These are challenging times for those in leadership positions. We retain our vision of a better, safer and healthier community. We realize there are tremendous opportunities in central Illinois for growth and development. We are challenged by declining fiscal resources, unexpected political and economic barriers, and sometimes by fear that our interests will not be protected in collaborative ventures. However, we cannot let these challenges keep us from moving forward.

Calvin Coolidge, the 30th president of the United States, offered some excellent advice when he said: “Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.”

An example of the benefit of persistence is the new Cancer Research Facility currently under construction at the University of Illinois College of Medicine at Peoria. The cancer research laboratory expansion was first conceived in 2001. Dr. Don Rager, who was the regional dean at that time, recognized the importance of research in creating and sustaining Peoria as a regional academic healthcare destination. He recruited Dr. Jasti Rao, promising that a new research lab would soon follow. Dr. Rao and his team were immediately productive by obtaining grants, making key cancer-related discoveries, and publishing papers in scientific journals. However, attempts to expand the laboratories proved more challenging.

Raising the needed financial support took years. The original plans were to include the cancer research laboratories in the 2007 construction of the Illinois Medical Center. This plan was unsuccessful, so the Illinois Board of Trustees then approved an addition to our current building. Yet it took another three years to push this revised plan through all of the complex business, legislative and university processes. Finally, after almost 10 years of effort, we broke ground on the new cancer research building on August 16, 2010. Our persistence had paid off!

During the current year, the Cancer Biology and Pharmacology Department will bring in more than $5 million of grant funding, and Dr. Rao and his fellow researchers will publish more than 20 papers. A discovery that Dr. Rao and the University patented may enter initial trials in brain cancer patients. Starting in 2011 or early 2012, the newly constructed cancer research laboratory will provide room to recruit additional researchers and further expand our successful cancer research program.

Although UICOMP is very proud of what we have already accomplished, there is still much to be done. We need to raise funds to buy additional expensive research equipment and completely build out all of the laboratories. We need to recruit additional talented, innovative scientists to conduct research in our new labs and to work with our clinicians to translate our research into patient care. We also need to be sure that we build our research program while also developing our programs that provide exceptional resident and student education as well as outstanding patient care. I am confident that UICOMP can do this…after all, we are persistent! iBi