Theme 4: Investing in the Health Sciences

As stated in Pro Futuris, Baylor University is committed to scholarship of the highest quality and to articulating a distinctive voice in global conversations about crucial issues such as social responsibility, human rights, poverty, diversity, economic growth, sustainability, and health care. Arts & Sciences curricula are structured to develop the "whole person." In addition to studies within their major disciplines, students take courses in the sciences, religion, languages, mathematics and communication. While Baylor seeks to be influential across the spectrum of disciplines (refer to Theme 2), the University enjoys a special reputation for providing excellent health-related educational programming, illustrated by the fact that approximately one-third of the University's incoming freshmen regularly designate interest in careers in health care. As we look forward to the implementation of the aspirations set forth in Pro Futuris, we must pay special attention to the educational goals of this substantial portion of our undergraduate population.

To this end, we must continue to provide excellent course offerings and educational programming in the health sciences at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. We must invest in graduate programs, students, and faculty who promote health science research, thereby increasing scholarly output and providing more undergraduate and graduate research opportunities. We must offer our students opportunities in research and clinical experiences, thereby allowing them to be competitive when applying to professional schools, graduate programs, and post-doctoral science programs.

We also must improve research in the health sciences within and beyond Arts & Sciences. More faculty and staff will be needed, as will greater doctoral production and expanded facilities, to accomplish these goals.


Act of Determination 1 -- Creating a Space Plan for Health Science-Related Departments

The Baylor Sciences Building has limited space for expansion, yet the Arts & Sciences STEM departments must make strategic hires to achieve the University’s goals of enhancing health science curricular offerings, research, and extramural funding. Furthermore, numerous obstacles exist with respect to facilities:

  • problematic location of the Department of Psychology and Neuroscience (split between the BSB and downtown BU Tower);
  • inadequate and partially uninhabitable building housing the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders (Neill Morris Hall); and
  • insufficient space for Child Development (Piper Child Development Center) and Nutrition Sciences (Mary Gibbs Jones Building).

Therefore, we recommend the following:

Action Step:
  • The Dean’s Office, in consultation with the taskforce formed in Theme 2 -- AOD 4, will study configurations of space in the BSB, while simultaneously addressing the needs of the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders, the Department of Psychology and Neuroscience, and associated clinical programs. Solutions may include construction of a dedicated Clinical Health Sciences building.


Act of Determination 2 -- Creating a Taskforce to Study an Administrative Structure for the Health Sciences

Current activities related to the health sciences (i.e., research and clinical collaborations, undergraduate research experiences, graduate training, and academic programs) are numerous. Given the complexities associated with these health-related activities, particularly with research and external funding, we must strengthen and expand these efforts. An administrative structure within Arts & Sciences or the appointment of a health science coordinator will provide a readily identifiable and visible entity to coordinate, administer, and lead interdepartmental and multi-site academic and research programs.

Action Steps:
  • By Fall 2014 the Dean will appoint a taskforce with representatives from various academic departments involved in health-related activities to consider appointing a health science coordinator to provide better operational and strategic oversight.
  • A report with recommendations from the taskforce will be submitted to the Dean and Council of Chairs by Spring 2015.


Act of Determination 3 -- Achieving More Favorable Student-to-Faculty Ratios in the Sciences

Nothing is more critical to supporting the health science initiative at Baylor than hiring faculty who can directly support and enhance the educational experience in classroom, laboratory, and clinical settings. It is essential that Arts & Sciences STEM departments hire faculty who enhance departmental goals in support of the health and human sciences. Such faculty hires will not necessarily be clinicians, nor will they necessarily pursue research directly related to human health. These hires will include faculty who conduct work in topical areas applicable to human health issues and whose research interests are in basic and translational science fields such as genetics, biochemistry, nutrition, neuroscience, and cell and molecular biology. Furthermore, undergraduate and graduate student research experiences in these laboratories will equip students with skills directly related to their success as future scientists and practitioners in the health and human sciences.

Table 4.1 shows the teaching demand serviced by sciences, mathematics, and statistics departments in relation to number of faculty. Consequently, the number of student credit hours (SCH) per faculty FTE translates to many large classes, resulting in fewer-than-optimal student contact hours, fewer classroom-laboratory interactions, and limited modes of instruction (less oral and written communication than is desirable). Significantly, high major-to-faculty ratios occur in departments that encounter difficulties providing the number of quality research experiences that students expect. Such experiences are invaluable for success in admission into professional programs in medical, dental, and other health-related schools. Small major-to-faculty ratios identify departments likely having capacity to educate more majors; targeting recruitment effort toward these majors could reduce pressures on the heavily subscribed majors.

Table 4.1. Student Major-to-Faculty and Credit-Hour-to-Faculty Ratios for Sciences, Mathematics, and Statistical Science Departments at Baylor.

Table 4.1

Determination of student-to-faculty ratios is complex, and justification for increases in faculty numbers is based on an equally complex constellation of factors. However, proven best pedagogical practices, literature on retention and engagement, and comparison with peer and aspirant institutions show strong support for mounting a significant effort to reduce this ratio in the sciences at Baylor. Arts & Sciences has adopted a 10-Year Enrollment Management Plan (refer to Appendix 1B) and has already hired a Director of Undergraduate Enrollment Initiatives as initial steps in addressing these concerns. The enrollment management strategy will strive to shape the freshman class in ways that moderate the numbers of majors in traditional prehealth departments (Biology, Psychology and Neuroscience, Chemistry and Biochemistry) and to guide prehealth students to other science majors having capacity, as well as to majors in the Humanities and Social Sciences.

Action Step:
  • The Dean’s Office and department chairs in the Arts & Sciences STEM departments will evaluate replacement and expansion hires anticipated in the coming decade, and by Fall 2014 will create a plan for hiring in support of the health sciences.


Act of Determination 4 -- Creating a Faculty Structure for Clinical, Research, and Joint Appointments

Within the allied health professions, many faculty will have clinical roles in addition to, or instead of, the teaching and/or research responsibilities held by faculty in traditional academic roles. Clinical faculty, as their title suggests, are more involved in clinical teaching and clinical supervision where the emphasis is on clinical skill development. The research faculty designation will also become more important as hiring in the health sciences continues.

Action Steps:
  • By Fall 2014 the Dean’s Office, in consultation with chairs of departments with clinical faculty, will assess the functionality of existing clinical faculty, research faculty, and joint appointments and the potential need for future lines.
  • By Spring 2015 the Dean’s Office, working with the Provost’s Office and Human Resources, will seek to approve job descriptions for clinical faculty (refer to Appendix 4). These new designations will allow departments to hire faculty with clinical expertise and additional types of research experience. This effort should consider the appointment process already in use for faculty in the Army-Baylor graduate programs.
  • By Spring 2015 the Dean’s Office, working with the Provost’s Office and Human Resources, will assess the potential for creating job descriptions for research faculty and joint appointments.


Act of Determination 5 -- Benchmarks and Best Practices for Enrollment Management in the Health Sciences

Even though approximately one-third of entering Baylor freshmen cite career plans in the medical field, a much smaller percentage of that cohort enters medical school. We must intervene early to help identify other areas in the health sciences in which this larger percentage of students can succeed. Accordingly, we affirm the initiative in the recently approved Arts & Sciences 10-Year Enrollment Management Plan that "by 2014 Arts & Sciences, in concert with Admissions Services, will shape the size and profile of the Arts & Sciences freshman class." Arts & Sciences has already begun this shaping process by establishing majors in pre-Biology and pre-Psychology and Neuroscience. The 10-Year Enrollment Management Plan also calls for limits on Medical Humanities majors by 2014. Moreover, the Office of Prehealth Studies has developed courses and programming such as the Science & Health Living and Learning Center to support the educational and professional development of our prehealth student population. While these are positive steps, we need to expand these kinds of efforts.

Another positive development is the Arts & Sciences initiative (expressed in the 10-Year Enrollment Management Plan, Appendix 1B) to assign one professional advisor to our students for their freshman and sophomore years. As this new advising model is implemented in Fall 2014, the professional advisors assigned to prehealth students will need a background in, or training in, advising in the health sciences. To this end, professional advisors working with this cohort will participate in a semi-annual workshop offered by the Office of Prehealth Studies.

Action Steps:
  • By Spring 2014 the Dean will appoint a standing Arts & Sciences Enrollment Council to offer guidance on using curriculum to shape the size and profile of the freshman class. Strong representation on this committee should come from the science departments and from the Prehealth Studies program.
  • By Spring 2015 the Dean will appoint a committee to create a proposal for a program of distinction, possibly named "Science Fellows," for science students. This program will be designed to enhance the academic experience of the brightest and best science students and to provide on their academic record a significant distinction similar to that of programs in the Honors College and the Hankamer School of Business. This program may be incorporated into the Science & Health Living and Learning Center.
  • The Office of Prehealth Studies will incorporate into the existing New Student Experience a new course to prepare prehealth students for the rigor of the science curriculum, thereby enabling them to clarify and refine their career and educational aspirations. The Office of Prehealth Studies will lead the initiative with the support of the appropriate departments to create the curriculum for this new course and present its finding to the Council of Chairs by Fall 2015.


Act of Determination 6 -- Building Collaborations across School Boundaries and among Medical Schools

Based on the quality of our undergraduate prehealth program and on both long-standing research and graduate initiatives, Arts & Sciences will play a pivotal role in the achievement of the University’s stated health science goals. However, this success will be limited without cooperation between Arts & Sciences and the School of Engineering and Computer Science (ECS), the Division of Health, Human Performances, and Recreation (HHPR) in the School of Education (SOE), and the Louise Herrington School of Nursing (LHSNU). This collaboration is necessary because the number of faculty in these areas is relatively small compared to those of our aspirant institutions. Establishing Bioinformatics is a logical first step in building synergies with the ECS and will require the hiring of additional faculty from both units to build critical mass in terms of faculty and programs. Enhancement of Nutrition Sciences is another logical step that would require Arts & Sciences faculty to collaborate with the faculty of HHPR and the LHSNU, and with other clinical programs. The Department of Family and Consumer Sciences (FCS) has a strong Child and Family Studies program that supports both the SOE and the School of Social Work (SWO).

Additionally, Arts & Sciences must forge stronger relations between our faculty and entities beyond Baylor. Plans are underway for Baylor and the Baylor College of Medicine (BCM) to develop joint faculty and adjunct appointments to create research teams between the two institutions. The National School of Tropical Medicine is the first division at BCM to develop such relationships with Baylor, with cancer research being another likely area for collaboration in the near future. Baylor Scott & White Health is seeking research collaborations to build upon its strong clinical programs. The Baylor Research Institute, as part of the Baylor Scott & White Health Care System, provides collaborative opportunities for the study of infectious diseases. These relationships will enhance our ability to hire nationally recognized faculty in the field of health sciences and to create centers of research excellence.

Action Steps:
  • The Dean, in consultation with the Dean of ECS, will appoint a taskforce consisting of Arts & Sciences and ECS faculty to explore the creation of a research center focused on bioinformatics and/or other related health science initiatives. The taskforce will develop a plan of action to be submitted to the deans of these two academic units by Spring 2015.
  • The Dean’s Office will encourage faculty from FCS, HHPR, and the LHSNU to explore possible research initiatives in Nutrition Sciences and other clinical programs and for faculty from FCS and SWO to explore possible research initiatives in Child and Family Studies. By Spring 2015 these groups will provide a report of their activities to the Dean’s Office.
  • The Dean’s Office will continue working with the Provost’s Office to establish contractual agreements on joint and adjunct faculty appointments between Baylor and BCM and Baylor Scott & White Health. This work will be completed by Fall 2015 and presented to the Council of Chairs.