By Dirk Hoffman
Published October 26, 2023
The 2023 State of the School address by Allison Brashear, MD, MBA, was titled “Shaping the Future of Health Care” and focused on how the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences continues to play a leading role in improving the health of the Western New York community and beyond.
“I am going to talk about a lot of our accomplishments over the past year and look to the future; but if there is one thing I want people to take away, it is that we are committed to strengthening the health of the community,” she said.
“We are going to do that by bringing together all of our missions — our education, research, clinical and our commitment to the community — so that we can really change the health care and the health of our patients in Buffalo and Western New York.”
Brashear, UB’s vice president for health sciences and dean of the Jacobs School, reiterated the school’s vision “of advancing the Jacobs School into the nation’s Top 25 public schools of medicine through research innovation, excellence in clinical care and innovation and inclusion in medical education, thereby expanding its global reach and impact.”
She touched upon the school’s newly revised strategic plan, consisting of four pillars: education, research, clinical and diversity. Brashear highlighted some of the key elements at the Jacobs School in each of the four areas.
In the area of education, Brashear noted that New York State graduates more medical students each year than any other state and that SUNY’s medical schools alone produce more graduates each year than 41 other states, and that the Jacobs School plays a central role in training physicians within SUNY and New York State.
In the new class of Jacobs School medical students, 24 percent attended UB for undergraduate studies, 47 percent are from Western New York and 90 percent are from New York State.
She noted that the Jacobs School Class of 2023 consisted of 172 medical students, 226 biomedical sciences baccalaureate students, 70 master’s students and 18 PhD students.
“We are a powerhouse for training doctors, but we are also a powerhouse for training undergraduate students,” Brashear said. “One of the best-kept secrets that John Panepinto (senior associate dean for biomedical education) and his team is trying to change is that we constitute the fifth largest undergraduate enrollment at UB.”
In graduate education, the Jacobs School boasts nearly 850 residents and fellows and is ranked the 58th largest of ACGME-sponsoring institutions in the U.S. The Jacobs School has 111 programs, with 70 of them being ACGME-accredited.
UB residents and fellows are more likely to stay to practice in their same city/county (Buffalo/Erie County) compared to their peers across all of New York State. The proportion of UB graduates staying in Erie County has been consistently higher than their peers over the past 10 years.
“We want all these students to come here, we want them to train here and to stay here. We want them to live and work in Buffalo,” Brashear said.
Brashear also highlighted the fact that Fred D. Archer III, MD, has been appointed as the Jacobs School’s new associate dean of admissions.
“Dori Marshall did an amazing job, and we are so pleased to have her as chief medical officer at Oishei Children’s Hospital,” Brashear said. “It is going to be great to have Fred follow in Dori’s footsteps as we continue our mission to diversify the face of medicine and as we continue our commitment to admit a diverse group of future physicians.”
Brashear noted the culmination of the Jacobs School’s major curriculum revision efforts will occur next July with the inauguration of the new curriculum.
Among the major changes included in the new curriculum are the initiation of learning communities, a shortened Phase 1, emphasis on active learning and more clinical experiences.
The bedrock of the new curriculum will be the integration of five core pillars:
Brashear also noted the Jacobs School is in the midst of an historic faculty hiring initiative with more than 120 new faculty members hired since the summer of 2022 — contributing to UB’s largest cohort of faculty hires since the 1970s.
“We need more doctors, we need more scientists, and we are hiring,” she said.
In the area of research, the Jacobs School is welcoming new leadership in the form of Marc Halterman, MD, PhD, who will be senior associate dean and executive director for the school’s Office of Research.
Halterman is an NIH-funded physician-scientist who previously served as chair of the Department of Neurology at Stony Brook University and as co-director of its Neurosciences Institute.
“He is tasked by me to create an ‘easy’ button for researchers so they can focus on the science, find new opportunities and most importantly, bring people together so they can identify and implement new and innovative projects,” Brashear said.
Brashear noted the school’s research and clinical trials provide multiple benefits to the community — by impacting the health of the community and by creating jobs that positively affect the economic health of the region. She also noted such research efforts lead to more new labs and oftentimes result in new business ventures.
The Jacobs School accounted for 32 percent of the research expenditures for UB in fiscal year 2023 and if the collaborative health science schools are added in, the total rises to 51 percent.
“We are the research engines of UB. We are making a significant difference in UB’s research enterprise so that as we grow, UB will grow,” Brashear said.
Other research highlights noted:
Brashear emphasized the Jacobs School is strengthening its relationship with its clinical partners — Kaleida Health, Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center, Erie County Medical Center, Catholic Health and the VA Western New York Healthcare System.
“We want to change the way health care is delivered so it is patient-centered. The best place for a patient is at home with their families, but we also know that the best place is also with our amazing hospital partners here in Western New York when they are sick,” she said.
“We cannot take care of our patients, specifically the sickest patients, without our hospital partners. We cannot train our medical students and more than 800 residents without our amazing hospital partners. Our hospital partners are central to our mission.”
With 631 physicians, UBMD Physicians’ Group is the largest multispecialty group in Western New York. The practice plan has 61 offices and 92 specialties/subspecialties and sees more than 490,000 unique patients annually through more than 850,000 patient visits.
Brashear pointed out that 96 percent of patients from Buffalo seek care locally, a much higher rate than in cities such as Albany, Binghamton, Utica and Erie, Pennsylvania.
A new entity, UBMD Primary Care, will result in family medicine and internal medicine providers coalescing primary care efforts at the Conventus Medical Office Building.
“It is going to be a one-stop shop for primary care under that one umbrella so I think that will provide much more consistency for patients, with one scheduling presence,” Brashear said. “It’s going to spur collaboration. We want to bring more primary care doctors into the community.”
Western New York’s first Long COVID Recovery Center is up and running, staffed by UBMD internal medicine physicians. The center is funded by a grant from the Cabrina Health Foundation, with support from UB.
“The patients are on a registry and we are going to be offering them clinical trials,” Brashear said.
Brashear noted that she is proud of the fact the Jacobs School has prioritized community engagement in the past year and acknowledged the efforts of Anyango Kamina, PhD, interim unit diversity officer and assistant dean for student development and academic enhancement.
“She has been a leader here, as well as several others, and we have had these doors open in this building a lot,” she said. “This building should be a resource for our community.”
Brashear noted events such as the drone STEM program and an open house that welcomed Buffalo high school students into the medical school building’s laboratories as examples of such efforts.
On the topic of diversity, Brashear emphasized, “we are committed to the changing the face of medicine and we are committed to making sure we have a diverse group of physicians, students and all of the people we train so that we can make a really big impact.”
“One of the things we want to do is not just bring in more students from diverse backgrounds, but we also want to bring in more faculty so that we can create that continuous pathway for making sure we are prepared for the future.”
The Jacobs School continues to advance gender diversity and celebrate powerful woman in medicine, Brashear said.
Female faculty numbers are at 31 percent, female undergraduates, graduates and first-year medical students are each about 60 percent and female residents/fellows are at 44 percent.
There is also an increased number of women in leadership roles at the Jacobs School with two permanent female department chairs and three interim female chairs.
Brashear said a number of special events at the school are aimed at addressing health disparities and creating an inclusive community.
Among them are the annual Igniting Hope Conference, the Social Justice Fellowship Research Symposium, the Beyond the Knife endowed lectureship and the inaugural LGBTQIA+ Education and Inclusivity in Health Care event.
She also noted a collaboration with Michigan State University to address gun violence as both schools were affected by mass shootings on or near their campuses in 2022 and 2023.
“May 14 was the one-year anniversary (of the Tops shooting in Buffalo) and that was and remains a very difficult time for our community,” she said.
Michigan State students and faculty were invited to Buffalo for the May 14 remembrance events and Jacobs School students and faculty will attend events marking the MSU shooting next February in East Lansing, Mich.
Brashear also thanked a number of faculty members for their 30 years or more of service and singled out Alexander “Alastair” C. Brownie, PhD, for his 60 years of service to the Jacobs School.
“We are so appreciative for everything you have done for UB,” Brashear said to Brownie, who was in attendance and received a rousing ovation.
Brashear closed her address by noting the release of the “Future of Health” report, issued jointly by the Jacobs School and the Jacobs Institute.
“This report is about the future of health and where health care is going,” she said, noting a formal launch of the project is scheduled for Nov. 29 at the Jacobs School.
The address took place Oct. 18 in the M&T Auditorium at the Jacobs School building.