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The change in name from Columbia University Health Sciences to Columbia University Medical Center is the result of a discussion with many constituents. The new name has been approved by the Columbia University Board of Trustees and the NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital Board of Trustees. Here, Dr. Gerald Fischbach, executive vice president and dean, gives his perspective on what it all means.

What is the reason for the name change to Columbia University Medical Center?

The name change and you

All schools, centers, institutes and programs at Columbia University Medical Center are asked to participate in the new identity program as new materials are developed – such as stationery, business cards, fax cover sheets, brochures, newsletters, etc. – and once current supplies of stationery are used up.

Information sessions are being conducted and tools provided to enable all areas of Columbia University Medical Center to adopt the new identity system as easily and cost effectively as possible. Web site support with instructions, style guides, and flexible templates will be provided. All resources were to be posted on the Web site Dec. 15 and will be updated regularly. For more information, visit www.cumc.columbia.edu/identity.

There are several reasons. The major one is to establish the identity of Columbia University in the health sciences and its prominence here on 168th Street in relation to our schools — medicine, public health, dental and oral surgery, nursing and the Health Sciences component of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. Very few places, if any, have this spectrum of intellectual activity located in one place. And yet the many programs have never been coordinated under one banner to emphasize their mutually reinforcing efforts. There is great diversity within each school in the types of research going on, and the name change should, I think, help transform our Tower of Babel into a place where all will realize that they are part of a larger entity, Columbia University.

What benefit will derive from that kind of unity?

We tend to think of "branding" as an advertising term having to do with companies or products. But branding has application to an educational institution like this one. The branding effort that is now under way is geared toward improving both our own self-awareness and also the way we're viewed by the outside world. With the merger of Presbyterian Hospital and New York Hospital, the term "Presbyterian" no longer refers to a separate entity. Therefore, the name Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center is atavistic and confusing. It is now more important than ever before to clearly relate the medical sciences with the university. We are intimately connected to the hospital, but we must make clear our own distinctive identity.

How does all of this fit into the Columbia University Health Sciences Strategic Plan outlined in 2002?

In that plan we laid out our goals to build on our strengths; revolutionize the way we do business; grow in an orderly way; and excel in each of our core missions: research, education and patient care. The strategic plan will encompass all of the schools, and our capital campaign – a $1 billion, five-year effort that will be launched in Spring 2004 – will be a campaign for all the schools on this campus. So the change in name comes at the perfect time. It will only enhance the capital campaign by clearly identifying who we are and emphasizing the common goals of the schools.

How will the name change affect the individual schools?

In my view the word "medical," as it is used in our new name, covers a broad range of disciplines. It includes biomedical research, patient medical care, patient dental care, nursing care and the prevention and maintenance of health that can be achieved by conducting large-scale epidemiologic studies. Each school has its own missions and immediate goals, but we are all allied.

What do you anticipate the reaction will be to the name change announcement?

Change is always hard, but there is no reason for concern. Our interviews within our community and market research polling of outside opinion makers and leaders indicate that we have created a high quality brand. Any changes that occur will be for the better – greater cohesiveness on this campus, a better sense of identity, more clarity.

Our surveys show that there will be a positive impact worldwide, because of the renown of the Columbia name. As legislators, opinion leaders, and donors come to know us as the Columbia University Medical Center, it will be a major benefit for this campus, for the hospital, and for the entire university.

—Anna Sobkowski Lachter


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