UMAB chief wants to see top ratings

November 05, 1994|By David Folkenflik | David Folkenflik,Sun Staff Writer

David J. Ramsay issued a challenge yesterday during his inaugural address as president of the University of Maryland at Baltimore: each of its schools should become among the top three public such institutions in the nation within the next five years.

Calling the research center the state's "jewel in the crown," Dr. Ramsay said he had asked UMAB's deans to develop plans to make good on his pledge. Before the address, aides to Dr. Ramsay said he intended to design standards against which to measure the schools' success.

Dr. Ramsay, an Oxford-trained physician and researcher, took office on June 1 but was not formally invested with the powers of president over the cluster of professional and graduate schools until yesterday. The inauguration was privately funded, but officials said they did not yet know the final cost of the ceremony.

While one of the nation's fastest growing research complexes -- UMAB received more than $111 million in research contracts and grants in fiscal year 1993 -- its schools have not traditionally been considered among the elite.

The medical school, the core of the university, has historically been overshadowed by its neighbor to the east, the Johns Hopkins University; and while certain sectors of the law school have received national attention, the overall school has ranked in the top 50 rather than the top five.

Yet when compared solely with its public peers, UMAB schools find themselves in fairly lofty company. The schools of nursing and dentistry, for example, tied for fifth and seventh place, respectively, for public schools of its kind in this year's editions of U.S. News & World Report. By contrast, the UMAB medical school did not appear in the rankings.

A campus spokesman said U.S. News rankings, grudgingly acknowledged by most college officials as the fairest among those in the popular press, will not be relied upon as the sole barometer of success.

Though currently short on details, Dr. Ramsay's challenge -- his "reach for excellence" -- defines his aspirations for the research campus.

"At every decision point we must ask the question, 'does this improve the level of excellence?' If it does, we should proceed," Dr. Ramsay said. "If it does not, or we are not sure, we should not. That will be the hallmark of this administration."

Dr. Ramsay said the new buildings and laboratories on campus should free UMAB's faculty to conduct even more intense research and establish stronger graduate and professional programs. "We must then let the world know what we have," Dr. Ramsay said. "We will no longer be the nation's best secret."

Dr. Ramsay's speech came at the end of a 90-minute ceremony at Westminster Hall, during which he was hailed and needled as an accomplished medical researcher at the helm of a behemoth medical complex.

To the bemusement of passers-by on Greene Street, a procession with UMAB faculty and senior officials from other Maryland campuses trooped deliberately in full academic regalia from Davidge Hall, the campus' oldest building, to Westminster Hall, the restored campus chapel.

Dr. Ramsay spoke before approximately 350 people with the clipped timbre of his native England and wearing a white bow tie under the red gown and cape representing his medical degree.

Dr. Ramsay responded to Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke's call for heightened campus involvement in community concerns, particularly in the public schools: "We must not let those children down," Dr. Ramsay said. "We have lost one generation -- let's not lose another."

University of Maryland officials and those who have known him since his days as the number two official of the University of California at San Francisco paid tribute to Dr. Ramsay.

"We wish you great success, and a long tenure," said medical school dean Donald E. Wilson, drawing laughter for his reference to the rapid-fire turnover among Dr. Ramsay's predecessors. Eight men have held the job in the past decade, a sign of the turbulent struggles among the campus' hierarchy.

While Dr. Ramsay called for progress on all fronts, his predecessor at UCSF sounded a humorous note of caution: "Change is a bit like changing tombstones in a cemetery -- you can change the tombstones all you want, but the bodies are still there," said Shirley S. Chater, now commissioner of the Social Security Administration.

WHERE THEY RANK NOW

Rankings of the professional schools at University of Maryland at Baltimore, compared to other public schools, according to U.S. News & World Report.

School ....... Rank

Law .......... 21st

Medicine ..... n.r.

Dentistry .... 7th (tie)

Nursing ...... 5th (tie)

Pharmacy ..... 16th (tie)

Social work .. n.r.

n.r. -- not listed among top-rated schools.

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