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May 5, 2010

A Victory We All Share

Dear Colleagues and Friends,

Last night, the state Senate passed The UConn Health Network legislation, as proposed by Governor M. Jodi Rell, which includes funding for the renewal of John Dempsey Hospital as well as the creation of a regional health network. The House of Representatives passed the measure this past Saturday. The bill is now on its way to the Governor for her signature.

Here is a link to a summary of the bill that passed for your perusal: http://today.uchc.edu/pdfs/summary_hb5027.pdf.

The passage of this legislation is a victory for the UConn Health Center community, and the entire University. It reflects upon the excellent work and reputations of our Schools, our research enterprise, our medical and dental practices, the John Dempsey Hospital, and you as members of the UConn family.

And like so many of our success stories, it resulted from the work of a true team effort. We need to take a moment to thank some of the key people who invested countless hours to help us reach this milestone.

Thank you to Governor Rell for her tremendous leadership in developing this transformative proposal and to her staff, particularly Lisa Moody, Chelsea Turner and Michael Cicchetti, for their rigorous advocacy for its passage during the legislative session. Thank you to our senior U.S. Senator Christopher J. Dodd, who championed the federal health care reform legislation that included $100 million in competitive funding that the University can now pursue. We are indebted to Sen. Dodd for his foresight and commitment to increasing access to and improving the quality of health care in this state.

And importantly, thanks go to the leadership of the General Assembly who has supported the UConn Health Center over the past years, including President Pro Temp Don Williams, Speaker Chris Donovan, Majority Leaders Marty Looney and Denise Merrill. The bi-partisan support for this proposal with the endorsement of House Minority Leader Larry Cafero was especially gratifying.

A special debt of appreciation goes to the members of the legislative working group who worked to finalize the legislation, in particular its co-chairs of the Higher Education and Employment Advancement Committee Senator Maryann Handley and Representative Roberta Willis for their determined leadership and unwavering commitment to this effort, and ranking member Pam Sawyer for her time and support. Senator Toni Harp must be thanked for her steadfast commitment to the UConn Health Center and its goals. And to the other members of the working group for their input throughout this process including Senators Daily, Harris, Guglielmo and Roraback and Representatives Ritter, Geragosian, Staples, Giegler, Candelora, and Leone. We are also grateful to Senator Don DeFronzo who worked to finalize a number of the bonding matters. In addition, we would like to thank the members of the Farmington, Hartford, Bristol and New Britain delegations for their support. This effort was truly bipartisian and we are grateful for the trust the members of the legislature have placed in us.

Members of the UConn family have contributed in so many ways. I want to particularly thank our faculty and students who testified and advocated for the passage of the bill. I want to thank our union leadership, and particularly my colleague Ms. Jean Morningstar, for their advocacy and engagement efforts.

We are extraordinarily grateful to the University’s Board of Trustees, the Health Center’s Board of Directors, and members from both boards who, led by Chairman Lawrence McHugh, embarked last fall on a regional “listening tour” that paved the way for the creation of the UConn Health Network. Special thanks go to Trustees Thomas Ritter, Robert Ward and Francis Archambault, as well as Gerald Burrow and Sanford Cloud, Chairman and Vice Chairman of the Health Center’s Board. They provided us with the necessary support in moving this plan forward as well as advocating for it at the General Assembly.

We were bolstered by unprecedented support from the leaders of all the partner-hospitals in the region. This was pivotal in the passage of the legislation and our thanks and gratitude. In addition, I’d also like to acknowledge the UConn Advocates who generated more than 2,500 responses in favor of the Health Center in recent days.

Finally, I would like to thank President Michael J. Hogan and the University’s CFO Richard Gray, for their great work on behalf of the UConn Health Center and our future. Special thanks also go to all of my staff, particularly our Director of Governmental Relations Joann Lombardo. No doubt, Joann’s tenacity and personal commitment played a huge role in this success.

Perhaps the only other legislation that compares in scope with the UConn Health Network bill was one that was passed 49 years ago – and led to the founding of the UConn Health Center. With that in mind, last night’s victory sets the stage for our golden anniversary in 2011! Congratulations and thank you again.

Sincerely,

Cato T. Laurencin, M.D., Ph.D.
Vice President for Health Affairs
Dean, School of Medicine