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The New Rutgers

With the formal integration of the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey into Rutgers, the university makes a game-changing expansion in the health sciences, broadening the Rutgers mission of education, research, and service to the state as it embarks on becoming an elite, comprehensive research university.

 

The verdant lawn of Voorhees Mall on the New Brunswick Campus may look no different this fall, with students sunning themselves or strolling to class, but make no mistake about it: change is happening at Rutgers. You hear this in the conversations among professors, and you see it in the Rutgers signs appearing atop buildings in places like Newark and Piscataway that used to say UMDNJ. They are all now a part of Rutgers, and you can’t help but sense how this change—a big, epochal shift of a sort that’s extraordinary in its sweep and vision—will open new possibilities for Rutgers students, faculty, and re­searchers and residents of New Jersey.

On July 1, in the largest integration of two universities in the history of higher education, Rutgers University expanded its mission, making it a hub of health and medical education and New Jersey’s largest academic health center. Two medical schools. A dental school. A school of public health. In all, seven schools, most of what had constituted the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey (UMDNJ), became part of Rutgers on that day, along with clinical practices, centers and institutes, and an esteemed faculty and its alumni, students, and staff.

New Jersey governor Chris Christie, former governor Thomas Kean, and president Robert L. Barchi
New Jersey governor Chris Christie, former governor Thomas Kean, and president Robert L. Barchi were among the dignitaries and political leaders on hand to introduce the new Rutgers on July 1. Photography by Nick Romanenko

But that’s not the whole story. The new Rutgers isn’t just about the integration of schools and colleges, or buildings with Rutgers signage, or the faculty practices and clinics now carrying the Rutgers name. It’s not just a matter of adding things to a university that’s already an academic powerhouse; it’s about making a great institution even greater. It’s about attracting the world’s leading researchers and scholars to Rutgers, about a catalyst for improved fundraising, and about capitalizing on the synergies that will allow the university to “leapfrog over where we are now,” as Rutgers president Robert L. Barchi put it, “to achieve a level we could not ever have obtained otherwise.” It’s about the cooperation and collaboration already happening as a result of the transfer and the establishment of Rutgers Biomedical and Health Sciences (RBHS), the major new health care education, research, and clinical division at Rutgers.

To be sure, the health sciences aren’t new to Rutgers. Far from it. For years, Rutgers researchers have made breakthroughs in areas such as autism and AIDS, often working with colleagues across schools and research centers. Collaboration is part of Rutgers’ DNA. And now, with RBHS, there’s the opportunity to extend this collaboration, both within RBHS and beyond it, bringing together faculty in the life sciences, law, philosophy, and other areas of study. Students, meanwhile, will benefit from even greater choice in their educational paths, as well as increased opportunities for research, both as undergraduates and graduates.

“There is no reason why New Jersey can’t have one of the best higher education systems in America; no reason why New Jersey can’t lead the way in health care education and training or in medical research and its application,” said President Barchi at a commemorative event for the new Rutgers. “There is no reason—and now no excuse—for giving New Jersey anything less than a world-class state university. Rutgers is now ready to deliver.”

And deliver in entirely new ways, for Rutgers. Consider the university’s reach across New Jersey. Rutgers already has a presence in all of New Jersey’s 21 counties through research field stations, business incubators, and the New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station Cooperative Extension. Now that presence extends to the delivery of health care, with clinical and faculty practices, clinics for underserved populations, and the Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey, the only National Cancer Institute-designated comprehensive cancer center in the state. More than 1.7 million patient visits took place at Rutgers’ health care facilities and faculty practices in 2012 alone.

And alumni? They will benefit, too. As President Barchi wrote in a newspaper op-ed, “As Rutgers assumes a leadership role in the health sciences, our university’s enhanced reputation will make a Rutgers degree even more valuable to our 450,000 alumni, the majority of whom live in New Jersey.”

And that’s certainly something to celebrate. •