Posts tagged with News and Announcements

The Duchossois Family Institute to launch this fall

Duchossois Family Foundation

The Duchossois Family Foundation. Standing (L to R): Craig J. Duchossois, Janet Duchossois, Ilaria Woodward, Jessica Swoyer Green, Dayle Duchossois Fortino. Seated (L to R): Ashley D. Joyce, Richard L. Duchossois, Kimberly Duchossois

The establishment of the Duchossois Family Institute: Harnessing the Microbiome and Immunity for Human Health was recently announced.  This institute has been made possible by an incredible $100 million gift from Craig Duchossois, Chairman and CEO of The Duchossois Group Inc., a member of the University of Chicago Medical Center Board since 1988 and the University Board since 2001; his wife Janet Duchossois, and The Duchossois Family Foundation. We are immensely grateful to the Duchossois family for their commitment and longstanding support. Since 1980, the family has given $37 million to the Medical Center, including a transformative $21 million gift to establish the Duchossois Center for Advanced Medicine, the first facility dedicated to outpatient care on the UChicago Medicine campus. Three generations of the Duchossois family have been involved in making the new $100 million gift, and it has been my pleasure to work with them to develop a shared vision for using the power of science to promote wellness.

The scientific focus of the Institute was developed over two years of discussions between members of our faculty, led by T. Conrad Gilliam, the Dean for Basic Science and the Marjorie I. and Bernard A. Mitchell Distinguished Service Professor in the Department of Human Genetics, and members of the family.  The overall goal of the Duchossois Family Institute will be to further knowledge on the interactions between the immune system, genetic factors and the microbiome, and then to determine how this knowledge can be used to promote human health. The Institute will be headed by an eminent scientist, who will be identified by a national search. This search will be initiated shortly.

The resources provided by the Institute will be used to recruit outstanding faculty who will be appointed in our departments, to provide seed funding for innovative research projects and funds to support students and fellows. In addition, a series of research and development platforms will be developed that will enhance our research infrastructure. Platforms under consideration include medicinal chemistry, the use of metabolomics to develop next generation biomarkers, high throughput microbiome sequencing as well as a data integration and analytics platform and a microbiome data commons.  It is anticipated that this additional infrastructure will have a positive impact on research in the BSD and will benefit our faculty broadly. The Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation will play an important role in The Duchossois Family Institute. As part of the gift agreement, it is expected that discoveries made under the auspices of the Institute will lead to intellectual property that can be patented and will form the basis of new companies. Funds will also be used to support training in the Polsky Center.  

This exciting new program is built on the accomplishments of our faculty — particularly in the areas of genetics and genomics, the microbiome, immunology and data analytics that positioned us to receive this transformative gift, the largest single gift ever in support of biology and medicine at the University of Chicago.

UChicago Medicine one of the nation’s top-performing hospitals in quality and safety


We have recently received several national honors that speak to the quality and safety of the care we provide to patients. This spring, the University of Chicago Medicine earned its 11th consecutive “A” from The Leapfrog Group, which assesses hospitals using 30 safety metrics. We are one of only 63 hospitals in the nation that have earned continuous top marks from the prominent watchdog organization, which began its twice-a-year reviews in 2012. Additionally, UChicago Medicine was included on Becker’s Hospital Review’s 2017 review of “100 Great Hospitals of America.”

Stephen Weber, Associate Professor of Medicine, Chief Medical Officer and Vice President for Clinical Effectiveness, is one of the leaders of our ongoing, broad-based effort to improve quality and safety. I am delighted that his contributions have been recognized by Becker’s Hospital Review, which named him to its 2017 list of 50 experts leading the field of patient safety. The publication cited his studies on the prevention and management of health care-associated infections and his work on an infection prevention outreach team. 

Celebrating half a century of training physician-scientists

Our Medical Scientist Training Program (MSTP) is one of the longest running programs in the country. We were one of the first schools to obtain federal funding in 1967. Since then, our program has graduated more than 280 physician scientists, and many of our former trainees are now doing groundbreaking research at some of the nation’s most prestigious institutions.

We have invited some of our most accomplished alumni back to campus to talk about their research during the upcoming MSTP Reunion and Retreat.  The 50th Anniversary Alumni Research Symposium will be held from 1 to 6 p.m. June 23 in the Gordon Center for Integrative Science. The symposium is open to the entire University community, and I expect it will be a fascinating afternoon.

BSD to participate in Chicago’s Pride Parade

This is Pride Month, and I am pleased that we are participating Chicago’s 48th Annual Pride Parade on June 25. In our division, we work hard to provide a welcoming and inclusive environment, not only for our patients, but also for our students, staff, and faculty. Additionally, we are proud that the University of Chicago Medicine is identified as a leader in LGBT Health Equality, a formal recognition received from the Human Rights Campaign (HRC). Many BSD and UChicago Medicine faculty, staff and trainees, as well as their partners and allies, have signed up to participate in the parade. They will be wearing T-shirts sponsored by the Office of Diversity & Inclusion and the LGBT+ Resource Group.

Potential impact of changes being proposed in Washington DC

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As you are aware, the new administration is proposing sweeping changes in a variety of areas that affect the lives of all Americans. The new directions on immigration and health care policy and financing are of particular importance to the University of Chicago, the BSD and UCMC.   President Trump’s recent executive orders on immigration and the Affordable Care Act have the potential to have a negative impact on patient care, teaching and discovery at our institution and academic medical centers nationwide.

Faculty, students, residents, fellows and other colleagues from all over the world make invaluable contributions to the rich and exciting intellectual environment at the University of Chicago.  We are deeply committed to maintaining a diverse community in which people from many countries with different cultures and religions and with differing points of view can work together to address important issues.  As an immigrant myself, who was allowed to come to the United States because I was fortunate enough to qualify for a green card, I have a deep personal sense of the importance of fair and consistent immigration policies. International graduates play a critical role in U.S. health care, representing approximately 25 percent of the workforce and often caring for patients in rural and underserved urban communities, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC). Leading-edge biomedical research depends on international scientific cooperation and our ability to attract the best minds from around the world to work in our laboratories and in our clinics.  

Communications from President Zimmer and Provost Diermeier to University faculty, students, and staff and to President Trump emphasize our belief in the importance of a welcoming stance to immigrants and the talent and energy they bring. We are fully committed to the values articulated in these messages.  An additional communication from Dean Humphrey and me focused on international residents and fellows who come to the University of Chicago Medicine for clinical and research training.

The executive order of January 20 instructing federal agencies to "waive, defer, grant exemptions from or delay" any part of the Affordable Care Act that imposes a financial or regulatory burden is creating uncertainty in the insurance marketplace and among patients and providers. We have been working diligently to communicate our views to elected officials in Washington and in Springfield and are participating in efforts coordinated by the AAMC in conjunction with deans and hospital presidents across the country. Our position is summarized in an op-ed that I wrote that was published in Crain’s Chicago Business. Our central message is to emphasize the importance of access to health care for all our citizens and of providing adequate funding for both patients and health care providers to ensure that this occurs.

The impact of our focus on patient care quality and safety

In recent years, UCMC has maintained a singular focus on improving the quality and safety of the care that we provide to our patients.  This has been a broad- based effort involving faculty, trainees at all levels and hospital staff lead by Stephen Weber, Michael Howell, Krista Curell and Sharon O’Keefe. Our consistent overall safety score as judged by the Leapfrog Group, incorporating more than 30 safety measures, places us in the top 2 percent of U.S. hospitals.  We recently received a 2016 Top Academic Hospitals Award, described as “an elite national distinction given to hospitals with the highest quality in the nation.” UCM is one of only 29 hospitals, and the only major academic medical center in Illinois, to receive the award.

We perform extremely well relative to peers in a range of important metrics, including readmissions, avoidance of causing harm to patients, incidence of cardiac arrest, central line infections, preventing blood clots and reducing the need for blood transfusions.  In addition, objective measures of service in the emergency room and the patient experience have improved substantially. These results should be a source of great institutional pride because they indicate, from the standpoint of quality and safety, we are in the top-performing group of hospitals nationally.

Proposed new Committee on Quantitative Research Methods

Advances in quantitative methods underlie the growth in knowledge across many disciplines. Yet historically, research and education in quantitative methods has occurred primarily within the disciplines.

To address these issues, UChicago scientists from the BSD and the Division of the Social Sciences interested in statistics and quantitative methods established a quantitative research methodology workshop as a venue for building an intellectual community of colleagues who share methodological interests.  Since 2012, workshop participants have met approximately four times per quarter to discuss working papers and to brainstorm solutions to methodological problems encountered in ongoing research. Participants have included faculty members, researchers, and students from a broad range of disciplines, as well as the National Opinion Research Center, the Consortium for Chicago School Research, and colleagues from the University of Illinois in Chicago.

These efforts have been very successful and are now being advanced to the stage of becoming a University-wide committee to improve the quality of quantitative research and research training in social and behavioral sciences, health, education and related fields. Core members of the proposed Committee on Quantitative Research Methods from the BSD include Don Hedeker, Ron Thisted, Andre Rzhetsky and Robert Gibbons. The Committee on Quantitative Research Methods will stimulate original methodological thinking, train a new generation of methodological leaders, and launch exciting new joint ventures across the disciplines. It will also improve research training for a broad range of students who wish to become proficient in using available quantitative methods. For more information, visit    

Resource Groups forming on campus

Last month, the University of Chicago Medical Center, the Biological Sciences Division and the Pritzker School of Medicine jointly launched a process to support the formation of Resource Groups to foster diversity, inclusion and peer support by connecting like-minded people. Sponsored by the Diversity and Inclusion Steering Committee, the voluntary groups are open to all members of our community, including faculty, staff, residents and students. A group dedicated to sexual orientation and gender identity has already formed and was co-sponsor of a recent lecture on campus by Dr. Harvey Makadon on improving health care and outcomes for the LGBTQ community.

Promoting diversity and inclusion is an institutional imperative and these resource groups have my strongest support. I encourage you to consider forming or becoming involved with a group. To learn more, please visit the Resource Group pages at and, or attend the information session on Wednesday, Nov. 16 from 2 to 3 p.m. in J-103.

From bench to business


From left: John Colson, Cathryn Nagler, and Jeff Hubbell

The University has a strong interest in promoting entrepreneurial efforts through its Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation. A startup company launched by Cathryn Nagler, Professor of Pathology, provides an example of the venture creation resources available to faculty, staff and students who want to translate research into commercial application. The company, ClostraBio, is developing therapeutics based on discoveries made at the University of Chicago inspired by research into the microbiome that aim to prevent or treat food allergies.  Cathryn and colleague Jeffrey Hubbell, Professor in the Institute for Molecular Engineering, received guidance and business expertise in forming their company from the Polsky Center, and in less than a year, ClostraBio incorporated, received funding and is getting ready for pre-clinical trials.

Free expression and the role of universities

As you know, the open exchange of ideas and protecting freedom of expression is central to the values and identity of the University of Chicago.  The Kalven report and the report of a committee on academic freedom lead by Professor Geoffrey Stone are notable contributions to thinking on this topic.  This past week, the University received significant national attention following a letter to all incoming students in the College from Dean of Students Jay Ellison followed by an op-ed by President Zimmer (“Free speech is the basis of a true education”) in the Wall Street Journal on August 26.  These communications both took the position that University students need to be exposed to a wide range of ideas including ideas that are different to their own ideas and some of which may make them feel uncomfortable.  The responses that these communications received were passionate, largely strongly positive but some negative, and this is nicely summarized in an article in the New York Times. For those of you interested in a more complete history of academic freedom at the University of Chicago, I would encourage you to read an excellent monograph written by College Dean John Boyer (“Academic Freedom and the Modern University: The Experience of the University of Chicago.”).

New undergraduate major in neuroscience

Peggy Mason, PhD, professor of neurobiology

Peggy Mason, PhD, professor of neurobiology and director of the new undergraduate major in neuroscience at the University of Chicago

The Grossman Institute for Neuroscience, Quantitative Biology and Human Behavior has led the effort to develop a new undergraduate major in neuroscience, the first undergraduate major in addition to biology in the Biological Sciences Collegiate Division.  Although administered in the BSD, the major will be highly interdisciplinary, spanning the full range of neuroscience disciplines in the physical sciences, social sciences and biological sciences.  The exciting curriculum will offer a broad foundation in neuroscience and provide students interested in graduate school, medical school, data science or biotechnology. The College Council voted unanimously in May to approve the new major.

John Boyer, Dean of the College, and I are both delighted that this has occurred.  We would particularly like to acknowledge the roles played by John Maunsell, PhD, and Ruth Anne Eatock, PhD, in leading the effort to get this major established and also thank Peggy Mason, PhD, for her willingness to direct the program.  I am confident that the neuroscience major will help attract additional outstanding students to the University of Chicago.