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Committee Report | January 2011

Monday, January 10, 2011 - 9:00am

TO:                                         The Honorable the Members of the Board of Regents

FROM:                                   Frank Muñoz 
                                                                       
SUBJECT:                           New York State Department of Health, Wadsworth Center for Laboratories and Research: Authorization to award the Master of Science (M.S.) degree and to offer an M.S. program in Laboratory Sciences

DATE:                                    December 27, 2010

STRATEGIC GOAL:           Goal 2

AUTHORIZATION(S):

Summary

Issue for Decision (Consent Agenda)

Should the Board of Regents approve the New York State Department of Health's creation of the Wadsworth Center for Laboratories and Research Master of Science (M.S.) degree program in Laboratory Sciences, as directed by New York State Public Health Law section 500(2), and authorize the New York State Commissioner of Health to award the Master of Science degree in Laboratory Sciences?
                                   
Reason for Consideration

Required by State statute.

Proposed Handling

This question will come before the Full Board at its January 2011 meeting where it will be voted on and action taken.

Background Information

            Section 500 of Public Health Law established the Wadsworth Center for Laboratories and Research within the State Health Department, and mandates that the Commissioner of the Department of Health shall create within the Wadsworth Center a Master of Science degree program in laboratory science, subject to the approval of the Board of Regents and registration with the Department of Education.  As with all other degree programs, approval must be based on the quality registration standards outlined in the Regulations of the Commissioner of Education.

            The Education Law provides that The University of the State of New York includes all the State’s degree-granting institutions.  Therefore, should the Regents authorize the Wadsworth Center to offer this degree program, the Center would become a member institution of the University.

Curriculum.  The 60-credit, graduate-level laboratory sciences program is designed to develop advanced technical skills, analytic thinking and comprehensive knowledge of the fundamentals of laboratory science.  The multi-disciplinary program requires six 14-week semesters and combines lecture-based coursework with inquiry-based laboratory observation and training in diverse areas of laboratory science including clinical and environmental chemistry, infectious disease and immunohematology, microbiology, serology, molecular diagnostics, and other emerging areas. The program consists of didactic courses, laboratory rotations, seminars/special topics and a final capstone project.  Following rotation through assigned laboratories, with guidance from the student’s Academic Advisor and the Capstone Committee, students select a mentor and a Capstone Laboratory Project. The Capstone Project represents a comprehensive assignment in one subject area and culminates in a final report which follows the style of a peer-reviewed journal article that may be suitable for publication.  The project may also involve the development of an assay validation package suitable for submission to the appropriate laboratory regulatory program or other lasting contribution to the laboratory. 

The Wadsworth Center will seek Middle States Commission on Higher Education accreditation.

Students.  The prospective laboratory sciences student body will encompass self-directed, innovative and motivated individuals from culturally, ethnically, socially, and gender-diverse groups aspiring to succeed in the public health sector and/or  laboratory science industries.  Qualified students admitted to the program must have a baccalaureate degree or equivalent in a relevant biological, chemical, or physical science and a GPA of approximately 3.0 or higher. The Admissions Committee will focus on applicants who display an interest in public health and a career in laboratory sciences, including currently licensed clinical laboratory technologists.  The program is committed to attracting students from under-represented populations.  It expects to enroll five students in the first year and is projected to increase enrollment to ten students per year after four years. 

WadsworthCenter.  The proposed program will be housed in the Department of Health’s Wadsworth Center for Laboratories and Research, which was established in 1914. The Wadsworth Center is the largest and most comprehensive state public health laboratory in the United States, employing 1,000 staff members, including 160 Ph.D. and/or M.D. scientists.  It has a total annual budget of approximately $213 million, of which more than $39 million is federal funding, including $25 million from the National Institutes of Health. The Center also distributes over $100 million in extramural research funds.

The Wadsworth Center has a longstanding educational history of accepting students at various levels for internships, practica, and fellowships and maintains an extensive network of collaborative endeavors with other research and educational institutions and with professional organizations such as the Association of Public Health Laboratories and federal health agencies such as the National Institutes of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

Faculty.  The program will be directly supported by 35 faculty members.  Most have existing academic appointments at collaborating institutions in the Albany area, including the State University of New York at Albany’s School of Public Health, Albany Medical College, and the Albany College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences. These faculty members have extensive track records in education and grant acquisition and publish extensively in their respective fields.  Most have had experience mentoring students from the undergraduate through postdoctoral levels.

Facilities and Equipment.  The Wadsworth Center occupies 928,000 square feet of space at four locations in the Capital District. The Herman J. Biggs Laboratory, located at the base of the Corning Tower in the Empire State Plaza (Albany), was constructed in 1974 and has 450,000 square feet of space available for lecture classrooms, laboratories, and library and research activities. The nearby David Axelrod Institute and Griffin Laboratories provide nearly 300,000 square feet of space that includes approved biocontainment safety level 2 (BSL-2) and BSL-3 designated laboratories.  The Center for Medical Sciences includes 60,000 square feet of space that is also approved for the operation of BSL-2 designated laboratories.  In addition, the Wadsworth Center contains several core facilities in which state-of-the-art equipment and technologies will be available to the program’s students, including an Applied Genomics Core Facility, a Mass Spectrometry and Proteomics Core Facility, and various Microscopy Core Facilities.

The Herbert W. Dickerman Library is the Wadsworth Center’s biomedical research library.  The main library is located at the Biggs Laboratory, with a branch at the David Axelrod Institute.  The Dickerman Library is available to all Wadsworth and other Health Department staff and to faculty and students from the University of Albany’s School of Public Health. It offers reference services, interlibrary loan, database searching, and use of the collection of approximately 50,000 books and reports, as well as over 800 scientific and public health journals in print and over 2,500 electronic journals.   

The Department has determined that the proposed program, if approved, would meet the standards for registration set forth in the Regulations of the Commissioner of Education.
 
Purpose. The program is designed to facilitate professional opportunities specifically for public health and public health laboratories.  Laboratory science is evolving at a rapid pace.  Today scientists are able to sequence the entire human genome, use one single test to diagnose multiple genetic disorders in newborns, and predict why bacteria is becoming resistant to antibiotic interventions. Providing innovative training opportunities to support development of the public health workforce is essential to ensuring that there are a sufficient number of trained individuals entering the work force and that continuing education for these individuals is accessible, relevant and linked to core public health competencies.

In amending the Public Health Law to mandate that the Commissioner of Health offer this program, subject to the Regents approval, the Legislature and the Governor have determined that the program is needed.  Therefore, the Department has undertaken no further review of need.     

Recommendation

                                    It is recommended that the Board of Regents approve the New York State Department of Health's creation of the Wadsworth Center for Laboratories and Research Master of Science (M.S.) degree program in Laboratory Sciences, as directed by New York State Public Health Law section 500(2), and authorize the New York State Commissioner of Health to award the Master of Science degree in Laboratory Sciences.  This does not authorize the Wadsworth Center to offer other degree programs without further master plan amendment approval.   

Timetable for Implementation

            Upon Regents approval, the Department will register the program and the Wadsworth Center will proceed to recruit and enroll students into the program.