Health Sciences Center envisions future of leadership as funding is approved for first Woodruff Fund initiatives

The first annual distribution of $3 million from the new Robert W. Woodruff Health Sciences Fund, Inc. will help the Wood-ruff Health Sciences Center meet two of its primary goals: to build the infrastructure of people and programs required for the Center rapidly to take its place among the nation's leading academic health sciences centers, and to align the Center's resources and momentum in the directions science, medicine and patient care are expected to head in the next century. A small part of the money will establish a distinguished lecture series open to all Emory faculty, staff, students and other friends.

In August, the Robert W. Woodruff Foundation Inc., the Joseph B. Whitehead Foundation and the Lettie Pate Evans Foundation jointly designated a portion of their Coca-Cola stock to be set aside with all dividend earnings to go to the Woodruff Health Sciences Center. The Chronicle of Higher Education suggested that establishment of this endowment may well be the largest single commitment ever made in American higher education.

During September, Dr. Michael M. E. Johns, executive vice president for Health Affairs, called for proposals from an advisory committee of Center leadership. His criteria were simple: proposals had to demonstrate "leverage at the highest order, helping the Center take advantage of opportunities and pursue novel programs to enrich our education, research and health care missions." Consistent with the prescription of the Foundations in establishing the Woodruff Fund, Inc., Johns said none of the funds would be used to support existing programs or for new buildings. Last month, after review by President Bill Chace, the final list was approved by the Woodruff Health Sciences Fund's five-member board of directors.

"Johns and his team created an excellent plan that illustrates how effective this unique initiative on the part of the Foundations is going to be," said President Bill Chace. "Deployed in this manner, the new Woodruff Fund, Inc. will help reshape the Woodruff Health Sciences Center for the future."

Johns said he tried to choose uses for the money that would fit what he knew of Robert Woodruff's way of thinking and conducting his own business. "From all that I've ever heard about Mr. Woodruff and the Whitehead family, they wanted to build institutions to make Atlanta both proud and better, and they wanted institutions to use any support to become even more self-sustaining and productive. We believe this year's plan will accomplish all those things. We are immensely grateful to the Woodruff Funds for their continuing confidence in, and support of, The Robert W. Woodruff Health Sciences Center."

Four of the largest grants for 1996-1997 are designed to help the Health Sciences Center recruit leaders of national and international prominence. Johns said, "We need leaders with vision and the proven ability to create world-class programs in their field. But no matter how clearly they perceive an institution's strengths and potential, people of the caliber we are seeking won't come unless we provide the resources required to put their vision in place."

In accordance with the Woodruff Fund design, half of the annual income will support programs of the Winship Cancer Center, with $1.8 million earmarked for this first year. "The timing of this gift could not be more propitious," said Johns. "Last month, the School of Medicine launched a national search for a new director of the Winship Cancer Center under the direction of Neurology Chair Mahlon DeLong. In the meantime, Dr. William Wood, chair of the Department of Surgery, has agreed to serve as interim director, and Dr. Chris Hillyer, director of the Emory Hospital Blood Bank, is serving as deputy director. We plan to put this money in a `war-chest' to support the search for a director and to help the Winship Cancer Center move forward in its quest to become the state's first National Cancer Institute comprehensive cancer center."

There's no dearth of ideas, according to Johns. Most of his deans, directors and vice presidents submitted proposals for cancer programs that crossed school and discipline lines, many of which remain under consideration for future funding.

With the same emphasis on leverage, a one-time grant of $375,000 will be given as seed money to a noted virologist who is expected to help the Yerkes Primate Research Center move rapidly toward its highest-priority goal: to develop an AIDS vaccine within the next five years. Dr. Harriet Robinson will take office as chief of the School of Medicine's Division of Microbiology and Immunology in January. She was recruited from the University of Massachusetts where her research formed the basis of a $42 million technology transfer agreement with Pasteur Merieux, the world's largest vaccine producers. Additional funds from Yerkes and the Department of Microbiology and Immunology will be added to the Woodruff grant, giving Robinson significant resources to recruit junior faculty and equip new laboratories for the Department and for the Vaccine Research Center which is being built at Yerkes through funding from the National Institutes of Health, the Georgia Research Alliance, the Health Sciences Center and the University.

Searches for new chairs also are taking place within a number of departments in the School of Medicine, and the School of Medicine received $245,000 from the Woodruff Fund, Inc. to enhance those searches.

The Rollins School of Public Health was given initial funding of $250,000 to recruit a senior faculty member in U. S. Health Policy in the school's Department of Health Policy and Management. This new person will be the counterpart to a widely recognized expert on European Health Policy and help fulfill a strategic plan for excellence across the health policy arena, which will attract leading faculty and graduate students. Declining funding will continue for two more years.

A fifth area of funding also goes to the Rollins School, enabling it to develop an Executive Masters in Public Health degree program, similar to highly successful Executive MBA programs at Emory and elsewhere, and a series of new degree offerings for post-doctoral students. Dean James Curran says the School has been asked to create such programs by the Georgia Department of Public Health, which needs continuing professional education for its employees, various clinical units at Emory seeking specialized programs for their residents and fellows, and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention which wants the school to provide specialized training for its field directors. The school will receive $100,000 this year and for the following two years. By that time, based on expected demand, the programs should be self-sustaining.

The sixth area of funding is for planning. In an era of immense projected growth, and especially as the Woodruff Health Sciences Center begins planning for its next major research building, Johns says it is essential that such growth proceed in a strategic manner toward the needs of the future, not the present. He requested $180,000 for a unique one-year study to determine where indicators predict research science will focus in the next 15 years. Data will come from national research alliances, government funding sources, technology transfer corporations and other sources. The funds will cover the services of a leading research consultant to oversee the study and the hiring of a strategic planning officer to expand the Office of Health Sciences Center Strategic Planning. Staffing and other costs of this individual will be included in the regular Health Sciences Center budget after this year.

And finally, $50,000 was set side for a new Executive Vice President for Health Affairs Distinguished Lecturers Series. The series will bring to campus a number of nationally-renowned leaders from a variety of backgrounds to address issues of relevance in the changing world of health care delivery, education, and research. Expected to begin in early spring, the series will use a multitude of formats to bring together faculty, staff and other constituencies in the community.

--Sylvia Wrobel

Return to the November 11, 1996 contents page