Dear Friend of Indiana University,

Conducting research aimed at improving the lives of Indiana residents is a critical part of IU’s mission, and nowhere is the impact of this seen more clearly than at the Indiana University School of Medicine. 

The School of Medicine is by far the leading educator of physicians who practice in Indiana through its main facilities and main campus in Indianapolis, and its eight medical education centers spread across the state where it partners with local hospitals and medical professionals. The IU School of Medicine is also a research powerhouse, receiving more than $275 million in funding for research and other sponsored programs in fiscal year 2014 alone. This funding supports the work of some of the finest medical researchers in the world who are dedicated to solving the most challenging health problems we face as a state and nation—from neurological conditions to cancer to cardiovascular disease and more.

Under the leadership of Dr. Jay Hess, who joined IU in September 2013 as vice president for university clinical affairs and dean of the school, the medical school has also placed an increased emphasis on using technology to improve healthcare outcomes, leveraging IU’s considerable strength in informatics, and is aggressively recruiting top medical talent to join its already outstanding faculty.

As one example, the school is taking bold steps to change the way it trains tomorrow’s physicians working with the other IU health sciences schools to create the IU Center for Interprofessional Health Education and Practice. Dr. Andrea Pfeifle, a leader in medical education, was hired in September from the University of Kentucky to lead the center whose goal is to design an educational experience that graduates students who are “practice-ready” when they enter today’s rapidly evolving team-based healthcare system. The center has been established by the Office of the Vice President for University Clinical Affairs and is working with all the IU clinical schools on various health science educational initiatives.

Neurosciences Research Building opening a milestone for medical school

There are other, very visible, signs of exciting growth at the School of Medicine’s research facilities in Indianapolis. For example, in October I was honored to lead the dedication of the newest such facility, the IU School of Medicine’s Neurosciences Research Building. This will greatly enhance the work of the school and the university in this vitally important discipline and will strengthen our ability to attract outstanding research faculty.

This 146,000 square-foot, state-of-the-art facility, which is connected to the recently opened IU Health Neuroscience Center, helps fill a need for essential medical research space that was first identified a decade ago when the university conducted a thorough study of research space needs on our Indianapolis and Bloomington campuses.  That report, commissioned during my tenure as vice president for research, concluded that a lack of research space “represents possibly the single-biggest impediment to IU reaching its full potential as a research university.”

Since that time, we have made great progress in addressing the research space shortage across the university, especially in the life and health sciences, with the Neurosciences Research Building just the latest example of that effort. When completely occupied, the building—along with the adjacent IU Health facility—will represent one of the largest concentrations of researchers and clinicians dedicated to the study of neurological diseases in the nation.

The Neurosciences Research Building also represents the medical school’s—and indeed the university’s—increasing emphasis on interdisciplinary research. Rather than being organized across traditional department lines, the scientists in this facility will work in interdisciplinary teams to tackle particular diseases or disorders, such as addictive disorders, neurotrauma, epilepsy, autism, Alzheimer’s and more.  Additionally, researchers will be located as closely as possible to their IU Health clinical counterparts who specialize in the same areas to foster greater collaboration.

President Obama announced last year the establishment of the BRAIN Initiative—a decade-long, multi-billion dollar effort to map the structure of the brain. IU, through its enormous strengths in the neurosciences, coupled with the renowned research of the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences at IU Bloomington as well as other research groups such as IU’s new Network Science Institute, is positioned extremely well to be a major contributor to this and other similar initiatives.

From hospital to health sciences campus

The opening of the Neurosciences Research Building is just one part of the physical transformation of IU’s health and medical sciences facilities in Indianapolis. As I described in a previous update, IU is currently working to transform the former Wishard Hospital site, just north of the heart of the IUPUI campus, into a comprehensive health sciences campus, by repurposing and renovating some of the existing buildings on the site, creating additional new facilities and demolishing buildings that are obsolete.

A thorough analysis of the existing facilities on this site is well underway and demolition work is scheduled to begin next spring. When completed, the site will be home to much of IU’s health science activity and will include new initiatives in integrated professional education among all of the health professions, as well as in research and patient care at adjacent hospital complexes.

Included on this campus will be IU’s new Center for Chemical Biology and Drug Discovery, which will be housed in one of the existing buildings at the site with construction scheduled to begin next year.  The center, which is being made possible by financial support from the state of Indiana, will capitalize on IU’s existing research strengths in chemistry and biology designed to aid in the development of new drug discoveries. We are extremely grateful to the Indiana General Assembly for its support for this facility.

Also on the site, ground was broken last month for a new home for the Regenstrief Institute, one of the nation’s leading health informatics research centers. In addition, IU’s economic development agency, the IU Research and Technology Corporation, has plans to eventually relocate to the site to be closer to many of the university’s faculty entrepreneurs.

Partnerships are critical to our success

For more than a century, IU has offered outstanding medical education with a focus on improving the health and well being of the residents of Indiana. From our first graduating class of 25 students in Bloomington in 1907, the school has grown to become the second-largest medical school in the country, currently serving more than 2,000 students on nine campuses across the state.

Vital, too, have been the contributions of all of IU’s other outstanding clinical schools in dentistry, nursing, public health, optometry, social work and health and rehabilitation sciences, which graduate the majority of the professionals who work in Indiana in these fields. In particular, I would like to recognize the IU School of Nursing, which celebrated its centennial anniversary earlier this year.

Few, if any, disciplines are evolving more rapidly than those related to the health sciences and healthcare delivery. As part of its responsibility to the people of the state of Indiana, IU is committed to remaining at the forefront of health sciences research and further strengthening its already outstanding legacy of educating world-class healthcare practitioners.

Our continued evolution in this area is dependent both on the talent and dedication of our faculty and staff, and the ongoing support of an array of partners and supporters. We are extremely fortunate to have benefitted from the extraordinary generosity of a great many individuals and organizations, for which we are grateful. Likewise, we look forward to working with new partners as we continue to refine our mission of education and research as IU approaches its third century of service to the people of Indiana.

As always, thank you for your continued support of Indiana University.