Sen. Hwang touts CT bioscience innovations and respect for taxpayers’ $$

State aid sought for UConn Health Center
Officials cite medical work as it seeks funds in tight budget year


As the UConn Health Center is fighting for more state money, top medical school officials said Monday that they have generated millions of dollars in grants as they seek advancements in cutting-edge biomedical research.

During a detailed presentation, officials told the legislature’s tax-writing finance committee about their daily work in a wide variety of medical aspects, including neuro-surgery, cancer, stroke, osteoarthritis, pain management, aging, and suicide risk assessment.

The health center is seeking an additional $16.9 million for the operations in Farmington, while the broader university is seeking an additional $47.3 million for Storrs and the regional campuses.
The legislature is currently in the middle of public hearings on Gov. Ned Lamont’s proposed budget, and final decisions are expected to be made before the regular legislative session ends on May 8. In the overall budget, the state is currently projected to end the fiscal year with a surplus of $161 million in the general fund and $246 million in the once-troubled Special Transportation Fund.

Sen. John Fonfara, a Hartford Democrat who co-chairs the tax-writing finance committee, said the informational forum was important to spread the word about the state’s public medical and dental schools. Legislators and others, he said, need to think more deeply about the medical advancements at the health center.
“When you think of Sloan Kettering … or St. Jude or the Mayo Clinic, most people don’t think about dollars and cents. They think about cures,” Fonfara said. “We want to be the best in basketball, and we show up. But when it comes to UConn Health, we want to look at it from a ledger. … If it’s your child, you’re not thinking about dollars and cents. … I hope this forum today … has an impact. I’m a believer in public investment, and I think most people in this building are, as well.”

Sen. Tony Hwang, a Fairfield Republican, agreed.

“I think it’s important to emphasize that UConn is our state university,” Hwang said. “That is very important to me, and this presentation hits home for me. As the bipartisan co-chair of the bioscience caucus … we know, in depth, the kind of contributions and innovations and discoveries that you all do at UConn. These are real innovations. This is about finding solutions.”

When asked by Hwang about the fiscal challenges and academic funding, UConn President Radenka Maric mentioned the high salaries that are paid at the health center, where some doctors are paid more than $1 million per year.

“We are all competing for a limited pool of talents,” Maric said. “If you publicly shame the medical doctor for making the top salaries in Connecticut, that is not saying this is inviting. We look at the salaries, and we provide our best and brightest with competitive salaries. … I want all of us to keep that in mind when you read about the top salaries and you see the doctor paid $1 million, that doctor at Emory University will be paid $1.5 million. We all have to ask ourselves, why did that doctor decide to come to Connecticut? You have to be competitive.”

Hwang responded, though, that he wanted to be sure that UConn “has to do their equal part” in fully respecting taxpayers’ dollars.

“Absolutely,” Maric said. “We will do our part to improve our efficiency.”

The post Sen. Hwang touts CT bioscience innovations and respect for taxpayers’ $$ appeared first on Connecticut Senate Republicans.

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