Presidents Newsletter
August 31, 2018

The unofficial end of summer is near as we turn the calendar to September, a month that holds the promise of a spectacular fall season in Central New York. I hope your summer has been enjoyable.

Global budgeting and joint investment efforts

The start of the new fiscal year is a perfect time to report on what enhancements we have made to the budgeting process at Upstate. During Fiscal 2017, Upstate began a new global budgeting and joint investment initiative between the campus, the hospital and UUMAS. This work was intended to improve financial discipline and business planning so we could better integrate operating budgets, capital/business plans and funds flows of the main components of Upstate as we ensure alignment with our broader strategic plan.

Significant improvements were made in the FY18 and FY19 budget process in areas of engagement and transparency, especially around prioritization and planning of new clinical investments, resulting in improved alignment and integration.

The increased clinical revenues and changes in institutional funds flows have allowed us to recruit more faculty, develop new programs, and make investments in new areas of research, that previously were not able to be fully supported by increases in tuition, state support, research revenues or other traditional sources of campus funding.

Healing hearts and growing our volume

Aqeel Sandhu, MD, FACS

The Heart and Vascular Institute is a success story that is still being written.

Thanks to the leadership of Dr. G. Randall Green, who joined Upstate one year ago, our clinical volume for open heart surgery has more than doubled, which puts us on pace to register nearly 300 cases over the last year. But the real story is outstanding clinical outcomes. Quality data reporting for even the most complex patients reveals morbidity and mortality far below what would be expected. Dr. Green credits this success to the hard work and dedication of the newly assembled yet experienced heart team.

Dr. Aqeel A. Sandhu was named Assistant Professor in the Division of Cardiac Surgery this past July. A Columbia and Harvard-trained physician, Dr. Sandhu’s most recent affiliation has been with hospitals in Canton, Ohio, where he served as Medical Director of Cardiothoracic Surgery at Aultman Health Foundation and Mercy Medical Center. In addition to providing high quality cardiac care, Dr. Sandhu will contribute to reestablishing research and educational aspects of the Division.

The Upstate heart team has also grown through recruitment of several experienced advanced practice providers. These five seasoned cardiac physician assistants and nurse practitioners were trained at leading cardiac hospitals and bring a combined 70+ years of cardiac surgical and intensive care service to our patient population.

These efforts are helping to reestablish Upstate Medical University as a regional academic cardiac center focused on providing the highest quality care to the most complex heart patients.

We can all take pride of the great work being accomplished by the Division of Cardiac Surgery at Upstate and the new Heart and Vascular Institute will become a major player in our operational growth.

More on hearts and life savers

Lindsay Watkins, Katheryn Dunn and Katharine Freeborn

From left: Lindsay Watkins, Katheryn Dunn and Katharine Freeborn

Keeping to the theme of hearts and life savers, I want to recognize three area nurses who all have cared for Upstate patients. The trio of Katherine Freeborn (Upstate), Katheryn Dunn (now at St. Joseph’s Health) and Lindsay Watkins (now at Strong Memorial) working together and with help from others saved the life of a local resident who collapsed outside a local fitness center. Their amazing story is here: “Athlete ‘dies’ at workout: How 3 nurses in the right place, right time saved him.”

Thank you for your continued support and service to Upstate and our patients and students.



Danielle Laraque-Arena, MD, FAAP
President, and Health System CEO
Upstate Medical University