OHSU Off to a Healthy Financial Start
Initially, Governor John Kitzhaber had set aside $64 million, but legislators increased that amount to $73.3 million, which means the university will be able to keep some programs it would have had to cut such as rural rotations.
“We continue to run about $25 million above budget,” said Lawrence Furnestahl, OHSU's chief financial officer. “We’re continuing to manage our vacancies and compensation expenses very tightly.”
Though the school is running black ink, Furnestahl told board members June 30 that it faces an 11 percent increase in expenses compared to a 6 percent increase in revenue.
Although OHSU is doing relatively well financially, the decrease in state funding from year to year means expenses have had to be recovered elsewhere – including tuition costs.
“The dollars we've raised in tuition are not equal to the dollars we've lost in state funds,” said Joe Robertson, OHSU’s president.
Before the board approved its 2011-2012 budget, Robinson said OHSU is doing better than many medical schools in keeping its graduates in the area, and recruiting doctors to primary care – but that could be jeopardized by continued increases in tuition.
OHSU’s board also decided to begin construction on the Collaborative Life Sciences Building at South Waterfront, which will house research space, the College of Dentistry and classroom and research space for science departments connected to all of Oregon's major universities, according to Mark Williams, OHSU's associate vice president for campus planning, development and real estate.
Initially, OHSU intended to build phase one and then start phase two when more money came in, but Williams said it would actually cost more to break ground a second time, and that with construction costs being fairly low, now is a good time to begin. With a $10 million grant from Tri-Met (for transit assistance), an anonymous $40 million gift, and two bonds from the state, the school will be able to move forward with the entire project.
“It's a huge relief not to have to do it in phases,” Williams said.
“This project is only possible because of philanthropy and because of partnership,” Robertson said. “This building will ensure we’ll have wonderful facilities for the training of the healthcare workforce for the next century.”
AIDS Vaccine Moves Forward
Louis Picker, an immunological researcher found himself amid a media blitz this spring for his trailblazing work toward finding a vaccine against the AIDS virus.
Primates exposed to the AIDS virus and then treated with Picker's vaccine show low or no presence of HIV antibodies. The difference between this vaccine and others being tested, he told the board, is that this one acts more quickly, which is key to combating a virus that evolves quickly to evade the body's immunological response.
“If you catch the infection early, you can actually clear the infection,” Picker said, adding that a prophylactic vaccine is the only way to stop the spread of HIV in much of the world since antiretroviral medications – which have increased life expectancies for many people with HIV – are cost-prohibitive for most people in Africa, where infection rates are still at epidemic levels.
Board members praised Picker's groundbreaking work and the positive attention it’s brought to the school. His lab is one of the best-funded AIDS research labs in the country.
“That's very exciting as far as what you're doing and what you've accomplished with your team,” said Charles Wilhoite, board chairman. “We don't know exactly what you're doing but it's doing well.”