June 18, 2015

Academic Enrichment Fund: a strategic investment for excellence

Written by
A few months ago, the SOM faculty were invited to participate in a Communications Survey sent from the Dean’s Office. That survey asked you to share rankings of the SOM leadership team, which communications vehicles you use to stay informed and invited you to share topics about which you don’t feel fully informed.

One theme we saw is your desire to have more information and clarity regarding finance, particularly the establishment of the Academic Enrichment Fund (AEF), so I wanted to take this opportunity to share with your more about the AEF and its purpose.

As a leading academic medical center, our reputation is largely based on our research, academic and clinical programs, and patient care. When I came back to the School of Medicine as dean in October 2013, I compared the school’s investments to those at peer institutions and saw that in order to grow our institution and the impact of its mission, the School of Medicine needed a transformative financial investment. That’s where the AEF comes in.

The AEF is a strategic commitment from the clinical enterprise of UAB Medicine to direct revenues back into the School of Medicine, where they eventually end up back in the departments. The AEF is funded through a number of our clinical partners —Triton (Viva), UAB Hospital, Health Services Foundation, Callahan Eye Hospital, Ophthalmology Services Foundation, Valley Foundation, UAB President’s Office, UAB Medical West and Baptist Health Montgomery— and the School of Medicine itself. Each of these groups have committed to a set amount of money they’ll put into their budgets annually to contribute to the AEF and, for some, a percent of earnings above what they have budgeted based on achieving some set financial targets. This amount will gradually increase over the next four years as we move toward our ultimate financial goal of $55 million per year in committed funds.  

The AEF will help the school meet specified target goals to grow nationally competitive academic research programs, recruit between 40 and 55 funded investigators and retain outstanding current faculty. The majority of AEF funds will be used for recruitment of department chairs, retention of quality faculty members at UAB and in recruitment of scientists in our research focus areas including informatics; personalized medicine and genomics; inflammation, infection and immunity; population health, health disparities and outcomes; as well as foundations of basic science discovery.  We’ll also invest in the Center for Clinical and Translational Science; in scientists and physicians-scientists through funding opportunities like the Blue Sky Innovator Awards and the Pittman Scholars program to augment extramural research dollars; and in research facilities renovations.

These strategic investments will help to create programs in which UAB can be a national leader in academic medicine and allow us to have a top faculty with cutting-edge programs.  AEF investments are projected to have a large return, with an expected $40-$50 million in new and annual dollars from the NIH by 2024.

As it stands, the AEF is short of the goal investment. The phased implementation projects an estimated $24 million in 2015 and $27-$30 million in 2016, and this is inclusive of previously committed department chair recruitment packages.

I’ll report annually to the UAB Health System board, the department chairs and the larger UAB community on the impact of the AEF and how these dollars are contributing to the school and its departments.