Happy 2018 to all. I hope that everyone was able to enjoy some restorative time over the holidays, and a sincere thank-you to our faculty, house staff, fellows, and staff who sacrificed time with family and friends these last weeks to continue providing high-quality compassionate care to those in need. Many of us use the start of a new year as a time to set new goals, to build new habits, or to undo others. As a department, however, our strategic goals remain the same, building on greater than 150 years of progress while adapting to the realities and challenges of strengthening our department for the 21st century. I hope that we will each seize this new year as an opportunity to renew our commitment to achieving excellence in all of our missions. Together we have the strength, culture, wisdom, and resilience to maintain our long-standing resolve, and I encourage each of us to be mindful of our colleagues, our patients, and their loved ones in lending a helping hand to bring everyone along.
A fitting example of the compassionate and selfless service that exemplifies many of our faculty can be found in Dr. Kantima Phisitkul. In 2017, she continued to volunteer at the University of Iowa Mobile Clinic. For her efforts, the interdisciplinary student organization awarded Dr. Phisitkul the 2017 Mobile Clinic Distinguished Faculty Award. She logged a total of fourteen hours as a faculty volunteer last year, including nights and weekends spent treating community members who would otherwise slip through the cracks in our health care system. Ericka Tank, Clinic Operations Executive Chair and fourth-year medical student, expressed her gratitude to Dr. Phisitkul, citing her “professionalism, kindness, and devotion.” Ms. Tank also pointed out how Dr. Phisitkul was not just providing care to patients, but also education to medical and undergraduate student volunteers, taking extra time to train as well as to heal. This is the second year in a row that Dr. Phisitkul has received their Distinguished Faculty Award, though she is not the only member of Internal Medicine to volunteer in the Mobile Clinic. My sincere thanks to her as well as to Drs. Michael Voigt, Bharat Kumar, Peter Densen, and Andrew Bertolatus for your work in this remarkable community service. I encourage faculty and staff to explore ways you can contribute.
In last month’s State of the Department address, I shared one of many positive indicators of the progress that Internal Medicine at Iowa has made in strengthening our national standing as a research department. After four years of decline in our federal research funding, we have begun to reverse this trend with a nearly $4.7 million positive swing in funding from the NIH this fiscal year already. It is important to note that this fiscal year is only half over, and we have been made aware of other applications where funding is anticipated based upon their scores. As those decisions become finalized, we will announce those additions to the year’s total in future communications. Our success in obtaining new NIH grants and renewing existing grants to increase our overall portfolio stems from the convergence of multiple factors. Chief among them are investigators more aggressively pursuing new awards and submission of more compelling applications. We will continue this year to increase mechanisms and approaches to support our investigators, helping them generate competitive applications well in advance of submission deadlines. We have also had strong success in strategically recruiting new faculty with significant NIH research funding and in fostering an environment at the University of Iowa that is welcoming and supportive to enable us to retain our existing research faculty. Although I have focused here on NIH funding, it is important to note that many of our faculty have also been very successful in obtaining funding from other sources such as the VA, various foundations, and from clinical trials contracts. Challenges remain, of course, but we will not let up in this competitive national funding environment. I am encouraged by these trends and grateful to the countless members of this department who have catalyzed such extraordinary results.
For the past four months, we have had the privilege of interviewing outstanding applicants to our Internal Medicine residency program. The final lap in the recruitment drive for our residency program has resumed and runs through the next couple weeks. It has been wonderful to meet and interview very talented applicants, and I would encourage everyone to make yourselves available to meet one or two before the season ends. Twenty minutes of your time on a Monday or a Friday will contribute to what we hope will be another successful match later this year. I anticipate that we will have exciting announcements to make regarding our incoming class of interns and our new Chief Residents by early spring.