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In annual address, Eastwood says university holds 'remarkable promise for continued growth'

SYRACUSE, N.Y. - SUNY Upstate Medical University President Gregory L. Eastwood, M.D., took the opportunity of his final State of the Medical University Address Sept. 14 to showcase the university as an important player in the Central New York community and beyond, noting its strong economic benefits to the region. He reaffirmed the university's goals of enhancing the communities it serves through biomedical research, education and patient care and said that it was making great strides in these areas.

Eastwood presented his 14th State of the Medical University Address and noted that it would be his final one. Eastwood, who has served as president since 1992, announced Sept. 1 in an open letter to SUNY Upstate employees that he would be leaving the university's top spot in the coming year. Noting that there was much to accomplish in the coming year, Eastwood's address was not a long goodbye. He suggested that the coming year would be filled with new accomplishments and milestones for the university.

"The future of Upstate holds remarkable promise for continued growth and influence, a promise that is built upon a solid foundation of exceptional accomplishments," Eastwood said.

Eastwood praised the Upstate community for the caring and compassion it shows throughout neighborhoods across Central New York, where Upstate employees have logged more than 50,000 hours of volunteer service for various organizations. Eastwood noted that Upstate's support is not reserved solely for Central New York. If need be, he said, the university stands ready to assist in any way the Hurricane Katrina relief effort , whether it be in providing patient care, or consultation assistance to physicians in the Gulf region.

Progress and accomplishment will be significant themes on the campus in coming year and it will be reflected in the changing campus landscape. An impressive period of campus growth exemplified through new construction will take place on campus in the coming year. Eastwood noted that nearly $320 million dollars is now earmarked for capital projects that will improve campus facilities and ultimately the educational, research and patient care missions of the university. Chief among these projects is the dramatic six-story vertical expansion of University Hospital, which will be topped off with the two-story Central New York Children's Hospital. New, more patient and family friendly accommodations will be highlights of the expansion that will include upgrades of oncology, neuroscience, cardiovascular and pediatric floors.

Eastwood cited the Setnor Academic Building as a major infrastructure enhancement on campus that will strengthen the university's academic mission benefiting both faculty and students.

Philanthropy and giving to campus has also reached milestones, he noted. Poised to reach its $15 million goal, the capital campaign for the Central New York Children's Hospital has been steadfastly supported by all sectors of the community, including area schools, businesses and foundations. Upstate employees have also been significant contributors to the campaign. The campaign's success can be attributed to the hard work of many, he said, and the visionary leadership of Mary Ann Shaw. In addition, Eastwood saluted alumni for their continued endorsement of Upstate's educational mission.

Gains, too, have been made in the university's academic enterprise, Eastwood said. The colleges of Graduate Studies, Medicine, Nursing and Health Professions, which has enrolled its largest class ever this fall, continue to be the choice of high-achieving students.

Laboratories are busier than ever at Upstate, Eastwood reported, citing the efforts of both senior and junior faculty whose outstanding work has doubled research growth in the last decade. Research spending at Upstate now nears $38 million annually. Eastwood noted that the modernization of key laboratory space in Weiskotten Hall and renovations to space in the Institute of Human Performance has helped researchers gain greater efficiency and a competitive edge in the competition for research grants. Eastwood said current faculty research projects in the field of regenerative medicine holds great promise for making medical breakthroughs in the near future.

The past year was also a year for firsts at Upstate. It became the first campus in the region to become smoke free. Eastwood thanked the campus community and especially Upstate's labor unions for their support in the smoke-free initiative. He said the decision to become a smoke-free campus cast Upstate in the spotlight as a leader in providing a healthier environment for staff, students, patients and visitors.

Eastwood left for last what will be one of the campus's most important decisions in its future: the selection of a new chief executive. Eastwood said that the search for a new president would be the responsibility of the Upstate Council, which is chaired by Robert Pietrafesa II. The State University of New York would also provide support for the search. He said it was likely that a new president could be in place by the summer of 2006.

Eastwood thanked the campus community for the opportunity to serve as president, and closed his remarks noting the future of Upstate is bright and promising.