Here’s how N.J.’s largest university and hospital chain plan to change medicine

TRENTON — Rutgers University and the RWJBarnabas Health hospital chain announced a long-term partnership Thursday aimed at doubling federal funding, luring top talent and burnishing the state’s image as a national leader in research and clinical care.

The marriage comes with a significant financial investment from RWJ Barnabas, although President and CEO Barry Ostrowsky declined to discuss specific figures until they were further along in the planning.

In an interview with NJ Advance Media last fall, Ostrowksy said the 11-hospital network would likely invest hundreds of millions of dollars to help catapult Rutgers University’s medical schools into the “big 10” of research and educational institutions in the nation.

Huge deal with hospitals could put Rutgers in ‘big 10’ for medical research

 “The affiliation between Rutgers and RWJBarnabas Health to create the premier academic health care system in the state will accelerate the recruitment of world-class clinician-investigators to our health sciences faculty,” Rutgers President Robert Barchi said.

“It will also provide our students with outstanding clinical and research opportunities. The commitment of RWJBarnabas Health to fund research and educational expansion at Rutgers will further propel us to national leadership in academic health care and biomedical research,” Barchi said.

The “letter of intent” signed by Rutgers and RWJ Barnabas calls for:

  • Hiring 100 “high caliber” principal investigators over 10 years by offering “start-up clinical and academic research and support funding;”
  • Doubling research funding from National Institutes of Health;
  • Giving Rutgers exclusive right to be the sole academic affiliate at all 11 RWJ Barnabas Health hospitals;
  • Increasing number of medical residency and fellowship programs;

Although the agreement was signed Thursday, the collaboration began earlier in the year when they recruited Steven Libutti, a nationally renowned researcher and clinician to lead both the Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey and the Cancer Services of RWJBarnabas.

The partnership between RWJBarnabas Health and Rutgers University is not a merger; they will remain separate entities. 

Rutgers will provide clinical services to RWJBarnabas Health through Rutgers Health Group, a statewide practice a faculty practice of about 1,000 Rutgers-employed physicians, dentists, psychologists, nurses, pharmacists and other health care professionals.

The partnership will create “a multi-specialty group comprised of more than 2,500 practitioners – one of the largest medical groups in the country,” according to the announcement.

The announcement comes at a time of tremendous growth in medical education opportunities and massive consolidation among hospitals. Cooper Medical School at Rowan University opened in 2012. Hackensack Meridian Health is opening a private medical school at Seton Hall University in Clifton and Nutley next year.

In 2016, both Robert Wood Johnson University Health and Barnabas Health merged, as well as Hackensack and Meridian systems, creating the largest and second-largest hospital chains in New Jersey.

“Our new alliance will better enable us to educate the next generation of health care professionals and offer the top-tier health education and training,” said Brian Strom, the chancellor for the Rutgers Biomedical and Health Sciences’ eight schools of health professions and biomedical research. “It will also improve patient access for the residents of New Jersey, reduce health care disparities and offer unsurpassed quality.”

Susan K. Livio may be reached at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @SusanKLivio. Find NJ.com Politics on Facebook.

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