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Duke University Health System Establishes $280 Million Fund to Support Academic Programs

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DURHAM, N.C. -- The Duke University Health System has established a $280 million academic fund to support research and education programs at Duke's schools of medicine and nursing, Victor J. Dzau, M.D., chancellor for health affairs of Duke University and president and CEO of the Duke University Health System, announced on Tuesday.

Speaking at Duke Medicine's 75th Anniversary Science Symposium, Dzau told the audience that the $280 million, and the interest it earns, will be drawn from over the next decade to fund research and education programs at Duke University Medical Center.

"Duke is one of the nation's leaders in basic biomedical research and in developing innovative ways of treating cancer, heart disease and many other medical problems," Dzau said. "To continue that tradition of innovation, we need to train physicians, nurses and scientists who are the most skilled in their fields, and we need to support research that leads to discoveries that transform science and save lives."

The $280 million has been provided in the form of a one-time transfer from the health system's reserves, which have grown substantially in recent years due to strong investment performance.

"I believe Duke is the only health system in the nation to make its commitment to teaching and research so clearly evident in its financial decisions," Dzau added.

How the fund will be used

Dzau said the proceeds of the new fund will provide a decade of stable support for the Medical Center's academic programs, as well as dollars to implement the new strategic plans of the schools of medicine and nursing. He said the money will be used to fund new initiatives in three areas:

• discovery science, a term used to describe research projects aimed at understanding biological processes at the molecular level, with the anticipation that some of these discoveries will lead to better understanding of how diseases occur;

• translational science, which applies new discoveries and technologies to the search for new methods of diagnosis and treatment;

• health disparities research, aimed at addressing factors such as race and poverty that contribute to diseases such as diabetes, obesity and HIV.

Dzau emphasized that a top priority for the medical center will be to strengthen its community-based programs in Durham that address health disparities. The recently announced Duke Global Health Institute will focus on health disparities, both in developing countries and in urban and rural settings in the United States.

The medical school also will create new scholarships to expand its Medical Scientist Training Program, designed to train students for careers as physician-scientists. In addition, this fund will provide support for "investigator-initiated" research projects that will allow scientists to explore new and sometimes unconventional avenues of research.

"Researchers often are reluctant to take on projects that are outside of the mainstream because they are afraid that they won't be able to get grant funding," said R. Sanders Williams, dean of the School of Medicine. "This is especially true now, in the current climate of stagnant funding at the National Institutes of Health.

"This new funding will help us to foster an environment at Duke where researchers can follow their instincts and take risks. History has taught us that breakthroughs are often found off the beaten path."

Dzau also announced the creation of the Duke Science Council, whose members will include both senior and junior scientists at Duke. "The council will advise us about important scientific issues both at Duke and elsewhere, will develop investigator-driven initiatives to support grass-roots ideas, and will engage our scientists to help move our scientific programs forward," he said. "This is an important step in continuing to build an infrastructure at Duke that encourages collaboration, planning and assessment."

Dzau also said the medical center will establish an external Science Advisory Board. "This board will include some of the world's most respected scientific minds; they will visit the campus regularly and help us think about where science at Duke is and where it needs to go," he said. "They will help us identify challenges and opportunities and aid us in monitoring the progress we need to make."

William J. Fulkerson, CEO of Duke University Hospital and vice president for acute care services in the Duke University Health System, added, "We're making this investment in research and teaching so that patients at Duke will continue to have access to the most advanced care that medicine has to offer. The strength of our clinical programs will always be tied to the commitment that we are willing to make to our complementary missions of teaching and research."

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