In his first forum of 2020, UNMC Chancellor Jeffrey P. Gold, M.D., provided an overview of upcoming legislative issues, the coronavirus outbreak and the search for a new cancer center director.
He also cautioned faculty, staff and students about the importance of complying with federal requirements to disclose international relationships and protect intellectual property.
On Tuesday, the federal authorities arrested the chair of Harvard University's chemistry department, accusing him of lying about his work for a Chinese university, and charged two others who worked in the Boston area with aiding China's efforts to steal scientific research.
"Collaborations with other universities are a critical component to our growth. We must be consistent in fulfilling our disclosure responsibilities. I believe our faculty, staff and students have adequately disclosed all of the critical international relationships, but please double check," Dr. Gold said.
Dr. Gold then turned his comments to the six bills before the Nebraska Legislature that are supported by the university. They include:
- LB 1008 -- scholarship funding to support STEM students.
- LB 669 -- a carry-over bill from the last session for a $15 million appropriation from the Health Care Cash Fund for pancreatic cancer research.
- LB 1026 -- $2.5 million appropriation from General Fund for the university-wide Water for Food Institute.
- LB 761 --a 50-cent motor vehicle license fee increase to provide funds for the UNMC Simulation in Motion-Nebraska (SIM-NE) program, which has provided training to more than 7,000 emergency medical service providers in rural areas across the state.
- LB 1084 -- NExT (the Nebraska Transformational Project) will provide a tax incentive fund to provide $300 million for the largest public-private project in Nebraska. It is projected that during its construction over the next decade, the $2.6 billion, two million square-foot facility will generate a total economic impact of $7.6 billion and $211.8 million in state tax revenue, while supporting nearly 33,000 construction jobs. Once operational, the project will conservatively support 9,934 full-time high-paying jobs and generate $38.2 million annually to state tax revenue. "This facility will be a hub for expanding clinical trials, new educational technologies and a resource for our entire state and nation," Dr. Gold said. "People ask me what's next. NExT is next."
- LB 1160 -- establish NSWERS, the Nebraska State Workforce and Education Reporting System database.
Turning to another issue of international importance, Dr. Gold said the coronavirus is spreading quickly. "It has the potential to dramatically change the global delivery of health care.
"Also, thousands of people traveled around the world before quarantines and travel restrictions were enacted," he said. "It is estimated that as many as one out of two people are asymptomatic. That means one-half of those people carry the virus and don't know it." Meanwhile, he said, the flu season is in full swing.
The medical center is one of the places in the U.S. where people can be sent for observation, he said, although no arrangements have been made as yet. "As with the flu, practice good hand hygiene."
The chancellor also addressed several other topics:
- Ken Cowan, M.D., Ph.D., will continue as director of the Fred and Pamela Buffett Cancer Center. In that role, he will lead the reaccreditation efforts to the National Cancer Institute, which occurs every five years.
- Several activities will be planned around the dedication ceremony for the Dr. Edwin G. & Dorothy Balbach Davis Global Center in April. More information will be forthcoming in UNMC Today.
- The McGoogan Library/Wigton Heritage Center, Wittson Hall and Williams Science Hall construction projects are all on schedule and budget. The new Munroe-Meyer Institute home on Pine Street near the University of Nebraska at Omaha's Scott campus is set to open in early 2021.
- A press conference on opioid addiction will be held Wednesday with Nebraska Attorney General Doug Peterson. A second conference to examine opioid misuse is set for May 12 at UNMC.
- UNMC's points of pride continue to impress. "We have a tremendous growth in research funding, number of publications from our scientists, accolades of faculty and students and exam scores are off the chart," Dr. Gold said. "But most important is the lives we touch, the patients who come here for treatment. Everyone has a huge responsibility as ambassadors of UNMC."