Questions on the Reunification of Rutgers & RWJMS

This is the third attempt to merge UMDNJ and Rutgers. Why should we expect success this time?

The major difference between this and earlier efforts is that this proposal recommends only the union of Rutgers–New Brunswick with the UMDNJ–School of Public Health and UMDNJ–Robert Wood Johnson Medical School in New Brunswick and Piscataway. Previous proposals recommended combining Rutgers University with all eight UMDNJ schools and the New Jersey Institute of Technology.

This more-focused vision is designed for success. Rutgers and RWJMS already have numerous partnerships, including shared academic and research programs, faculty members who hold joint appointments, and facilities in close proximity to one another. In addition, Governor Christie has spoken often of his strong commitment to higher education and his thorough understanding of UMDNJ and the need for enhanced medical education in the state.

What advantages can be expected from combining the institutions?

The report notes that the proposed union “is essential to the future educational, economic, and health care needs of New Jersey.” Research universities that include a medical school are in the best position to attract the finest faculty and students, develop multidisciplinary initiatives, and serve as effective catalysts for economic growth and new jobs. They attract the highest levels of research funding and channel significant dollars into their states.

Rutgers already brings more federal research funding to New Jersey than any other university in the state, but this merger will help us do even better.

The reunification would also make it easier to create productive synergies between basic science research and its clinical application. It would allow researchers working in the same or related fields to pool their efforts without the difficulty of crossing institutional lines.

Are there disadvantages to consider?

If reunification is approved, it will take time and resources to integrate different administrative systems and university cultures into one seamless operation. But the benefits to New Jersey are worth the effort.

What is the current relationship between Rutgers–New Brunswick and Robert Wood Johnson Medical School and the School of Public Health?

Rutgers and Robert Wood Johnson Medical School have a half-century history of collaboration. Indeed, RWJMS started out as Rutgers Medical School before it was absorbed into UMDNJ. Nine medical school buildings are located on 66 acres of Rutgers’ Busch Campus in Piscataway and other medical school buildings are a short walk from Rutgers’ College Avenue Campus in New Brunswick. Two of the region’s most successful research institutes— the Center for Advanced Biotechnology and Medicine and the Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences Institute—are already jointly managed by Rutgers and UMDNJ, and both universities participate in the Cancer Institute of New Jersey. In addition, there are 12 joint academic programs leading to advanced degrees. Many faculty members in these disciplines hold joint appointments.

Will Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital be affected?

The report does not call for any changes to the hospital in New Brunswick. Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital, which is independent of the medical school, functions as the teaching hospital for medical students.

How will this reunification affect medical education elsewhere in the state?

The task force report recommends that “the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey should be fundamentally transformed while sustaining the integrity of medical education and health care delivery in Newark.” The report goes on to say that, along with the merger of Rutgers and RWJMS, “concurrent steps must be taken to address the other operations of UMDNJ, including University Hospital, New Jersey Medical School, the future of medical education in Newark, and medical education in South Jersey.” The UMDNJ Advisory Committee is expected to issue Part II of its report before the end of 2011 with recommendations for improving health sciences education in Newark and in South Jersey.