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Message from the President

At the State University of New York Health Science Center at Brooklyn, a sense of expectation is in the air. It pervades the corridors, the classrooms, and the laboratories. It can be characterized, perhaps, as a hyperalertness tinged by excitement: a sense that anything and everything is fair game to be questioned, analyzed, and--more than likely--changed.

The awarding of the 1998 Nobel Prize in Medicine to Distinguished Professor Emeritus Robert F. Furchgott has added to the excitement on campus. Many of us serve the present in our daily lives by taking care of patients. Others serve the future by teaching students who will, in turn, become health professionals and care for tomorrow’s patients. Few of us, however, have the opportunity to serve all humankind by making such a profound contribution to our basic understanding of physiology that the course of medical history is altered forever. Dr. Furchgott has done just that.

Dr. Furchgott’s perseverance and vision are touchstones for the Health Science Center, better known as SUNY Downstate Medical Center, as it responds to the revolution that has overcome the health-care system throughout the country. The dramatic changes stem partly from the impact of managed care, which seeks to reduce health-care costs, and partly from the threat of public spending reductions for health-care delivery and medical education. But just as important is a paradigm shift in the public’s view of health care. There is a growing belief that patients can assume more responsibility for their own health, and that hospitals should be the treatment providers of last resort.

Medical breakthroughs are also challenging our old ways of thinking about medical education. On the one hand, scientific advances have added tremendously to the amount of information medical students must absorb. On the other, new approaches to treatment are shifting and broadening the categories of who is qualified to administer care. Today, nurses, midwives, physician assistants, and medical technologists in nuclear medicine, radiation oncology, and ultrasound are assuming roles formerly filled only by physicians.

At SUNY Downstate, these developments precipitated a comprehensive institutional review, resulting in a document titled “Charter for Change.” Even before it was in print, we began the serious work mapped out in that document.

We are embarked on a process that is changing our institution from top to bottom: revising curricula in all four colleges to place more emphasis on primary care and multi-disciplinary approaches, undertaking more research efforts that combine basic research and clinical care, actively competing for patients for University Hospital of Brooklyn opening community health-care satellites, converting inpatient rooms in University Hospital for use as outpatient-care settings, and continuing to reach out to our community.

Many changes have been made already, but we are still thinking as we go. The excitement in our corridors, laboratories, offices, and classrooms stems from the conviction that an experiment is unfolding.

Eugene B. Feigelson, M.D.
Interim President and
Dean, College of Medicine