If it seems to you that the merger of Rutgers University and Robert Wood Johnson Medical School has been a long time coming, you are right. It has not been just the 43 years of the Medical School’s history. It has been the 245 years that is Rutgers’ past. That is a long time for a major University to be without formal medical education and research. I can only agree with you if you conclude, “it is about time!”
Gov. Chris Christie announced his support last week of the recommendation of the University of Medicin and Denistry of New Jersey Advisory Committee, calling for a merger of RWJMS, The Cancer Institute of New Jersey (CINJ), and The School of Public Health into Rutgers University. This would remove those institutions from the pan-New Jersey medical university, UMDNJ, and bring them under the umbrella of Rutgers. While this has the sound of the usual shuffling of cards that can be NJ politics, it is potentially the start of something very big.
This merger will take all these institutions to the next level. The possibility for advanced research through the intimate collaboration of these schools, under one academic roof, in close geographic association, is nearly infinite. The combined resources of Rutgers, with the labs, faculty and grants of the medical school and the broad vision of the School of Public Health will guarantee incredible discovery. The excitement after the merger announcement was almost palpable in the labs and clinical halls.
With CINJ, Rutgers, the NJ pharmaceutical industry and Robert Wood Johnson Medical Center in one town, cancer breakthroughs will follow quickly. It is by creating powerful collaborative research institutions such as this, that all cancer will eventually be cured. For cancer research, this is a monumental opportunity.
There are serious concerns about the fate of UMDNJ, and of medical education at New Jersey Medical School. Most importantly, the state must be aware of the needs of the patient population served by Newark’s University Hospital. However, delaying the manifest destiny of the New Brunswick institutions will not assuage these critical issues.
Now clearly, I am biased. Primarily I am a cancer doctor that yearns for new treatments and discoveries. New Brunswick must continue its journey towards becoming one of the finest research and education centers in the world. Its health research will rank with a rarified few centers of true excellence. On a world scale, millions of lives may affected and saved. We have an opportunity now to change medical history. Let us not delay.