For nearly 70 years, people at M. D. Anderson have been transforming minds and lives through our mission-directed endeavors in patient care, research and education. Especially in the last two decades, our quest has expanded to focus energetically on preventing cancer, as well. Each year, the pace of discovery quickens at M. D. Anderson.
Transformation is a particularly appropriate theme for 2009. Like the rest of the world in these uncertain economic times, we face many challenges and, wherever possible, we have moved boldly and decisively to turn those challenges into opportunities, both in science and in how we deliver our care and manage our resources. I’ll cite a few examples in this introductory note, and you will find many more on the pages that follow.
In 2009, we re-evaluated the medical admissions criteria for patients we had used for years, which had become cumbersome and not always patient friendly. The resulting change was an immediate surge in the number of new patients seen here by more than 1,000 additional appointments per month. Our medical, nursing and allied health staff responded magnificently to the challenge of providing service to so many more patients. At the same time, we also cut in half the typical time from request to initial patient appointment, another significant achievement.
We have greatly expanded our network of suburban and regional care centers, with the goal of making quality cancer care more convenient for those who cannot easily reach central Houston. Six centers in Greater Houston, along with others in New Mexico and Florida, now offer cancer care using M. D. Anderson clinical guidelines and sharing our name. Nearly all of these centers have been developed in collaboration with local partnering hospitals of exceptional ability that invited M. D. Anderson to their neighborhoods.
In 2009, we delayed some renovation and building projects to make sure that sufficient funds were available for priority programs. Nonetheless, we moved forward with a huge and badly needed hospital expansion — that will add 192 beds in the first phase and more than 300 beds eventually — and made substantial progress toward completing two major research facilities to house our Center for Advanced Biomedical Imaging Research and Center for Targeted Therapy. Both these new centers in the Charline and Red McCombs Institute for the Early Detection and Treatment of Cancer on the South Campus hold forth the promise of producing further dramatic advances over cancer.
In the face of peer competition from many excellent universities and research centers all over the nation, M. D. Anderson once again secured more National Cancer Institute grants and grant dollars then any other institution in the United States. Last year, our faculty also demonstrated creativity by quickly earning a remarkable 84 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act grants totaling $53.8 million.
We are a “cancer university” — an accredited, degree-granting institution, where undergraduate and graduate students receive degrees with the M. D. Anderson name on their diplomas. Our undergraduate student body grew to more than 200, all enrolled in allied health professions training, which leads to meaningful and well-paying jobs that are in great demand, despite the economy. We anticipate growing our undergraduate enrollment to 300 in the next few years.
Graduate students in our joint program with The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston now number more than 600, complemented by another 1,100 clinical residents and fellows training in the super-specialties needed to manage cancer effectively. At M. D. Anderson another 700 postdoctoral trainees work in our research laboratories.
With newly recruited leadership and incredibly generous philanthropy, M. D. Anderson’s Duncan Family Institute for Cancer Prevention and Risk Assessment is rapidly expanding into areas as diverse as behavior modification via e-health and gene-based tests to find ways to better predict whether cancer will develop and how it might be prevented with various types of therapy.
New centers of excellence are being developed in our Institute for Basic Research, and clinical trials in the Institute for Personalized Cancer Therapy are bringing us closer to selecting the treatment to which each individual patient is most likely to respond.
In spite of tough economic times, philanthropic contributions to our efforts to transform cancer care are on target, due to the generosity of our supporters and the hard work of the Development Office and our Board of Visitors. I owe a big “thank you” to volunteers and friends in the community who have made this a year with many successes in Making Cancer History® — for our patients and for all of us. In truth, transformation is the one constant at M. D. Anderson and could describe many years, not just 2009.