Christie backs UMDNJ overhaul Barer sees research, business benefits to mergers

Jessica Perry//January 25, 2012

Christie backs UMDNJ overhaul Barer sees research, business benefits to mergers

Jessica Perry//January 25, 2012

Gov. Chris Christie today endorsed a major overhaul of the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey and Rutgers University.

The changes would improve the state’s research climate, as well as business-university ties, according to Sol Barer, chairman of the advisory committee that recommended the changes.

The UMDNJ committee report recommended focusing UMDNJ in Newark and renaming it the New Jersey Health Sciences University; maintaining University Hospital, in Newark, with a new private operator; combining Rutgers University’s Camden assets with Rowan University, under the Rowan name; and reaffirming an earlier report’s call for combining UMDNJ’s Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, the School of Public Health and the Cancer Institute of New Jersey into Rutgers University.

“Because of more than a decade of uncertainty regarding the governing structure of our medical education system, we have missed opportunities and failed to develop long-term strategies for our institutions to improve and grow,” Christie said.

Christie said the combined institutions would aid the state’s efforts to attract health care and biomedical companies and jobs.

The report “allows us to raise our potential as a state to be a national leader in medical education, supporting our biotech and pharma industries here in New Jersey,” Christie said.

Barer, founder and former chairman and CEO of Celgene Corp., said improving research and private-public partnerships was part of the rationale behind the recommendations. He cited as an example the ability to quickly implement Rutgers University research at the medical school to benefit patients.

“It’s from bench to bedside. This is the way medical research is going on now — it’s understanding the fundamentals of the molecular processes that lead to diseases, and coming up with treatments that deal with those diseases,” Barer said.

The pharmaceutical industry is looking for a seamless process with research, Barer said.

“We have an amazing infrastructure for pharmaceuticals and for biomedical research that’s equaled by no other state, and this is something that’s going to add substantially to that,” he said.

Christie said he planned to work with the Legislature to get the plan in place as quickly as possible, adding that he could implement some of the recommendations through executive action.

“Let there be no doubt about it, this change is going to happen,” Christie said. “It’s going to happen because it’s what’s right for New Jersey.”

The state will remain the owner of University Hospital and will ensure its continued existence, but the new private operator will determine the future of the staff, Christie said.