New department of medicine leader charts strong course for faculty
A strong department of medicine is crucial to the success of any medical school and hospital. Within it are the specialists patients seek when dealing with complex medical concerns and problems including nephrologists, endocrinologists, cardiologists, gastroenterologists, infectious diseases specialists, hematologists and oncologists. Medicine also provides the bulk of the teaching for medical students, residents and postgraduate fellows.
For several years now, the School of Medicine has been in the midst of a renaissance, with unprecedented faculty recruitment, an expanding research portfolio, and new educational and research facilities. To succeed in this transformation, Dean John Daly knew that he needed a strong leader to anchor the school.
“Medicine is the flagship. Typically, you’re ‘known’ by your department of medicine,” Daly said.
In June, he recruited Joel Richter, an internationally renowned gastroenterologist, from the famed Cleveland Clinic, to lead the department.
“When you have a strong department of medicine, both the school and the hospital will reap the benefits,” longtime department administrator Kathy Kostic said.
What persuaded Richter to come to Temple? The excellence of its teaching.
“At a time when many programs are struggling for applicants, Temple’s internal medicine residency program is thriving, attracting people from across the country,” he said. “I am also impressed with the leadership at Temple, which is strong at every point — the Medical School, the hospital and the University — and dedicated to the scholarly mission.”
Richter said he plans to build on these core strengths as well as to pursue three critical goals: develop and reward current faculty, recruit new section chiefs and faculty, and raise the department’s National Institutes of Health research rankings.
Developing from within
“The best way to build allegiances is to first grow your own,” said Richter, who, in his first 100 days in office, met with every single faculty member in the department of medicine — approximately 120 people, or one-third of the school’s faculty.
“Temple is lucky to have a stable core of loyal doctors who love teaching and love Temple. They are very happy here,” Richter said.
It’s also vital to employ a strong force at the early- and mid-career level. To this end, Richter is working on transforming more of the junior faculty into loyal careerists with a strong allegiance to Temple.
“We want to both stabilize and develop our faculty so that we don’t lose them to our competitors,” he explained. “It’s important for them to practice their three missions equally: research, education and patient care. Many times in the past, often out of necessity, the emphasis was on the patient care mission.”
To foster more balance of the three-part academic mission, Richter has implemented a junior faculty award program, similar to those he developed at the Cleveland Clinic and the American College of Gastroenterology. Each year, two junior faculty members (assistant professors) will receive, on a competitive basis, a three-year, $225,000 grant to support their research. Plus, 50 percent of their time will be protected so that they can conduct this research.
Such an award provides a bridge from the postgraduate training time to the time when physician/scientists become ready to pursue their own NIH funding.
“My colleagues and I are going to be out of this business in 10 years. If we don’t develop the doctors following us, what’s going to happen? Awards are pivotal in giving young people their start,” Richter said.
As with any kind of school, medical schools garner much of their prestige from rankings, particularly NIH rankings, which signify the amount of research funding an institution receives from the National Institutes of Health. Richter plans to move Temple into the top 50 from its current position at 79 through the recruitment of top physician/scientists, as well as by modeling more programs on success stories like Temple’s Lung Center, which is widely hailed as tops in the region and beyond.
Soon after arriving at Temple, Richter initiated national recruitment efforts for name physician/scientists to lead several sections within the department of medicine: cardiology, hematology, nephrology, endocrinology and rheumatology.
“We want to mix experts trained in the great academic tradition of Philadelphia with those who can bring innovation from different states and health systems,” Richter said.
One national search recently closed with the appointment of Alfred Bove, a Temple alumnus and professor emeritus of medicine, as chief of cardiology.
“We discovered that the best cardiologist was already here at Temple,” Richter said.
Bove will lead the recruitment of 15 new cardiologists to Temple with expertise in all areas, both clinical and research, including transplant, electrophysiology, nuclear cardiology, interventional cardiology and preventive cardiology. According to Bove, when someone says, ‘I need a cardiologist,’ the next breath should be Temple!”
A model of success
Another avenue to success is learning from model programs. At Temple, the Lung Center, led by Gerard Criner, excels in all arenas: medical, surgical, research and education. It all began in 1996 with the NETT trial, an NIH-funded national study on experimental treatment for emphysema. According to Kostic, this ignited the department’s rocket to success, and everything took off from there. The trial attracted more patients from a wider geographic area, more visibility at the NIH level, and more research funding, all the while providing an excellent training ground for students, residents and fellows. Today, the program is a Pennsylvania Center of Excellence in lung disease with the largest amount of research funding in the School of Medicine.
“Temple has a strong tradition in teaching,” Richter said. “Our faculty are here because they love to teach, and this gives me a wonderfully strong foundation.”
Medicine provides the bulk of the training, approximately 50 percent, at the Medical School and Hospital. Every year, the department supports 85 internal medicine residents, 70 internal medicine fellows (a deeper level of study into the subspecialties) and 720 medical students, for which the two big medicine courses are “Pathophysiology” and “Clinical Diagnosis.”
“One of the reasons why we provide such a great education is because we serve a very sick patient population. Students, residents and fellows treat and care for very complicated, difficult cases. If they can practice medicine here, they can go anywhere and practice medicine,” Kostic explained.
Said Richter, “My overall goal is very simple: To recruit people from successful models elsewhere who will bring excellent scholarship and mentoring to Temple and complement our truly loyal and talented Temple Medicine group.”
- By Eryn Jelesiewicz
Related article: Read more about chief of cardiology Alfred Bove.