UMAB's West Coast connection

March 04, 1994

When it came time to select a permanent president for the University of Maryland at Baltimore, the board of regents this week turned to the West Coast and one of the top public universities for the health sciences, the University of California San Francisco. The regents plucked UCSF's No. 2 man, Dr. David J. Ramsay, as the person they want to heal internal rifts and enlarge the campus's research and its community-outreach efforts.

UCSF's enormous success -- it has ranked No. 1, ahead of Johns Hopkins, in medical research dollars for 15 of the past 17 years -- is a worthy stimulus to UM's professional schools campus, especially with UMAB's stress on the health sciences. Dr. Ramsay was instrumental in turning the West Coast school into a prestigious academic center for medicine and scientific research; now he is being asked to do much the same thing in Baltimore.

His skills as a conciliator and his commitment to community relations will be put to the test. UMAB sorely needs someone who can bring the disparate schools -- law, medicine, nursing, dentistry, social work, pharmacy -- together. Too long has the campus been rent by factional feuding and an assortment of temporary presidents, acting presidents and ineffectual presidents.

Dr. Ramsay says he wants to adhere to the strategy that worked at UCSF: recruiting or encouraging top-flight deans and then prodding them to be entrepreneurial and strong leaders; the deans, in turn, would be given the power to develop superior programs and to recruit top-rate department heads, who would be given the same mix of independence and encouragement to excel. He compares his job to that of a symphony conductor: pulling together the dissonant voices and sounds and producing beautiful music.

Developing a sense of unity and partnership is vital. UMAB has vast potential, if that potential can be tapped. In the past five years, research grants have doubled -- even during the last recession. A new health-sciences building will give the university the space it needs for more private-sector partnerships and research grants. The emerging UniversityCenter complex serves as the western anchor of the city's downtown development plans.

Dr. Ramsay accepted this job in spite of UMAB's decade-long history of problems. He comes with superb credentials and glowing recommendations. If he can work the same kind of magic that turned UCSF into one of the best health-sciences campuses in the country, UMAB will have picked a winner.

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