Chapter 16: New Roles at Arizona State University and the Medical University of South Carolina

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Chapter 16: New Roles at Arizona State University and the Medical University of South Carolina

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In this chapter, Dr. DuBois talks about the roles he took on after leaving MD Anderson, first discussing his work as Executive Director of the Biodesign Institute at Arizona State University (December 2012-Feb 2016).4 He describes the change it made after MD Anderson, the scope of his work linking the physical and biomedical sciences and developing collaborations with clinicians. He explains why he enjoyed the job (and why it was, effectively, a 4-year sabbatical), as well as why he needed to leave that role. Next he talks about why he accepted the role of Dean of the College of Medicine at the Medical University of South Carolina. He talks about the administrative challenges, his vision and successes.

Identifier

DuBoisR_03_20181115_C16

Publication Date

11-15-2018

City

Houston, Texas

Topics Covered

The Interview Subject's Story - Overview; Character, Values, Beliefs, Talents; Personal Background; Professional Path; Evolution of Career; Inspirations to Practice Science/Medicine; Influences from People and Life Experiences; Activities Outside Institution; Career and Accomplishments; Professional Practice; The Professional at Work; Professional Values, Ethics, Purpose

Transcript

Tacey A. Rosolowski, PhD:

Right, very interesting. Anything else you wanted to add about that transitional part?

Raymond DuBois, MD, PhD:

Well, it was difficult. At some point my wife and I looked at one another and decided, maybe this is not going to work out, and so we had to look at other plans. President [Michael] Crow from ASU called me at least two or three times and the first time I said no, we’re going to stay in Texas, and then as this evolved, I started looking at that a little bit more carefully. At some point we just decided maybe the best thing was to move away from MD Anderson. That was a tough decision too, because my whole idea of coming back to Texas was to stay there for the rest of my career, and obviously that wasn’t going to work out. But things happen and you have to adjust to those changes.

Tacey A. Rosolowski, PhD:

Right. So what did this new role offer you?

Raymond DuBois, MD, PhD:

At Arizona?

Tacey A. Rosolowski, PhD:

Mm-hmm.

Raymond DuBois, MD, PhD:

Oh, well, you know it was almost like in a way, going on sabbatical, because it was a very large research institute in Arizona called Biodesign, and ASU had put a lot of resources, the state had put a lot of resources into it, and it was this experiment to put the physical sciences and biological sciences under one roof and allow these physicists and engineers to collaborate with doctors and biological basic scientists and create a real sort of convergence of the two sciences. I must say, it was a lot of fun, working with those people, and it was all focused on research, although I had an appointment at the Mayo Clinic in Arizona and I was helping manage their cancer prevention program and trying to develop collaborative efforts between Arizona State and the Mayo Clinic.

Tacey A. Rosolowski, PhD:

And just for the record, I wanted to say that this was the role of executive director of the Biodesign Institute.

Raymond DuBois, MD, PhD:

Right.

Tacey A. Rosolowski, PhD:

From 2012 to 2016.

Raymond DuBois, MD, PhD:

And then obviously, I was professor of medicine at the Mayo College of Medicine. So I had an office out at Mayo and a lab, and then I had an office and lab down in Tempe, at the Arizona State campus. It was a beautiful building, it had been designed to really merge these two areas of science, and it was a lot of open space and open lab design, so it was really nice. There were only 700 people at the whole institute, so it was a huge relief of administrative burden, and so it was very easy for me to manage that size group. I mean our annual budget was about $70- or $80 million, so compared to the whatever, $4- or $5 billion at MD Anderson.

Tacey A. Rosolowski, PhD:

Right.

Raymond DuBois, MD, PhD:

It was a much, much more—and I had already gained all that expertise there, so it was—that was a sort of relief in a way.

Tacey A. Rosolowski, PhD:

So what were you able to accomplish during those years?

Raymond DuBois, MD, PhD:

I was there for four years. Initially, I just wanted to build the morale back. There had been a previous director who sort of didn’t really pay much attention to the team there and had gotten involved in his own industry development projects and was sort of in absentia. So I came in and started having town halls and on a regular basis, would meet with everybody. Everybody could meet in the atrium there and talk about what I thought we were doing well, where we wanted to go, and how we wanted to grow the institute, and eventually, we laid plans to build a new building, which just got opened a few months ago, so that worked out. It’s called Biodesign C, and it’s connected to the Biodesign Building there, and that building won a lot of architecture awards and things like that, so that was a lot of fun, because I had experience in designing in Houston and I was able to use that to continue with the process in Arizona. So the faculty morale improved and I provided support for pilot projects and other things for people to collaborate, and our extramural funding went up as a result of that. I was able to forge relationships with the science departments on campus. I reached out to the philanthropic community and they provided philanthropic support for the Biodesign Institute. I actually was asked to join the commerce --the City Commerce Division, to talk about bringing biotech and other things to Phoenix. So I met with the mayor and others and had really good relationships with them and tried to forge relationships with the Children’s Hospital there and other biomedical institutes. We had one of our faculty who had a joint appointment at the VA and did infectious disease research, and so we really tried to collaborate on a larger scale, especially with the medical community.

Tacey A. Rosolowski, PhD:

I wanted to ask you if this interesting phenomenon that’s happening over and over now, over and over again at institutions, which is bringing together these disciplines that have traditionally been so compartmentalized. Do you think that now there’s kind of a special temperament or special skills that people need to kind of build those collaborations?

Raymond DuBois, MD, PhD:

Definitely, you have to have some give and take, because you don’t always get your way with everything, but hopefully, people keep in mind, the greater good that can come out of that. We were a fairly small institute and we couldn’t do it all, so everybody—and I explained this to all the center directors. There were ten or twelve research centers that were already in place there and then I created several new centers; one was in structural biology and one in Alzheimer’s disease. For the Alzheimer’s Center, we reached out to Banner Health, which is a huge health system in that part of the country and Eric Reiman, who is one of the world’s experts in Alzheimer’s disease, we joined forces and were able to create a world class Alzheimer’s Research Center at the Biodesign. We brought in several—they’re still recruiting investigators to join that. So that, you know building those bridges was really important. Even MD Anderson has this cancer center in Gilbert that was a collaboration with Banner Health, and I also worked with those individuals there to enhance the cancer research that was being done at the Biodesign Institute and we met with them several times. They were very interactive and wanted to be involved in those collaborations. I think that was a very fun time, very successful. My wife really enjoyed living in Arizona, because there are so many outdoor activities, and our house was positioned between two mountains; Camelback and then another one in the back of our house, and so she essentially hike every day on those mountains and she really enjoyed that. For me, I got to the point where it’s very hot there most of the year. I just got to the point where I couldn’t tolerate the heat as well as she could. During the summer, there would be stretches of time where the temperature would be above 106 or 110, for several days, and I’d never been exposed to that kind of climate. Some people love it, but I just felt sick. I think I must have some heat shock proteins that were precipitating or something, I don’t know what it was, but eventually we realized that maybe we weren’t going to be able to survive there.

Tacey A. Rosolowski, PhD:

It’s a huge quality of life issue it really is.

Raymond DuBois, MD, PhD:

No, it’s very dry and a lot of people like the dryer climate, but I had always lived in an area of humidity and so I just don’t think my body was adapted to it. So when this job became available they called me and they knew that my wife was from South Carolina, she was born and raised in Greenville, South Carolina, and most of her family lives in this region of the country. So I said I think I should look at this, you know, I just don’t know how long I’m going to survive in this heat. Even though the job was a lot of fun, there were no issues there, I mean it was great. You know the other thing that we did was we built a collaboration with South Korea, for our structural biology group. South Korea was building this new laser that was going to be able to do these studies at a much higher resolution than anything we had used before, and so we took several trips down there, we set up the collaboration, and I think that’s even still going today. There was a collaboration with Hamburg, Germany, because they already had a laser that was about ready to get activated and our team could really do some incredible studies on that. That Structural Biology Center is phenomenal. They published one or two papers a month in very high impact journals, on solving the structure of these very difficult proteins to solve, so I learned a lot about physics and structural biology that I never knew before, it was real exciting. The Germans tried to recruit one of our faculty and luckily, we were able to keep her there, and we built, in the new building, a little area where they’re developing a miniaturized laser, which would really change the technology, because you don’t need to build these huge, long tubes, you can sort of do it on a tabletop. We recruited a physicist from MIT who came down and it was real exciting and hopefully, they’re going to be able to build that laser and it will change the paradigm for that kind of technology. So that was also a lot of fun. President Crow is a very dynamic individual. He had served as the vice provost at Columbia, came there and you know, the research funding has gone in the $2- to $300 million, now it’s in the $6- to $700 million range, so he’s really transformed that whole university and it was exciting to be a part of it. Like I said, for personal reasons, and then health reasons, I had to get back to somewhere that had some sort of humidity, so I could survive. So they called me about this job and I had never thought about being a dean. Most of my career was as part of a cancer center and then the Research Institute there, which is a really unique approach. There’s not many institutes that are configured like the Biodesign Institute. So I looked at it, I interviewed, and after the first or second interview, they basically said they thought I was the right person and they want to offer me the job. So, Lisa’s mom had been having some health problems and she was living by herself, in a huge house up in the north end of the state on the mountain, and in the wintertime the road freezes, it’s hard to drive, and she had had some health scares where she had passed out and other things, so we just felt like it was time to try to deal with that. Lisa’s brother lives here, he’s lived here in Charleston for thirty years, he’s the dean of the Law School, and her sister lives in Atlanta, and then her other brother lives in Raleigh. So it sort of brought the family back together. Then just fortuitously, our son, who graduated from A&M and then was working in Houston, decided he wanted to go to law school, and so he applied to the school here, as well as other schools, and since his uncle was the dean of the law school, he convinced him to come, and he did really well. He just passed the bar a few months ago and he’s working in a local law firm, in one of the bigger firms in the state. So he’s happy and we have a chance to be in the same city as he is. So for all those reasons, it worked out to be a good opportunity.

Tacey A. Rosolowski, PhD:

So, what did you want to do when you came here, I mean a new job, a dean.

Raymond DuBois, MD, PhD:

Well, you know in some ways, it’s a little bit like the role I played when I came to MD Anderson. We really needed to raise the bar for the expectations of our researchers, although we have a group of faculty here --extremely dedicated and worked really hard, and are doing fantastic work. One of the things I noticed was they don’t—unlike Texas-- they don’t brag about what they’re doing, so not that many people around the country really know some of the expertise and accomplishments that have been made here. So I’ve tried to help with that on the national --I have a lot of connections with AACR and other national organizations, to try to promote and do the bragging for the institution. Which --everybody had thought that we were part of the University of South Carolina in Columbia, and it turns out that we’ve been an independent Health Science Center since 1824, and the Medical School was developed by a few faculty that actually had come from University of Edinburgh in Scotland.

Tacey A. Rosolowski, PhD:

Interesting.

Raymond DuBois, MD, PhD:

At that time there was really no credentialing or anything like that, certification or anything like that, so anybody could start a med school. But they were pretty rigorous and hired some faculty from University of Pennsylvania who really got things going, and we were one of the first medical schools in the southern states really. I think University of Pennsylvania was the oldest, but we were like the tenth oldest school that was formed in the country, and we’re able to sustain that and in about four years, we’ll be celebrating our 200th anniversary, which is amazing.

Tacey A. Rosolowski, PhD:

Wow.

Raymond DuBois, MD, PhD:

So I have done a lot of work trying to look at the productivity of our scientists and our clinicians, and put in an incentive based compensation plan for the clinicians, which was also a culture change for them but it has led to increased productivity and increased revenue stream for the institution. We’ve also interfaced with the hospital system, to have a formal funds flow, that funds flow back to the college to support different endeavors that are important for us to accomplish all of our missions. We’re still in the process of tweaking that, so it’s not a finished product but it’s clearly a lot more well defined now than it was before I came. We’ve recruited a lot of faculty. I think over a hundred since I started. For example, we were able to recruit the whole heart failure team from Hopkins and we’ve recruited investigators from all the major medical centers, so we’re assembling a group of experts here that you know, it’s important for the state of South Carolina, because this is really the only biomedical research university in the state. The other medical schools are just mainly focused on generating doctors for family practice and general practice and other things, so we have a very important role in the state.

Tacey A. Rosolowski, PhD:

This does seem like a really good fit for you in terms of experience.

Raymond DuBois, MD, PhD:

Yeah, with my experience. The other thing I must say was --the one thing I missed in Arizona was not being a part of a real academic medical center, because even though Mayo was there, they’re mostly focused on a clinical practice delivery, and ASU didn’t have a medical school. I really missed being in a true academic medical center, so that was a big plus, coming back to the Medical University.

Tacey A. Rosolowski, PhD:

And what does the academic environment give you that is so important?

Raymond DuBois, MD, PhD:

Well, you have medical students and residents and fellows who can do research as well, and they’re more medically oriented so they’re in tune with the need for the translational research. There, I had graduate students in my lab, but they were really from chemistry or biochemistry and their whole role was to get a PhD and go teach in a small college or something, instead of practicing medicine or eventually doing biomedical research, or becoming involved in industry projects as well. So I think there’s a lot of things that happened here that you don’t get at some of the pure undergraduate universities that are important. Overall, I think it’s gone reasonably well. Any time you have a new dean or whatever, it takes time for people to understand what the goals and things that the new dean wants to accomplish, so communication is really important, so I’m trying to streamline. I have a weekly communication newsletter that goes to all the faculty and I have a little message in there that I try to keep everybody up to date with exactly what’s happening and what I’m thinking and where we’re going. Right after I came, I met with—went to every single department faculty meeting, had a sort of open town hall thing, and tried to understand where they were coming from. It took a while to accomplish that, because we have over thirty departments, and they meet only once a month at the most, and it takes a while to cycle through all of those departments. And then I think that one of our goals really is diversity and inclusion, and so we’ve really set up a very effective pipeline program to funnel minority students into the medical school, and we rank in the top five in terms of minority students that we train here, and 21 percent of our class is underrepresented minority. There’s a lot of African Americans but also Hispanic and other [ethnicities], and we’re very proud of that and they’ve been very successful. Some of them end up going—one of our top African American students went to do his residency at Boston Children’s Hospital, and so they end up getting stolen to other parts of the country, but we’re very proud of that, that they could compete for those kinds of positions. And so we’ve got a big effort on that. The other thing I did, and some people are complaining a little bit because we made so many changes, but we created a new curriculum for the medical school. It’s called a flexible curriculum. It allows the students to focus in areas of interest that they would like to pursue later. It’s kind of tight, because we’ve had to cram a lot of things in, in a short period of time, but in addition to that, we were able to create a three-year MD program, so they can finish their MD in three years if they choose to do so and qualify for that program.

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Chapter 16: New Roles at Arizona State University and the Medical University of South Carolina

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