Updated March 26 at 12:27am

Five Questions With: David M. Dooley

URI president discusses the $15 million gift from former CVS Caremark CEO Thomas M. Ryan that is being used to establish the George & Anne Ryan Institute for Neuroscience.

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Five Questions With: David M. Dooley


University of Rhode Island President David M. Dooley recently accepted a $15 million gift from former CVS Caremark CEO Thomas M. Ryan and his wife, Cathy, which will be used to establish the George & Anne Ryan Institute for Neuroscience at URI.

PBN asked him how this new Institute and other URI programs are moving the state forward.

PBN: How does the recent $15 million help advance URI’s neuroscience program?

DOOLEY: The Ryans’ gift allows the University of Rhode Island to move forward much more rapidly in developing and expanding its neuroscience program and will foster new opportunities for collaboration among URI, Brown, Lifespan, Care New England, and the VA. For example, the gift will enable URI to begin a national search for the founding Director of the Institute in the near future. Our goal, with Tom Ryan’s assistance, will be to recruit a global leader in the study of neurodegenerative diseases.As soon as the Director, who will be the Thomas M. Ryan Professor of Neuroscience, arrives we will recruit three additional highly productive research faculty. These bold steps would not have occurred at this time without the gift.

PBN: In what ways will the new George & Anne Ryan Institute for Neuroscience benefit Rhode Island’s economy?

DOOLEY: The primary goals of the Ryan Institute are to provide leadership in the development of new preventative measures, diagnostic capabilities, and therapies for neurodegenerative and neurological disease. Nonetheless, the research and educational activities of the Ryan Institute will undoubtedly have a positive economic impact.It will attract new talent and resources in neuroscience research and clinical treatment to Rhode Island, provide excellent jobs, and help position the state as a national center of research, education, and patient care in the areas of neurodegenerative and neurological disease. Here are two other ways to consider the economic impact: first, Alzheimer’s disease alone is estimated to cost the U.S. up to $200 billion/year – reducing that could have a very positive impact; second, the neurodevice industry represents $10 billion/year in economic activity and is expected to grow substantially.

PBN: When was the Interdisciplinary Neuroscience Program at URI formed and what is its purpose?

DOOLEY: The Interdisciplinary Program in Neuroscience at the University of Rhode Island was founded in 2011 as a direct consequence of rapidly growing faculty interest and leadership in the field. The program currently spans six colleges and twelve departments at URI. It offers M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in neuroscience, as well as a graduate certificate. The program facilitates interdisciplinary research and advance training in numerous areas of substantial contemporary interest in the neurosciences. Whereas the Ryan Institute will focus on combating neurodegenerative and neurological disease, the Interdisciplinary Neuroscience Program will conduct research and educate students across multiple areas of current relevance.

PBN: As the public spotlight has shifted to “meds and eds’’ as a possible solution to the problem of Rhode Island’s post-industrial economy, what role will humanities education play at URI?

DOOLEY: Education and scholarship in the humanities, the social sciences, and the arts will continue to be central and important to URI’s mission. All of these areas of learning are critical to preparing our students to be engaged leaders of our nation and across the world. Indeed, in the 21st century global economy and global society the knowledge, experience, and the critical thinking and communication skills inherent in these disciplines are more important than ever. Many of the most pressing challenges future generations will face are global in scope. Accordingly, URI seeks to provide our students with understanding and knowledge about languages, cultures, economies, politics, and societies outside of the U.S., as well of America itself.

PBN: In what other ways is URI poised to help Rhode Island emerge from the recent recession?

DOOLEY: Economic development in Rhode Island, and in our nation as a whole, is an intrinsic part of URI’s land grant mission as the state’s public research university. We have initiated numerous strategies to assist in Rhode Island’s economic recovery. The Business Engagement Center, announced this fall is one recent example, and it is off to a great start. The BEC serves the business community as a single, efficient portal to all the resources of URI, as well as a nexus for managing our relationships with companies large and small. URI has forged a new relationship with RIMES to provide assistance and services to Rhode Island manufacturers. And, of course, we are seeking to expand our presence in Providence with the collaborative project with Brown, RIC and Commonwealth Ventures Properties LLC.


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