Update from the Dean - February 2004

Update from the Dean - February 2004

Dear UCSF School of Pharmacy Family and Friends:

Since I wrote to you last we have new faculty members, a new state governor, new budget concerns, new developments, and good news.

New Faculty Members

Spring is the season of renewal, and this is certainly true for the School. We have been hiring a cadre of exciting young people who will take us to novel and unexpected futures. By example, I begin this letter by introducing a few new exceptional members of our faculty: Drs. Andrej Sali, Chris Voigt, Xin Chen, and Kerry Schwarz.

Andrej Sali, PhD, professor, department of biopharmaceutical sciences, uses computation, grounded in physics and evolution, to uncover the structure of proteins and how they work. His computer models are helping us better understand the structure-based function of proteins, which in turn helps us understand how cells function normally and how they malfunction in disease. Andrej joined the School after earning a PhD in biophysics from the University of London, followed by research stints at Harvard and The Rockefeller University. We were most fortunate to have attracted Andrej who came to UCSF because of the "hyper-collaborative nature of our environment." He leads and strengthens our new research focus in computational biology and bioinformatics.

Chris Voigt, PhD, assistant professor, department of pharmaceutical chemistry, has a background in chemical engineering as well as biochemistry and molecular biophysics. He earned his PhD from Cal Tech and held a postdoctoral research position at UC Berkeley before joining the School. His field is "directed evolution." He looks at how we can manipulate proteins, gene networks, and organisms for beneficial industrial and pharmaceutical applications-for example, how we might genetically program bacteria to clean up toxic waste or disable cancer cells.

Both Andrej and Chris, as well as many others in the School, are working within a paradigm called systems biology, sometimes referred to more broadly as complex systems. It is a framework that looks at entire systems and the interplay and adaptation of all components. It is the opposite of the "reductionist" approach to science. According to Ken Dill, PhD, our associate dean for research, the concept of systems biology is "hot" because we are at a point now in science when the tools of engineering, computation, massive data collection, organization, and analysis hold the keys to our understanding of life. Log onto our Web site at pharmacy.ucsf.edu for a feature article on how we are applying systems biology to the pharmaceutical sciences.

Xin Chen, PhD is an assistant professor in the department of biopharmaceutical sciences. She earned a Bachelor of Medicine from Beijing Medical University and a PhD in cell and developmental biology from Harvard, where she continued postdoctoral research work before leaving for Stanford and then coming to us. Xin's laboratory uses genomics to better understand tumorigenesis, which in turn could help us think about novel ways to diagnose and treat cancer. Xin's group is currently working on gastrointestinal tumors. Her science fits well with the School's new thrust in pharmacogenomics research.

Kerry Schwarz, PharmD, is assistant clinical professor in the department of clinical pharmacy. She is working in the department's Drug Information Analysis Service (DIAS) where she is developing drug monographs for a new Blue Shield contract and managing Web inquiries about medications we receive from Longs Drug customers and pharmacists. Kerry received her PharmD from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, undertook her general practice residency at the UC Davis Medical Center, and is a certified specialist in poison information (CSPI). She worked in the Sacramento Division of our California Poison Control System before moving to San Francisco.

Department Chairs Tom James, Kathy Giacomini, and Lloyd Young, along with other senior faculty members in the School and throughout campus, are consciously hiring young people such as these who show exceptional promise. Many of our searches, especially in the basic sciences, are done jointly with the School of Medicine.

School Retreat and Strategic Planning

I mentioned in the last Dean's Update that the School would hold a faculty retreat at the beginning of the new year. We did.

During the course of the retreat we described the School-its strengths and weaknesses. We talked in small groups, mixing the thoughts and perspectives of our diverse group: engineers; clinical pharmacists; health economists; physical, synthetic and theoretical chemists; drug information experts; human geneticists; pharmaceutical scientists; health care administrators and so on. Together we discussed:

  • new directions for the School, the
  • infrastructure and means we need to carry us forward, and the
  • relationships we need to build with others and with each other to achieve success.

One of our retreat eye-openers was that we had become so diverse in our areas of specialty that we did not fully appreciate the nature of each other's work and how each of us contributes to the School's mission. The more we met in mixed groups, the more we realized how our geographic dispersion has kept us from interacting informally with one another as we had done in the past and how important it was for members of the School to gather together. We are now working on ways to ensure that everyone in the School shares a common understanding of our collective expertise, and we are creating more frequent opportunities to meet and exchange ideas. I am confident that the result will be unexpected, important collaborations at the intersection of our new science initiatives and patient care.

In terms of School directions, many ideas were generated and prioritized at the retreat. Topping the list were the areas of systems biology / complex systems, medication errors, global health / education, cross-departmental teaching, pharmacogenomics / proteomics research, proactive public relations, streamlined university-corporate relations, and consumer self care. For a number of these possible directions, we discussed the infrastructure, funding, entrée, influence, and partnerships needed to move forward.

As we consider new directions, we will seek, pool, and analyze input from other important sources: a recent employee survey, our School of Pharmacy Board of Advisors, campus leadership and planning groups, national science and clinical opinion leaders, and more.

All of this information will be folded into a planning document that is due out by the end of this summer or early fall.

Honors, Awards, Appointments

Faculty members continue to bring prestige to the School through their science and service. Here is a sample of some of our recent accomplishments.

Leslie Benet, PhD, professor, department of biopharmaceutical sciences, was named in December 2003 as a Thomson ISI Highly Cited Researcher. The designation means that Les's research publications on pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics have been extensively cited by other scientists in their publications. Citation is an important way to measure influence in science through time.

New faculty member Brian Shoichet, PhD, associate professor, department of pharmaceutical chemistry, was recognized by ISI for his "hot paper," an article that is among the top 0.1% of all cited papers in chemistry in the last 12 months. The paper is entitled "A common mechanism underlying promiscuous inhibitors for virtual and high-throughput screening," J Med Chem 2002; 45:1712-22. It outlines Brian's observations that some molecules aggregate or "clump" in solution and consequently sequester and inhibit the work of most proteins-thus leading to false positive hits in pharmaceutical screens for new drugs. The paper has strongly influenced how people are screening for new drug leads across the pharmaceutical industry. Read about Brian's hot paper.

Mike Winter, PharmD, professor of clinical pharmacy, department of clinical pharmacy, was recognized as the California Society of Health-System Pharmacists Pharmacist of the Year for 2003.

Bob Ignoffo, PharmD, clinical professor, department of clinical pharmacy, is now president-elect of the California Society of Health-System Pharmacists.

Clifton Louie, RPh, DPA, associate clinical professor, department of clinical pharmacy, was named as the first holder of the McKessonHBOC Foundation Endowed Chair in Pharmaceutical Technology. In this new position, Clifton will develop and apply information technology to improve how patients, clinicians, and the pharmaceutical industry access and share drug and patient care information.

Bill Soller, PhD, assistant clinical professor of pharmacy and new director of our Center for Consumer Self Care, is developing a strategic plan for this interdisciplinary program. The Center will focus on policy issues, research, and the education of both consumers and health care professionals as they relate to medicines, dietary supplements, in-home diagnostic devices, and lifestyle practices. Bill is the former leading regulatory scientist and health policy advocate for the Consumer Healthcare Products Association. Just this month Bill was appointed to oversee and build our Drug Information Analysis Service, which now resides in the Center.

The State Budget and the School

Next, I will share with you the state budget picture and the impact it will have on UC and the School of Pharmacy as we know it in February 2004. The situation is quite fluid and is likely to be far more draconian if Proposition 57, the state bond measure to pay off our current state budget deficit, is not passed in March. I am sharing budget details in this Update because the implications are complicated and cannot be easily explained in a few sentences.

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's 2004-2005 state budget proposes $372 million in cuts for the University of California (UC) system, $205 million of which are to be offset by student fee increases. These proposals for UC are part of statewide cuts intended to help close a $14 billion state budget shortfall. UC's net state-funded operating budget in 2004-2005 would be $2.67 billion, or some 8% below this year's level of $2.9 billion.

The governor's proposals for the fiscal year that begins on July 1, 2004 will need the state legislature's approval to take effect, and if history holds true, final decisions are not likely to be made until the end of summer. During this intervening time, UC will decide on its specific responses to individual budget items through consultations with many people in the UC community, including the UC Board of Regents.

Coming as they do on top of previous deep budget cuts, the budgetary proposals will severely impact the UCSF School of Pharmacy in several major areas:

Student Fees

Fees for most UC professional schools and graduate programs, including the School of Pharmacy, will rise steeply because the governor has proposed that professional fees be used to offset a 25% reduction in state support for professional programs.

  • PharmD students: Professional school fees for PharmD students are currently $4,875/year. Thirty-three percent of this fee income is directed toward student financial aid, and as a result, the School receives slightly more than $3,000 of these fees per student.

    The professional school fees for the PharmD program are significantly lower than professional fees for the Schools of Medicine and Dentistry ($8,549/$8,060). This difference is due to the fact that School of Pharmacy fees were increased gradually when first instituted and frozen before full implementation.

    A proposed increase in professional school fees ($3,000) and a one-time adjustment in the School's fee level to a level comparable to other professional four-year health science clinical programs ($2,000) would result in a currently estimated $5,000/yr increase in professional school fees for our PharmD students.

    This would mean a total new adjusted professional school fee of $9,875 for all PharmD students for the 2004-2005 academic year.

  • PhD students: Graduate student fees are currently $5,219/year. A 40% increase of $2,088 for resident graduate academic students is proposed. This would mean a total new education and registration fee of $7,307 for the 2004-2005 academic year for in-state students. An additional 20% increase is proposed for the tuition charged to non-resident graduate students, which would bring their total fees to $22,342/year.

    Given that our School's graduate programs have approximately 138 students from all over the world and our graduate programs have traditionally paid these fees to attract the "best and brightest," these proposed fee increases will result in an additional expenditure in excess of $300,000 for our School.

Financial Aid

The budget proposes a curtailment of financial aid for UC students. Whereas increased financial aid has helped UC students weather prior fee increases, the governor's current proposal is to cut from 33% to 20% the proportion of the proposed new fee increase that UC directs to financial aid. Of greatest relevance to our students, there will be no additional aid to help our neediest students cover the increases in professional fees.

Faculty, Staff, and Administrative Support

The budget includes a 5% cut in spending on faculty positions. The University expects to give campuses flexibility to make this cut in a manner that preserves academic programs to the greatest degree possible and fits with local circumstances. There would be no state funding, once again, for cost-of-living increases for faculty and staff. With a proposed 7.5% cut to academic administration and institutional support, the School of Pharmacy's current state funded operating budget would be reduced by about $750,000.

Research

A 5% ($11.6 million across the UC system) cut in state-funded research, on top of the 20% cut these programs have taken over the last two years, reduces the ability of our School of Pharmacy faculty members to obtain extramural resource support for their research.

The situation is serious. Now, more than ever before, we are challenged to retain our academic and research excellence, while developing our business acumen. We must seek partnerships that not only meet our mission, but help us to sustain our bottom line. And, we need to spend more time on philanthropy to help address all of our funding needs.

A Surprise Gift

It is on the subject of philanthropy that I end this update with news of an exceptional planned gift from Mr. Carl Lovotti, a member of our pharmacy school class of 1915 and a long-time community pharmacist in San Francisco. When Mr. Lovotti died in June 2003 at the age of 108, the School received from his estate a bequest of more than $6 million. We are very grateful for this extraordinary gift, which will help us fund important initiatives, such as endowed faculty positions, community outreach, and emerging research opportunities. I also will use a portion of Mr. Lovotti's gift to help us maintain our excellence in education as we enter the impending budget storm.

Our budget challenges never seem to end. Nonetheless I have never been more optimistic about the School's promise. Perhaps this is because I see the glint in the eyes of our faculty members and students who are so dedicated to science, health policy, education, and patient care. They are not long distracted by these budget woes, for there are imposing questions to answer to better human health, patients to care for, and lessons to be learned and shared with others. And then there is the great and growing intellectual and financial generosity of our friends. They open their doors to our faculty and students, broaden our horizons, and signal their support for our work in ways we could never have imagined a few short years ago. Taken together, there is a richness of spirit here that propels the School beyond the constraints of its resource realities. We can all be energized by that!

Until my next spring/summer update letter reaches you, I send you my warmest regards.

Yours sincerely,

Mary Anne Koda-Kimble, PharmD
Professor and Dean
Thomas J. Long Chair in Community Pharmacy Practice

Web Notes

Budget

A [special newsletter on UC and the budget][link defunct] is available on the web. Also see the University's full press release, with additional details on Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's 2004-05 state budget proposal.

Homepage

Do not forget to log onto the School's homepage at pharmacy.ucsf.edu.

Alumni Directory

For School of Pharmacy alumni, remember that an alumni directory has been designed to help UCSF alumni locate classmates and colleagues, and help promote communication among our alumni community.


About the School: The UCSF School of Pharmacy is a premier graduate-level academic organization dedicated to improving health through precise therapeutics. It succeeds through innovative research, by educating PharmD health professional and PhD science students, and by caring for the therapeutics needs of patients while exploring innovative new models of patient care. The School was founded in 1872 as the first pharmacy school in the American West. It is an integral part of UC San Francisco, a leading university dedicated to promoting health worldwide.

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