U of M health sciences researchers voice support for medical school investment at State Capitol

Three University of Minnesota health sciences professors and clinicians who conduct groundbreaking research voiced support for state investment in the U Medical School during today’s Senate Higher Education and Workforce Development Committee hearing.

The group was joined by Dr. Brooks Jackson, M.D., dean of the Medical School and vice president of health sciences, who said: “These physicians are conducting cutting-edge research toward new cures, new treatments and life-saving discoveries. They are forging the future of our state’s innovation culture, which leads to new inventions, creates new industries and job-ecosystems.”

Jackson, an internationally recognized researcher in HIV diagnostics, prevention and treatment, served his residency in clinical pathology at the University of Minnesota Hospitals. He left Johns Hopkins University and returned to the U in February 2014 to lead the Medical School and Academic Health Center. Jackson urged lawmakers to invest in the Medical School to enable the University to attract more top researchers and additional National Institutes of Health funds.

Committee members also heard from:

  • Professor Badrinath Konety, M.D., M.B.A., Director of the Institute for Prostate and Urologic Cancers and the Dougherty Family Chair holder in Prostate Cancer: A urological surgeon specializing in prostate, bladder and urologic cancers, Konety’s research examines outcomes from bladder cancer treatment. He’s also one of the lead researchers on a grant from the Center for Healthy African American Men through Partnerships (CHAAMPS), dedicated to the unique health issues of the African American male community.
  • Professor of Medicine Timothy Schacker, M.D., Director, Infectious Disease Clinic: As a pioneer in infectious disease research, Schacker has developed an internationally recognized program focused on how HIV causes immune suppression. He has also studied how exposure to common infections affects rates of HIV transmission and progression.
  • Professor of Medicine and Pharmacology Douglas Yee, M.D., Director, Masonic Cancer Center: Named director of the Masonic Cancer Center in 2007, Yee treats patients with breast cancer and conducts research to improve cancer therapies. His research focuses on developing and testing new cancer treatments.

A bill introduced last month by Sen. Richard Cohen provides $30 million toward medical school investments. That legislation has been referred for possible inclusion in the higher education omnibus budget bill.

“This substantial investment is long overdue,” said Cohen. “To attract and retain the world-class caliber of medical professionals, the state must fully and unequivocally commit monies to the medical school so that once again, the U of M can be the groundbreaking research institution and a pioneer of new technologies as it once was.”

Jackson reminded the committee that University innovation has created 67 startup companies over the last eight years, generating jobs and positive economic impact. The total includes a record 15 startup companies in 2014 alone.

As part of its biennial budget request, the University of Minnesota has asked for investments to help improve the health of Minnesotans through research, clinical services and innovative programs. The $30 million investment in the Medical School was part of recommendations formulated by an expert panel, the Blue Ribbon Committee, appointed by Gov. Dayton.

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