Saturday, May 26, 2018
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Golden opportunity

UT’s medical school and the community it serves need a sense of urgency and commitment to excellence


Paul Block, Jr., speaks at the dedication of the Medical College of Ohio.


Anniversaries, especially 50-year milestones, are occasions to look back, savor achievements, and even indulge in self-congratulation. Supporters of the Medical College of Ohio can celebrate many inspiring moments and accomplishments as they observe the medical school’s golden anniversary this weekend.

Now called the University of Toledo Medical School, MCO became part of UT in a 2006 merger. The leaders of UT and the college face tough decisions about how the medical school will operate for the next 50 years. These decisions involve questions of focus, fervor, independence, and advocacy.

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Given the challenges ahead, the medical college and community it serves need the same urgency and commitment to excellence today that created the school in 1964. Paul Block, Jr., The Blade’s former co-publisher and catalyst behind the development of the medical school, would have reminded the community that this is no time for complacency.

The institution’s importance to the quality of life and economic development of northwest Ohio is greater today than ever before. Health care, technology, and research will buttress the high-tech, information, and service economy of the 21st century.

Moreover, the college faces challenges that are at least as formidable as those of a half-century ago. They include balancing the needs and demands of medical research and teaching, ensuring adequate funding despite cutbacks in state aid, and maintaining an independent institutional culture of innovation, excellence, and openness.

Among the medical college’s most urgent tasks is securing new and progressive leadership. The school’s former chancellor, Dr. Jeffrey Gold, left in February to head the University of Nebraska Medical Center. Dr. Lloyd Jacobs, the president of UT and former head of MCO, will step down next year. He has led UT since its merger with the medical college.

UT’s next president probably will not be a medical educator like Dr. Jacobs. He or she will have plenty of other campus issues to address. If the medical school is to aspire to excellence, it will have to maintain an appropriate share of attention from the university, especially since it lacks its own governing board.

At the same time, the medical school must be allowed reasonable autonomy to pursue research as well as teaching. That could help the school regain the fresh excitement and vision that attended its creation a half-century ago, instead of running the risk of stalling.

Mr. Block would have been proud of the medical college’s growth and accomplishments. A research chemist with a doctorate in organic chemistry, Mr. Block had advocated the college’s creation for years. He was elected the first chairman of the MCO board of trustees.

When then-Ohio Gov. James Rhodes signed the legislation that established MCO, it became the nation’s 100th — and Ohio’s fourth — medical school (today the state has twice as many). The school enrolled its first students in 1969.

Built on a cornfield, the sprawling South Toledo campus attracts more than 4,000 applicants a year who seek a spot in a medical school class of 175. UT’s College of Medicine and Life Sciences employs nearly 900 faculty and staff members; last year, it enrolled 1,158 students in its medical school and other degree programs.

Mr. Block and others left a legacy for generations. He believed in Toledo’s, and northwest Ohio’s, potential for greatness. And he recognized that the region needed a medical school to improve the quality of health care, to help overcome a local physician shortage, and to make the Toledo area a center of innovation, biomedical research, and learning.

Creating a medical college and academic center marked a milestone in Toledo’s history. As the community celebrates, it must commit to ensuring that its medical school becomes the world-class institution of learning and research that Paul Block, Jr., properly believed this region deserves.

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