Office of the Vice President for Global Communications

Friday, September 16, 2011

Regents approve two new departments at Medical School

The Medical School will establish two new departments — an independent Department of Cardiac Surgery and a comprehensive Department of Computational Medicine and Bioinformatics — following action Thursday by the Board of Regents.

They are among the first new departments created at the Medical School in more than 10 years.

Cardiac surgery at U-M continues to evolve new approaches to the spectrum of cardiac diseases from congenital abnormalities to problems of the elderly.

The first pediatric open-heart surgery in the state, and one of the first in the nation, was performed at U-M in 1960.

Today U-M performs more than 2,000 heart operations a year, and heart programs housed at the Cardiovascular Center and the C.S. Mott Children's Hospital are consistently ranked among the tops in the nation.

"The establishment of an independent Department of Cardiac Surgery is critical to sustaining and enhancing the university's reputation of excellence in this field. It will further our faculty members' scholarly and educational activities with their peers across the university and across the nation," says Dr. James Woolliscroft, dean of the Medical School and Lyle C. Roll Professor of Medicine.

Beyond its significant clinical footprint, cardiac surgery's successful research programs are expected to expand in the areas of health outcomes research and clinical trials.

The development also is expected to affect recruitment and retention of faculty, enhance performance within the Cardiovascular Center, further academic training and enhance research potential.

U-M's Medical School will be one of the first in the country to establish a comprehensive Computational Medicine and Bioinformatics Department.

Approximately 15 U.S. colleges have academic departments for bioinformatics, computational biology or clinical informatics or bioinformatics. However, the Medical School is one of the first to bring these related areas together in a single department and build on the successes of an existing institution, the Center for Computational Medicine and Bioinformatics.

The CCMB, which was created as a campuswide center and financed within the Medical School in 2005, established itself as a distinct discipline with highly regarded interdisciplinary research centers and graduate training. Currently it has 118 affiliate faculty on its roster, including 55 from the Medical School and 63 from other U-M schools and colleges. CCMB will continue to be a university center and will provide a strong foundation for the new department.

"Establishing this new department is critical to sustaining and enhancing the university's reputation of excellence in this field," Woolliscroft says.

"To be a top 10 Medical School we must have a top biomedical computation and bioinformatics department," he adds. "I am confident that we now will be well positioned to achieve this objective by 2015 given the plan, focus and momentum that has been well established already in the Center for Computational Medicine and Bioinformatics."

This new department will enable further academic growth of the faculty and trainees of this highly competitive discipline, and will help the Medical School attract the best new faculty and trainees to the university. The department will continue to support the collaborative environment that has successfully built bridges to faculty across the university in research and training.

Computational biology is the process of analyzing and interpreting data, and bioinformatics is the science where biology, computer science and technology combine to provide new biological insights. It involves analyzing and interpreting various types of data, such as nucleotide and amino acid sequences, protein domains and protein structures.

Clinical informatics involves managing and analyzing clinical data from electronic health records for patients being treated and research participants in clinical and translational research. Understanding and linking these related areas are vital for health research and finding cures and medicines for diseases.