As we approach the end of the fall semester and look ahead to the holiday season, I want to recognize our faculty, staff and students who have come together this year like never before, and who have worked relentlessly to continue fulfilling our mission of improving human health and potential through education, research and outreach, even in the midst of a worldwide crisis.
The magnitude of the COVID-19 pandemic has made 2020 unique in our lifetime. It also has been a defining year for all of us at the University of Arizona Health Sciences. I am pleased to say that, with a remarkable spirit of solidarity, we have risen to the challenges that have deeply affected our lives and our communities.
In adjusting to a new reality, we have made significant advances in how we are educating the next generation of health care professionals, researching some of the world’s most pervasive health care problems and building healthier communities.
We have learned new ways to collaborate, creating a stronger team culture in the face of rapidly changing circumstances. We have become more nimble and innovative in all our areas of expertise, and our response to the pandemic has set us apart from our peers.
Perhaps the most comprehensive undertaking with long-lasting impact this year has been the development and statewide deployment of one of the most accurate COVID-19 antibody tests in the country that ultimately revealed lasting immunity against the disease.
What most universities had to outsource for their needs, we achieved in-house, which speaks considerably to our ability to draw from our diverse knowledge and skills to effectively work together and adapt. As a result, we have set a new standard for what we can accomplish in the future.
In addition to multiple efforts around pandemic-focused research and testing, we have made significant contributions to public health during this time, ranging from informing public policy and developing resources for children and teenagers, to increasing awareness of the importance of ongoing antiviral research, developing a stress-relieving smartphone app and donating critical supplies to rural Arizona communities.
All the while, we have continued to make progress on our strategic efforts to address long-term issues in health care.
We launched the Primary Care Physician Scholarship program in the spring and welcomed a second cohort of students this fall, so we can begin bringing primary care to Arizona’s medically underserved communities while reducing student debt.
We are pursuing the global expansion of our curriculum and developing several pioneer education programs, including a Bachelor of Science degree in medicine and a Health Sciences design course.
This year we also created the Comprehensive Pain and Addiction Center to help solve the complex issues of substance misuse, chronic pain and addiction, and we began making inroads into bringing the promise of big data to our research efforts.
Thanks to our strong foundation and the remarkable talent at work in our colleges and centers, we are well positioned to embrace the possibilities ahead of us. In fact, this year we broke an institutional funding record with over $200 million in grants awarded for work that will reach many years into the future.
I hope you feel as proud as I do of all we have accomplished working stronger together. Thank you for your curiosity, generosity and continued commitment to our Health Sciences education, research and outreach mission.
I look forward to when we all will be able to meet again regularly on campus. There is so much more for us to explore and embrace in 2021. Until then, I wish you and your loved ones season’s greetings and the best of health.
Michael D. Dake, MD
Senior Vice President
University of Arizona Health Sciences