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AAMC 2014: Preserving Science in Medical Schools: Sustaining Funding, Aligning Investigations, Valuing Teaching


In an environment threatened by less funding, academic medical centers across the nation risk having to shift their research missions from “advancing science” to “preserving science.” Speakers from five university systems shared their approaches to developing junior faculty and creating collaborations through a virtuous cycle 

Gabriela Popescu, Ph.D., professor of biochemistry at University at Buffalo, University of New York School of Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, identified herself as the youngest, junior faculty member in the room—typically identified as receiving appointments less than 10 years old. 

“Preserving science is preserving scientists and preserving future scientists is preserving junior faculty,” Popescu explained. 

As junior faculty gather information, learn to navigate the system, develop their networks and face increasing competition for research funding, junior faculty are lobbying for adjustments to what they consider to be outdated standards of judgment for tenure track criteria. Buffalo has taken a proactive response by starting a junior faculty development program that includes: 

  • Orientation programs
  • Mentoring programs
  • Preference development programs
  • Networking events 

James Economou M.D., Ph.D., vice chancellor for research, University of California, Los Angeles, reminded the audience about the importance of keeping U.S. medical training grounds well- funded. “The United States trains some of the best doctors around the world. We need to build a model that allows us to pay for this social contract.” 

Examining innovation as a revenue stream, one in 1000 disclosures and inventions earn more than $1 million, and can take up to 25 years to return on investment. But Economou says we have to continue to innovate and develop because the long-term revenues streams are quite lucrative. 

UCLA chased these new models of funding streams down a collaborative rabbit hole by developing and formalizing partnerships with their business school and valuing innovation on campus. By creating an ecosystem for entrepreneurship the program can work on the ground level to develop its junior faculty. 

University of Utah’s Carrie Byington, M.D.  associate vice president for faculty and academic affairs, developed a model for developing junior faculty that proved to be effective and formalized the system to engage all faculty. Her VPCATS program built a matrix for mentoring “self, senior, scientist, staff and peer” in which all relationships can be leveraged in collaboration this the others. Fundamentally focused on socializing and increasing collaborations across the system the program is showing great returns in engaging faculty growth and education.



            Gabriela Popescu, 

            Michael Levitzky, 

            Carrie Byington, 

            Lynn Gordon, 

            James Economou 

By: Joe Borgenicht