College of Medicine the Focus of President Fry’s 3rd Town Hall

President Fry speaking during the third town hall of 2015 on the University's refreshed strategic plan.
President Fry speaking during the third town hall of 2015 on the University's refreshed strategic plan.

On Wednesday at Drexel’s Queen Lane Campus, President John A. Fry again laid out the goals in the University’s strategic plan and also discussed issues pertinent to the College of Medicine.

It was the third of four town hall meetings this year designed to go over the refreshed strategic plan, “Transforming the Modern Urban University.”

The last Town Hall is slated for May 4. That meeting will be held at the Center City Campus in the New College Building’s Geary Auditorium B from 4–6 p.m.

As he did at the previous two meetings, Fry spoke about the goals for 2015 and also discussed the larger, longer-term goals that are part of the University’s strategic plan, the next phase of which will continue through 2019.

Because the town hall was held at Queen Lane before an audience largely made up of College of Medicine faculty and professional staff, a portion of Fry’s presentation and much of the Q&A period that followed dealt with issues especially relevant to the College of Medicine and the Queen Lane Campus.

Fry said there is “a lot of emphasis placed on the College of Medicine as part of our strategic plan.”

Improving Relations With Tenet

One of the first specific College of Medicine issues President Fry brought up was the relationship with Drexel’s health care partner, Tenet Healthcare Corporation.

Fry said he has noticed a difference since Daniel Schidlow, MD, began as dean of the College of Medicine in 2012 and Tenet merged with Vanguard Health Systems in 2013.

“I am surprised and hugely gratified by the huge change in the relationship we’re now beginning to experience with Tenet,” Fry said.

Fry said the former Vanguard leadership may be responsible for this, particularly since their company always had an interest in urban health care centers.

“That has resulted in … conversations about what they would like to do, which is investing in Philadelphia, which is very exciting,” Fry said.

Such investments would likely be in Drexel’s best interest both clinically and academically, Fry believes.

The Future of Queen Lane

The merged Tenet and Vanguard organization is likely to reevaluate its holdings, Fry said, but it won’t affect the operational status of Queen Lane.

“I don’t think anything is going to happen any time soon — say, the next two–three years — on the status of this campus,” Fry said.

Long-term, though, there are some plans that could come into place to bring the College of Medicine’s two campuses together.

“It could come about, in part because Tenet is re-assessing what it wants to do in Center City and other parts of Philadelphia,” Fry said.

In the meantime, Fry said Drexel will remain committed to improving and enhancing the Queen Lane Campus to support the work being done there.

Better Cooperation

Many questions in the Q&A dealt with connecting the College of Medicine with the other schools and colleges. Several present felt that communication could be improved between the University City Campus and the Queen Lane Campus.

“After this amount of time, we, as a University, are not leveraging our relationships with the medical school nearly enough,” said Interim Provost James Herbert. “In some areas, there’s been a lot of progress made … but there’s a lot more that needs to be done.”

Herbert said there are some projects going on that will strengthen and improve relationships, including interdisciplinary research that includes doctorate students who work in multiple labs across the University.

Herbert said students like those are the “lynchpin” in such relationships.

One issue that was discussed focused on the challenged posed with two academic calendars. Drexel operates on a quarter system, and will remain so, but the College of Medicine does not. Herbert said the administration is working on resolving the complex issues that affect collaboration for students, faculty and professional staff.

Because the bulk of Drexel is on a quarterly academic calendar but the College of Medicine is on a semester system, which poses problems with linking up for collaborations, Herbert said. However, although the University will remain on the quarter system, the administration is working with the University registrar to straighten out issues.

Both Fry and Herbert agreed that the elimination of the operational firewall between the College of Medicine and the rest of the University has helped spur conversations and better cooperation.

Increasing Interdisciplinary Work

Dean Schidlow identified the College of Engineering and the School of Public Health as good areas to explore partnerships.

“I’ve had several conversations with the dean of the College of Engineering [Joseph Hughes, PhD] about creating common spaces,” Schidlow said. “I think that common spaces will generate ideas, and I think we need to do that in a more robust way.”

An audience member from the University City Campus said being at Queen Lane gave her perspective on the value of hearing different voices when it came to research and other parts of academia.

“When you look at the National Sciences Foundation and the National Institutes of Health, they increasingly give grants to people with social scientists on the grant,” Herbert agreed.

Mixing in academics from outside the College of Medicine is good for situations where understanding what people think about an issue is just as important as understanding the science behind it.