. Schwab presented a positive view of the university’s academic, clinical, and research performance during the previous academic year in his 10th Annual State of the University Address on Friday. (Photos by Allen Gillespie/UTHSC)

UTHSC Chancellor Steve J. Schwab, MD, summed up the 2018-2019 academic year as a “record-breaking year” for the university.

In his 10th-annual State of the University Address on Friday, the chancellor said the university has achieved “national-level” performance in both the education and clinical arenas, citing annual performance metrics with record graduates and revenue. He also declared the university’s research enterprise “now on track” toward national-level performance with record research awards and expenditures. He stressed that the strength of UTHSC is the faculty in the unique one university, six doctoral colleges, four clinical campuses (Memphis, Knoxville, Chattanooga, Nashville) model, anchored in relationships with partner core teaching hospitals in each city.

“This has been a very eventful and challenging year,” he said. “It has also been, if you look at the metrics, the most successful in the history of our institution.”

He reiterated his long-term goal of bringing the university into the top quartile of the nation’s academic health science centers, driven by metrics in education, clinical care, and research. Additionally, he said the year’s performance is a major step toward that goal. “This has been a year of distinctions,” he told faculty and staff gathered in the auditorium of the Pharmacy Building for the noon address.

Faculty and staff filled the auditorium in the College of Pharmacy to hear the chancellor’s noontime address.

Chancellor Schwab pointed to several metric victories for the year. These include generating record total revenue of $300 million in sponsored programs (all-source non-clinical grants and contracts), an amount he said is the largest of any public higher education institution in the state and the largest of any in the UT System. Within this, the university exceeded its record with more than $100 million in research awards and expenditures.

He cited unique programs, such as the recent multiyear center grant of $22 million awarded to UTHSC Regional Biocontainment Lab Institute Director Colleen Jonsson, PhD, as well as new research projects underway, such as the Memphis Institute for Regenerative Medicine (a partnership with the University of Memphis and St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital), and the upcoming UT-Oak Ridge National Laboratory Institute (a partnership with Oak Ridge and the University of Tennessee). He also mentioned emerging collaborations with UT Knoxville on the Knoxville Health Science Campus, as well as new research programs with the Memphis Veterans Affairs Medical Center. The university’s fully affiliated faculty practice groups on the four clinical campuses generated more than $350 million in revenue.

The chancellor pointed to UTHSC’s record number of graduates with 1,000 degrees (90 percent doctoral MD, DDS, etc., and graduate PhD degrees) and 400 specialty certificates (Pediatrics, Obstetrics, Surgery, Orthodontics, etc.) awarded, the record research dollars, and record clinical activity. All of this was achieved while holding the line with minimal increases in tuition.

He also detailed several operational victories, including UTHSC’s ranking as a Top Workplace in Memphis for the fifth consecutive year, as well as the fact that UTHSC was the first public university in the state to set the minimum wage for full-time employees at $15 an hour. He applauded the College of Pharmacy for being ranked in the Top 20 in the nation and the College of Nursing graduate programs for being ranked in the nation’s Top 25.

Chancellor Schwab said he is proud of the university’s affiliation with nationally ranked Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital, anchored by the UT Le Bonheur Pediatric Specialists faculty practice group, as an indicator of UTHSC’s high-caliber academic and clinical performance. He pledged that UTHSC will continue its efforts working with its core teaching hospital partners to advance U.S. News & World Report-ranked regional health care leaders UT Medical Center in Knoxville and Methodist Hospitals in Memphis toward national ranking.  “We need at least one, preferably two or more, nationally ranked adult hospitals,” he said. “This means we must develop national-level clinical programs, as has been done so successfully by Le Bonheur and St. Jude. This is one of our challenges.”

UTHSC is working to bring West Tennessee Healthcare, anchored with its flagship Jackson-Madison County Hospital, into the ranks of its core teaching hospitals, he said. This would open another academic campus for UTHSC in West Tennessee, expanding educational and training opportunities.

Even with the favorable financial picture, he cautioned that the university must control campus expenditures and pay attention to reserves. He is optimistic that operational funds removed from UTHSC three years ago under a new higher education funding formula will be restored, “leaving us in a strong go-forward position to carry out our goals.”

Chancellor Schwab said the Campus Master Plan is moving ahead well to bring the campus “best-in-class” facilities with the renovation of the Historic Quadrangle, the recently completed Center for Health Care Improvement and Patient Simulation, and the new Delta Dental Building, which is poised to begin construction.

“UTHSC is committed to becoming a top-rated research university,” he said. “We are spending the time, effort, and money to get there.” The university has set a goal to generate $150 million in research awards and expenditures, he said. This year’s more than $100 million in research awards and expenditures, the largest in UTHSC’s history, puts the university “on track to meeting our goals.”

Chancellor Schwab said 2020 goals include successful completion of the SACS accreditation, expanding the partnership with Saint Thomas Ascension to train health care professionals in Middle Tennessee, bringing West Tennessee Healthcare into the core hospital consortium, creating more nationally ranked clinical programs, and improving relationships with core teaching hospitals.

“In summary, it has been an eventful, sometimes tumultuous year,” he said. “It’s been a great one. My goal is to have another great year next year.”