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Friday, 19 June 2015 10:40

New GR research center elevates MSU’s profile in search for new med school dean

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MSU's Grand Rapids Research Center MSU's Grand Rapids Research Center COURTESY RENDERING

Development of an $88.1 million biomedical research center in Grand Rapids should provide a boost to Michigan State University’s recruitment process for a new medical school dean.

MSU plans to begin an immediate nationwide search for a successor to College of Human Medicine Dean Marsha Rappley, President Lou Anna Simon said. Rappley is leaving for a position in Virginia.

The addition of the new Grand Rapids Research Center, which will become a centerpiece of the Grand Rapids Innovation Park and anchor the city’s Medical Mile — a health care, research and education corridor, will add to the appeal of the dean’s position, Simon said.

On top of the new research facility is the clinical, educational and research partnerships forged in Grand Rapids with Van Andel Institute, Spectrum Health, Mercy Health Saint Mary’s and others that also make for a strong draw.

“As far as what we’re going to sell to a candidate, it’s really very, very powerful,” Simon told MiBiz on Thursday following a ceremonial groundbreaking for the Grand Rapids Research Center.

“In the search process, you build on the success of people. You build on the fact that the community is coming together for this vision, so it’s not something that you’re walking into having to resell,” she said. “That’s going to be very attractive to folks.”

MSU is presently reviewing three prospective search firms to hire to assist it in the recruitment of a new medical school dean, Simon said. Provost June Pierce Youatt plans to meet soon with faculty and “we’ve already begun to talk informally with some community stakeholders about how best to get their input,” Simon said.

Rappley leaves Aug. 14 to join Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Va., where she’ll also run a health system. She’ll join VCU as vice president for health sciences and will serve as CEO of VCU Health System, which includes a cancer center and children’s hospital, has more than 1,100 beds and serves more than 600,000 people annually.

A pediatrician, Rappley was named dean of the College of Human Medicine in September 2006 as MSU was considering relocating the medical school to Grand Rapids. She oversaw that move and the development of the medical school’s campus in the city’s downtown, the $90 million Secchia Center that opened in 2010. She also led the school’s expansion from 400 to 800 students in Grand Rapids and East Lansing.

Speaking at Thursday’s groundbreaking, Rappley did not mention her pending departure. She noted that MSU’s growing presence in Grand Rapids stems from a variety of partnerships forged locally.

“There is just no way for this ball to stop. This is gaining momentum,” she said. “It has a momentum that’s beyond me. It has a momentum that’s beyond any of our institutions. We’ve always talked about what we could do together (as) being so much greater than what we do as individual institutions.”

Research teams at the new center will focus on Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, pediatric neurology, autism, inflammation, transplantation, cancer, genetics, women’s health and reproductive medicine.

“It’s going to be an amazing facility coming up before your eyes,” Rappley said.

Completion is targeted for late 2017. When operating at full capacity, the six-story research center will house 44 research teams, employ about 400 people and generate an annual economic impact of $28 million, according to an analysis by East Lansing-based Anderson Economic Group.

The 162,800-square-foot Grand Rapids Research Center will cover half of the 4.1-acre site that was formerly the headquarters of the Grand Rapids Press. MSU plans to seek partners to develop the remaining acreage.

A joint venture between Clark Construction Co. in Lansing and Rockford Construction Co. in Grand Rapids will provide construction management services for the project.

In looking to the future, MSU will seek to leverage partnerships in Grand Rapids to build out the Innovation Park with uses that complement the research center.

“We’ve purposefully sort of delayed the filling of that space to let all of our imaginations come together about what it’s going to be, to be a real innovation park in the center of a great city,” Simon said. “We have to think about this innovation park as another catalyst or hub for the future yet to be imagined.”

Read 2751 times Last modified on Sunday, 28 June 2015 18:01

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