Harry Bronson and Jeremy Cooney Guest columnists
New York-based medical schools are up against schools in states like Massachusetts, California, and Texas, that invest billions to recruit away the most talented researchers.
With the state budget still under negotiation, we often talk about spending and return on investment. Surprisingly, many programs the state funds actually generate more money for the state.
One of those programs is NYFIRST, a program that supports the recruitment and retention of world-class scientific talent at our 17 medical schools. In the first three grant cycles of the program, every dollar invested by the state saw a $3.72 return. The total $9 million state investment has resulted in the creation of over 180 jobs with an average salary of about $75,000. That’s an investment of which we should be proud.
Funding for the program is running out. The state should make a commitment in the upcoming budget to continue to support NYFIRST – and expand the funding.
The University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry, located in my district, was awarded two NYFIRST grants. In both instances, the school was able to recruit researchers who are at the top of their field and making advances in medicine that are critical to improving and prolonging the lives of New Yorkers – and all people.
Paula Vertino was working at Emory University when Rochester was able to recruit her to continue her research on cancer epigenetics, which is used to understand how cancer cells react to their environments and discover ways to control those reactions.
The CDC projects a 49% increase in cancer rates, so more breakthroughs can’t come soon enough.
Rochester was also able to recruit Steven Silverstein to be the director of the newly established Rochester Center for Brain and Retina. Rochester anticipates that the research led by Silverstein will increase the number of copyright and trademark registrations and patentable discoveries by approximately five each year and create 41 new jobs.
Other medical schools who have been awarded grants include SUNY Upstate, Columbia, and Mount Sinai. Funding from the program, which was designed by Empire State Development with input from the Associated Medical Schools of New York, is used to upgrade lab spaces, purchase equipment and hire support staff.
Like most industries, the medical research field is seeing stiff competition for talent recruitment, and New York-based medical schools are up against schools in states like Massachusetts, California, and Texas, that invest billions to recruit away the most talented researchers. NYFIRST, by comparison, is small, but has been highly effective.
The Legislature has supported this program from its inception and this year the Assembly has committed a new $20 million to the program. Let’s keep it going and keep recruiting great talent to Rochester and other New York communities.
Harry Bronson is a state Assembly member and chair of the Assembly Committee on Economic Development, Job Creation, Commerce and Industry. Jeremy Cooney is a state senator and chair of the Senate Committee on Procurement and Contracts.
Read the op-ed here: RochesterDemocratandChronicle Op Ed