House Appropriations Subcommittee on Higher Education
May 3, 2006
State Capitol, Appropriation Room
Appearing with Lou Anna K. Simon, president of Michigan State University
Audience: House Representatives, media, university leaders
Good morning. Thank you for inviting us to speak with you today about the exciting developments at Michigan’s research universities and our efforts at helping the state maintain its economic stability as we strive to meet the demands of a highly competitive world.
Wayne State University, Michigan State University and the University of Michigan are comprehensive research universities with exemplary programs and faculty in medicine, engineering, public health, law and many more fields critical to the health and wellbeing of our society.
But I want to begin today by focusing on just one professor in this grand enterprise. His name is Daniel Klionsky, and he is a self-described zealot about teaching introductory biology to our undergraduates.
He wants students, regardless of their career interests, to be scientifically literate, because scientific literacy is absolutely necessary. Just a glance of a newspaper inspires a thirst for knowledge of global warming, nutrition, genetics and stem cells. This is the language of tomorrow, and Professor Klionsky is preparing students to be adept in their knowledge and adaptable in their use of science.
Along with teaching freshmen and sophomores at U-M, Dr. Klionsky is a cell biologist in our Life Sciences Institute. He studies yeast and the way its cells destroy themselves in a process called autophagy. By researching this cannibalism in yeast, he and his colleagues are working to determine if a similar biological process could be triggered in cancer cells—that is, is there a way to direct cancer cells to kill themselves.
Lastly, Dr. Klionsky is a national model for teaching. His methods are so impressive, and so effective, that the National Science Foundation has named him a Distinguished Teaching Scholar. The NSF has awarded him a grant of $305,000 to improve how science is taught to undergraduates, at the University of Michigan and beyond. And the National Academies have named him an education mentor in the life sciences because of his work with undergraduates.
I want you to know about Dan Klionsky because he personifies Michigan’s research institutions and our commitment to teaching, to research and all of its potential, and to serving the state and the nation in graduating students prepared to meet the challenges of the 21st century.
And we have many challenges. I brought this stack of reports to the table with me because they represent a steep mountain we all must conquer. These documents represent the work of the best minds in our country—business leaders like Norman Augustine of Lockheed Martin and Rick Wagoner of GM, university presidents like John Hennessy of Stanford and Shirley Jackson of Rensselaer Polytechnic. They have volunteered innumerable hours of their time and talent because they are concerned—profoundly concerned.
Because each of these reports—from the Cherry Commission to the National Academies and the Council on Competitiveness—each report carries the same basic and alarming message: we are at risk as a nation if we do not commit to more innovation, more math and science, and more basic research. We need more of it and we need it today to remain globally competitive, as President Reid has outlined so well.
As a nation, we are the best in the world at invention and scientific exploration. Our research universities are places of deep exploration and bold experimentation. Great ideas are born on our campuses: Hewlett-Packard was born at a university, as was the artificial heart and the computer. At the U-M alone, our scientists have discovered the genes for cystic fibrosis and Huntington’s disease, and our alumni are responsible for the iPod and Google.
As legislators charged with the well-being of our state, you know as well as I that Michigan is in the midst of a difficult economic transition. And yet I am optimistic, because I believe our public universities, especially our research institutions, can and will play a tremendous role in helping to diversify our economy through innovation and collaboration.
At MSU, Wayne State and U-M, our strength is research. And research productivity at our universities translates to economic power for Michigan. It means hundreds of millions of federal and other research dollars; more than $1.3 billion—BILLION—in research and development expenditures at our three universities. It is a remarkable investment.
Not only does that investment mean research and development to keep our state and nation competitive. It also attracts new talent to Ann Arbor, Detroit and East Lansing as we recruit top faculty and graduate students from around the country and around the world. It means discovering knowledge critical for improving our lives, our society, and our understanding of the world.
Equally important is that we take our gains in R&D and see that they make their way out of our laboratories and into the marketplace to better society. I know I speak for my colleagues when I say technology transfer is a top priority in our efforts to transform the state’s economy.
In the past five years, researchers at our three universities filed at least one invention disclosure every day, of every week. In those same five years, our universities launched 79 new companies—essentially four start-up companies every economic quarter.
Our state and our nation face tremendous challenges at the moment. Yet when I see my fellow university presidents, and when I look out at thousands of graduates as I did this past Saturday, I am hopeful about the future.
Expansion Management magazine recently outlined four factors that are critical to transforming Michigan’s economy. They are:
• A work force populated with master’s, Ph.D. and medical degrees
• Workers with science and engineering degrees
• The presence of a major research university and other colleges
• And university R&D spending on science and engineering
Our research universities are integral to this recipe for success. We are home to the best faculty and the brightest students, and together we will find solutions for our state and for our future.
On regional economic development:
Earlier I mentioned Expansion Management magazine. Last month, they examined the 362 metropolitan statistical areas of the United States to determine the best locations for technology companies to locate.
Ann Arbor was ranked No. 3. Third best in the country, among cities and towns that the magazine said “represent the Promised Land for technology companies.”
That is why I am such an advocate of a new economic development initiative based in Ann Arbor.
Working with our elected officials, the leaders of corporations such as Pfizer and the Bank of Ann Arbor, and entrepreneurial groups like MichBio and the Michigan Small Tech Association, we have launched a partnership we call SPARK.
The idea is very simple:
Technology transfer and commercialization are an integral part of the University of Michigan’s research mission. We owe it to the public that established U-M and has invested in us for more than 150 years to keep giving back to society, to create more economic opportunities, to make everyone’s life better here in Michigan.
If we simply publish our ideas in a journal or present our findings at academic meetings, we have failed. Our best ideas are the ones that can help society and individuals, but they’ll only do that via the marketplace.
We are trying to change our campus culture to be more entrepreneurial and more aggressive about licensing and startups, and we’re beginning to show some success.
SPARK is a relatively modest effort that we look to for spectacular results. We want our region to be recognized not just for how much we spend on research, but for how much we create.
SPARK is intent on doubling the number of technology companies and tripling the technology jobs in our region by 2010. Those are big numbers, but I believe they can be achieved because we are drawing upon all of our strengths.
The U-M has committed $1 million to SPARK over five years, because we’re serious about this alliance and the expectations that go with it. This kind of collaboration is absolutely essential for generating new ideas, new technologies and new business models.
I want SPARK to fire the imagination of our brightest minds—from business and industry to education and government—to create new companies and new jobs for our community.
On health research and health education at U-M:
We are living in a time when medicine is undergoing a revolution. The mapping of the human genome, and the potentials associated with stem cell research, are redirecting the course of research, treatments and cures.
I’d like to take a few minutes to talk with you about the health care enterprise at the University of Michigan.
The people of the state of Michigan typically identify with our university in one of two ways: they are fans of our athletic teams or they have experienced medical care in health system, either personally or through a member of their family.
That personal connection to U-M is to be expected, given the level of activity at our hospitals and health centers. Last year, our clinics recorded more than 1.5 million visits. Imagine every single resident of the Grand Rapids, Kalamazoo and Lansing metropolitan areas coming to Ann Arbor to see one of our doctors, and that is the activity in our clinics. Add to that the entire population of Midland, and you will have the additional 44,000 people who were admitted as patients.
We are, of course, a teaching hospital, and none of this care can be delivered to the people of Michigan without our medical students and residents. Our medical school is consistently ranked among the best in the country, and that is due to the caliber of our faculty and the quality of our students.
Every year, nearly 5,000 students apply to U-M’s Medical School, and fewer than 180 are admitted. At the moment there are roughly 700 students at some stage of their medical education. If you want some insight to the rigors of med school, I suggest you visit the Medical School’s website, where you will find what we call “A Dose of Reality” in the form of blogs written by our students. It will make your head spin.
We also educate some 850 residents through 79 accredited training programs.
Health care and education at Michigan goes well beyond our medical school and hospitals. It also encompasses nursing, public health, dentistry, kinesiology and pharmacy. Six schools and colleges that train the health care professionals of tomorrow and prepare the faculty who will educate the next generation’s leaders.
Michigan is not alone in this important work. MSU is the only university in the country with three medical schools—the College of Osteopathic Medicine, the College of Human Medicine and the College of Veterinary Medicine—as well as its College of Nursing. Wayne State’s School of Medicine is the largest single-campus medical school in the nation.
100 percent of the medical degrees awarded in our state come from Michigan, Michigan State and Wayne State. The same can be said for Ph.D.s awarded in nursing, and this is critical given our nation’s shortage of nurses. We produce the faculty who prepare the nurses our country so desperately needs.
Our three institutions also conduct medical research toward cures and treatments. At Michigan alone, our research funding from the National Institutes of Health was just over $368.1 million last year.
Wayne State’s Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology ranks first in the country in total funding from the NIH. In particular is Wayne’s pioneering work in being home to the NIH Perinatology Research Branch, which works to improve the quality of maternal-fetal health nationwide. For example, Wayne State doctors were the first to successfully perform an in-utero bone marrow transplant on a fetus.
You will find equally impressive advances at MSU. Michigan State’s College of Osteopathic Medicine and College of Human Medicine are always at the top of the list for outstanding primary care training, and I expect this reputation will only grow as the College of Human Medicine expands with its west Michigan campus.
I want to close by telling you about our plans for a new children’s hospital at Michigan.
The University of Michigan is dedicated to care that focuses on the entire child. Our new hospital will do that in ways never imagined when the first C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital opened its doors in 1969.
The new Mott will have 264 private patient rooms, and space for another 84 in the future. That’s more than 100 rooms than we now have, and today’s rooms have patients and families doubling up at a time when they most need privacy. There will be wide expanses of glass to brighten children’s days, and all rooms will overlook either the Huron River or the University’s Arboretum.
Each new room will have a computer, so children can connect with their friends and their schools. A hospital will never be like home, but we want Mott to feel as comfortable as possible for our patients.
The same week that we announced our investment in this new hospital, General Motors unveiled its plans to upgrade manufacturing plants across the state. GM will invest $545 million in five factories. U-M will invest $523 million in one hospital. It will be the biggest building project in the history of our campus, and what I believe is a tremendously visible commitment to the families of Michigan.
There is an associated number that is equally impressive. It is zero, and it represents the cost to Michigan taxpayers for this resource that serves our state so well.
I want to thank you again for your time, and I am happy to answer your questions.