New professors won?t increase student numbers

By By Michael McFall

By Michael McFall

The U School of Medicine is bucking the trend and hiring new professors, but that doesn’t mean would-be medical students have more opportunities to attend class.

The U recently appointed three of its research professors to lead the departments of biochemistry and human genetics in the School of Medicine, and the new chairmen are looking to hire several assistant professors during their first year on the job.

In the department of human genetics, Lynn Jorde, a human genetics professor, will succeed the two previous co-chairmen, human genetics professors Mark Leppert and Mario Capecchi, who will still continue their research and teaching at the U. The school also picked biochemistry professors Christopher Hill and Wesley Sundquist to be the new co-chairmen of the department of biochemistry, replacing 24-year co-chairman Dana Carroll. Carroll will also continue to teach and research.

Under their watch, the new chairmen’s respective departments will grow despite a 9 percent budget cut in state funding, stunting the growth of most others on campus. The human genetics department is putting out an advertisement later this week to hire a handful of new assistant professors, and the biochemistry department is in the final phases of interviews for new professors, including one from University of California, San Francisco.

But a handful of new professors will do little to nothing to improve a severed enrollment size. Although the state budget cuts have little affect on the School of Medicine8212;only about 5 percent of its funding comes from Utah taxpayer’s dollars8212;the school cut its incoming class from 120 seats to 100 this year because of reduced funding from the centers for Medicare and Medicaid.

“We’re not strongly supported enough by the state to allow (increasing it), and tuition does not cover the cost of teaching a medical student,” Hill said. Class size is not determined by the availability of professors to teach them8212;it’s in the hands of state and research funding, he said.

Besides, every department, not just one or two, would have to hire several more faculty to accommodate a larger influx of students, Jorde said.

Jorde also doesn’t foresee the other colleges that are not science-related colleges, such as humanities and social work, being able to thaw their hiring freezes by modeling themselves after the School of Medicine. The nature of their funding is too different, he said. The health science colleges are mostly supported through research funding, and this past year saw a record-breaking amount of about $380 million flow into the U. The other colleges don’t have the same opportunity.

“They focus a lot more on teaching classes, where as we have research labs,” Jorde said. Other colleges don’t have nearly as much time to write grant proposals or carry them out, he said.

But the growth in their departments doesn’t stop with faculty size8212;the new chairs also want to expand their collaboration.

There was no search or application process for replacing Carroll. For several of those years, Carroll groomed Hill and Sundquist to take his place, said Phil Sahm, spokesman for U Health Sciences. Hill and Sundquist, who joined the U together in 1992, have long collaborated to make contributions to understanding HIV. They would like to see more collaboration with other departments, the same direction Jorde wants to move human genetics in.

Jorde said his department is looking for assistant professors who are not only experts in their own field, but also have a strong desire to share their know-how and equipment with researchers in other sciences.

“There’s a lot of interest now in collaborative projects,” Jorde said. “We want to do it even more, and effectively integrate with other departments.” He’ll be encouraging his faculty to co-write grant proposals with the other medical departments. Human genetics is applicable in a lot of other sciences, so his faculty’s knowledge can better inform almost everyone else’s efforts, Jorde said.

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