President Brooks A. Keel reiterated Augusta University’s mission to advance health care, cyber security and comprehensive research in Georgia during his Investiture Ceremony on Wednesday, Apr. 27.
Keel said the task, which he referred to as the university’s “tripartite mission” of service, education and research, presented the university with both “unique responsibilities and unprecedented opportunities.”
One of those responsibilities is spreading the reach of the university’s clinical service.
“Clearly we have a responsibility to prove outstanding, state-of-the-art clinical care to the Augusta area, and we are doing that exceptionally well,” Keel said. “But our clinical service responsibility goes well beyond the CSRA. We have an obligation to meet the entire state of Georgia’s comprehensive mandated health care needs”
Keel also cited the need to harness the university’s clinical, public health and research expertise to design solutions to some of Georgia’s most pressing health care problems.
“We should be known nationally as leaders in the delivery of health care to the correctional system, both adult and juvenile,” he said. “We need to help stabilize rural hospitals, not to bail them out, but help stand them up.”
Both goals, he said, were part of a much larger effort on the part of the university to ensure that “all Georgians have access to quality medical and dental care, regardless of whether they live in the city or on the farm.”
In addition to advancing the university’s clinical service mission, Keel also highlighted the potential for Augusta to become the new nexus for cyber security education and research in the U.S.
“With the Cyber Command coming to Fort Gordon, the city of Augusta and Augusta University have a chance together to become the next Silicon Valley for cyber education, training and research,” he said. “Like health care, we need to establish ourselves as the destination for all things cyber.”
To this end, the president stressed the importance of improving the economic development of Augusta.
“This we can do not only by providing the education and training for the workforce, for the businesses and industry of this city, but perhaps more importantly by serving as a magnet to bring additional business and industry into our area,” he said.
Keel also stated that, although the university was committed to raising its mission standards, it would never forget its history of educational access.
“I’m living proof of the important role this university has played in providing the sons and daughters of this community with an opportunity to receive a quality education,” Keel said. “I’m therefore committed to ensuring the people of the CSRA continue to view this institution as their university.”
Among other goals, Keel said, was the need to improve the university’s research profile while simultaneously finding new and creative ways to draw students to Augusta.
“We have already established a reputation of great strength in at least three areas of biomedical research: cancer, cardiometabolic disease and neuroscience including stroke,” he said. “We are also expanding into emerging research areas like regenerative and reparative medicine, personalized and genomic medicine and public and preventive health.”
While an exceptional first step, Keel said there was still much to do for the university to become worthy of the state’s only academic medical center.
One of the university’s next challenges, he said, was to become one of the nation’s top 50 medical schools.
“Getting into this elite group would take very heavy lifting, but it is a goal we must strive to achieve,” Keel said. “It will be the tide that rises all research and creative boats across the entire campus of Augusta University.”
Another challenge, already well under way, was to achieve NCI designation as a national cancer center.
Keel said these goals, combined with the university’s efforts to increase cyber security research and education and current plans to relocate the College of Science and Mathematics to the Health Sciences campus, will help make Augusta a destination for undergraduates looking to enter STEM-related fields.
“This clinical experiential learning will greatly enhance the undergraduate experience of these STEM majors, making them much more competitive when it comes time for them to apply for graduate and professional clinical and biomedical programs,” he said. “If we do this, it won’t take long for the word to get out that if you want a career in the STEM area, Augusta University is the best place for you to get your undergraduate education.”
In closing, Keel stated that the future was a blank slate, and that it was the responsibility of every student, faculty and staff member to help chart the course of Augusta University.
“We, you and I, both individually and collectively, have the power to shape this university into whatever we desire,” Keel said. “This is your university, this is our university, this is my university and I am indeed humbled and honored to be your president.”