Message of thanks

Dear friends and colleagues,

I cannot thank you enough for the tremendous support you have provided to me and my family during this difficult time as we mourn the death of my husband, Mark.

Nearly 1,000 people attended his funeral service in Indianapolis yesterday, with approximately 100 from Michigan, including from our extraordinary U-M and Health System community.

Those who came heard stories and memories shared by Mark’s brothers and sister, the dean of the Indiana University School of Medicine and our three children. I had the honor of presenting the concluding eulogy and was able to share with everyone just how wonderful, modest, witty, giving and loving the man with whom I was blessed to share 31 years of marriage was in every way.

Mark was a committed volunteer and leader in the Jewish, art and music communities; a surgeon who always put patients first; a researcher determined to find new ways to save and improve lives; an artist who absorbed and reflected the world around him; and a dedicated father, husband, brother and son who embraced the true beauty and meaning of family. We will miss him dearly, and we will remember and honor him forever.

Your notes and e-mails, your posts on my Web site, your calls and your compassion mean a great deal to me. I am awed and overwhelmed, but not surprised, by your kindness and generosity.

With thanks,

On the sudden passing of my husband, Mark Pescovitz, M.D.

This unexpected tragedy reminds us all of the fragility of life, and I am grateful for the support and well-wishes that my family and I are receiving from the U-M and Ann Arbor communities, as well as from our wonderful friends and family in Indianapolis. My children and I will treasure Mark’s memory, and take solace from knowing how many lives he saved and touched throughout his career and life. He was a wonderful father, husband and friend, as well as an astute and creative artist, researcher and surgeon. He will be greatly missed.

Mark’s funeral will be held on Thursday, December 16, 2 p.m., at Congregation Beth-El Zedeck in Indianapolis.

In lieu of flowers, please consider making a donation in Mark’s honor to an organization dedicated to one of Mark’s many passions:

Why Technology Transfer is Essential to our Future

Earlier this month, I gave a talk on the implications of health care reform to 200 venture capitalists from across the Midwest. This was an audience of entrepreneurs, business leaders, innovators and investors with the funds to advance cutting edge ideas and product development.

As I stood in front of this impressive and dynamic group talking about the University of Michigan’s success in technology transfer – the process of turning scientific and technological advances into marketable products or services – I found myself re-invigorated by our University’s vast potential to spur the state’s and the region’s economy. We have the ability to create a new industrial identity that builds on Michigan’s historic strength in automotive technologies.

Now is the time to forge innovative paths in health services research, medical device development, drug discovery, battery development and other areas where U-M excels.

As I looked around the room at people from Michigan, Illinois, Ohio, Minnesota, Missouri and elsewhere, I became convinced that the Midwest can give the traditional innovation and technology hubs of the east and west coasts a run for their money, with Michigan leading the way. Consider this:

  • In 2008, there were 55 venture capital firms active in Michigan. Today, there are more than 70.
  • In 2009, Michigan had 62 companies that were funded by local and national venture capital firms. Together, these companies have created nearly 2,000 jobs in this state.
  • Nearly 45% of Michigan’s venture capital backed companies were a result of U-M tech transfer activities.
  • Since 2001, U-M Tech Transfer has spun-off 93 new start-up ventures, a record well within the top 10 of all universities.

While the Michigan economy remains challenged and the road to full recovery is long, the fiscal strength of the University of Michigan and the U-M Health System can help drive the overall state resurgence.

One of the benefits of being a leading research university – and the U-M was recently ranked first in research and development spending among the nation’s public universities and colleges by the National Science Foundation – is the impact we have on the local, national and global economies when discoveries evolve into viable products, services and businesses. Tech transfer makes a case for the business and economic impact of discovery.

Here at U-M, we have the skills and resources to increase the force of our impact and build upon our demonstrated track record in this arena. In fact, several units across our campus focus on encouraging innovation activities and cultivating relationships with the private sector, including the University’s Office of Tech Transfer (OTT), the U-M Business Engagement Center (BEC), the Medical Innovation Center (MIC) and the Medical School’s Business Development Office.

Here’s some evidence of our determination and success:

  • In fiscal year 2010, U-M produced 290 new discoveries – 118 of which came from the  Medical School. We also recorded 97 agreements with industry, including 10 new start-up ventures, and realized a 16 percent increase in license royalties, with total revenues reaching a record $39.8 million.
  • Plans are in motion to create a “Venture Accelerator” at the North Campus Research Complex. This will be space where start-up companies will be housed with convenient access to OTT services and support.
  • Of about 570 entries from around the globe, seven UMHS spinoff companies – Life Magnetics, Compendia Bioscience, ImBio, Vir(Sn), OcuSciences, Armune Bioscience and Hygieia – are among 50 semi-finalists in the Accelerate Michigan Innovation Competition, the world’s largest business plan competition for start-ups. This international contest highlights Michigan as a robust and vibrant venue for innovation and business opportunity, and will hold its three-day conference and awards presentation at NCRC next month with President Coleman offering remarks on the final day.

Our potential is limitless.

What matters now is what we do with that potential; how we leverage our vast resources, build fruitful public-private partnerships and advocate for legislation and policies that support cultivation of vibrant life sciences, green energy and technology industries in Michigan.

At the University of Michigan, we embrace progress and innovation. This will be even more important to our Health System as we aspire to create the future of health care through discovery.

What do you think?

Our Global Citizenship

This month’s activities celebrating the Peace Corps’ 50th anniversary and the opening of our new Joint Institute for Translational & Clinical Research with Peking University Health Science Center got me thinking about the song It’s a Small World. I am not sure why it popped into my head, but there it was, conjuring up memories of when my husband and I took our children to Disneyland years ago.

Within moments of entering the Park, we’d inevitably be in line for that ride. I can’t tell you how many times I sat in one of those little boats for the 15-minute cruise around the world, listening to that song play over and over again in various languages.  After about the third time around, I would wonder what my children and all children were learning from this experience. Because behind that complex animated entertainment is the very simple, yet powerful, message that we’re all together in this world and we’re more alike than we are different.

Over time, with advances in technology and communications, our world has become even smaller and, quite possibly, we’ve become more similar. More than ever, nations across the globe are dependent on each other for so many things, including the health of our environment, economies and citizens.

If the University of Michigan is to become a leader in global medicine and a model for multidisciplinary international research – and I believe that we can achieve this ambitious goal – we must  deepen our understanding of disease and its impact on individuals, communities and nations worldwide; we must invite global perspectives and ideas into our labs, classrooms and offices; we must gather clinical data from international populations; and we must collaborate with experts from across the globe to expose ourselves to new ways of solving the health problems facing our world.

We already have notable success in this realm, including:

  • Incredible work in Ghana, with OB/GYN training programs to decrease maternal and child mortality and build up the in-country health care workforce, and a new Emergency Room residency program that recently received NIH funding
  • Establishment of clinical, research or education relationships with more than 70 countries through Global REACH
  • Local symposia and conferences, such as the one hosted by the Department of Molecular & Integrative Physiology two weeks ago to build on our vibrant partnership with Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland
  • An outstanding U-M Center for Global Health that includes more than 200 faculty and students from our schools of Medicine, Public Health, Engineering, Nursing, Social Work, Anthropology, Social Sciences and other disciplines working with global partners to identify and implement sustainable solutions that address health inequities around the world

Additionally, since 2004, more than 740 medical students have participated in global experiences through clinical rotations and service/learning/research trips and more than 120 international delegations have visited the Medical School, resulting in creation of 11 formal Memoranda of Understanding, with four additional MOUs in development.

Our global citizenship also includes supporting the work of international colleagues. Next month, I am privileged to participate in a ceremony presenting the U-M Wallenberg Medal to Dr. Denis Mukwege, OB/GYN, surgeon and medical director of Panzi Hospital in the eastern Congo.  The Wallenberg Medal is given in recognition of Swedish diplomat Raoul Wallenberg who saved the lives of tens of thousands of Hungarian Jews near the end of World War II. Every year, we give this award to someone whose courageous actions reflect Wallenberg’s extraordinary accomplishments and values. This year, Dr. Mukwege is being honored for his impressive work bringing attention to the continued problem of warfare and sexual violence in the Congo.

This is just a sample of the many ways the University of Michigan is establishing a substantial and influential footprint in global health.

On a personal note, I would like to dedicate this newsletter to Sujal Parikh, one of our most stellar, most compassionate and most selfless medical students who lost his life this month while conducting AIDS research in Uganda. In an article on, Sujal’s father noted how his son once said that when a man dies “nobody is going to remember what religion he had or how much wealth he accumulated…all that’s going to count is what the person did for the common man and that will be that person’s legacy.” In just 25 years of life, Sujal built an amazing legacy that will live on through the lives he improved and his exceptional work.

It is indeed a small world and, together, we are making it healthier.  What do you think?


The Importance of Giving

A few years ago, my husband and I took our children with us on a medical mission to Kenya. We wanted to expose them to the realities of life in less privileged communities, where daily meals, shelter, shoes, basic medical care and education – things we might take for granted – are not readily available.

One night, our children sat at the communal dinner table with the young doctors and medical students on the mission. Mark and I sat at a distance and listened as the group talked about what they would do if given $10,000. With great enthusiasm, they talked about how they could save the world with that money by using it to buy food, medical supplies, clothing and bare essentials for members of impoverished communities. Continue reading

Protect our patients: The 2010 flu vaccine program

A message from Executive Vice President for Medical Affairs Ora Hirsch Pescovitz, M.D., Hospitals & Health Centers CEO Doug Strong, and Medical School Dean James O. Woolliscroft, M.D.

Every day, thousands of patients and families put their trust in us to provide the very best care we can give in the best environment we can create.

That is part of creating the ideal patient care experience and it includes a trust that we will protect them from infection while they are here.

We’re pleased to announce an enhancement to our infection control policy that will help us fulfill this promise to our patients and protect them from a disease that can be dangerous or deadly to vulnerable people. Continue reading