Cycles of Progress:

President Yen’s farewell message reflects on lessons learned and the future

Two months from the end of his six-year term, Dr. Yun Yen shares some accomplishments and challenges he experienced leading TMU’s USD $ 700 million operations

When I first started my term as TMU’s president in 2011, I felt a strong sense of mission to transform our university into a truly international institution. While I recognized that TMU had a history of success based on past performance, I was particularly drawn to the challenge of ensuring our university could reach its full potential.

One of our first priorities was reorganizing leadership roles at the institutional and college levels. Creating a vision, setting goals and clarifying expectations ensured accountability and promoted continuing improvement across the entire campus.

Building on TMU’s successes in clinical care, we also invested tremendous efforts and resources to develop our core facilities. We placed particular focus on enhancing research facilities and upgrading translational medicine research. Thanks to constant staff support and dedication, our research programs stimulate increasing interaction between basic scientists and clinical professionals. Working together, our research experts channel their findings to clinicians and vice versa, creating synergies and finding answers to some of the world’s most significant health challenges.

Our success is reflected by the grants the university has been awarded, as well as the sizeable number of publications we publish in peer-reviewed and high-impact-factor journals each year. Progress in these areas has strengthened our reputation in clinical and research expertise and improved our performance in Essential Science Indicators and world university rankings.

On the educational front, we now face a generation of avid learners and quick thinkers. Rote memorization of lesson material is no longer a practical teaching method. Instead, our faculty is engaged and committed to finding creative and innovative ways to disseminate knowledge to tomorrow’s healthcare providers. What’s important is how we help students prioritize useful knowledge, much of which is widely available online, and correctly apply this knowledge to real-life scenarios.

This is where Simulation Education comes into play. With our advanced teaching modules, students from different disciplines work together on wide-ranging cases in integrated environments. TMU also has entered the era of virtual classrooms by building a diverse and highly engaging portfolio of massive online open courses (MOOCs). These courses deliver programs, lectures, laboratory demonstrations, and student projects – all produced in our state-of-the-art studio – to thousands of students worldwide.

With great opportunities come great challenges. In TMU’s case, it is space constraints that have persistently challenged our university. I am glad to note our significant progress in creating new campus facilities. Negotiations with neighboring institutions and facilities have led to increased student access to benches and bedsides, particularly in our newly refurbished Da-An Campus – a 21-story building with brand new facilities, which is home to our expanded academic and administrative units.

Around our main campus, a number of construction projects are in progress. In a few years, media and visitors entering the clock tower gate will be greeted by a glass-walled Dream Way Building. Behind the main hospital and across from the Oral Medicine building we will have the Taipei Cancer Center offering world-class patient care and also housing cancer research facilities. Two more buildings are under construction in our Shuang-ho Hospital campus to provide much-needed space and infrastructure for faculty and staff.

The improvements in space management resulting from these new facilities will support TMU’s commitments to research, clinical care, and technology transfer, as well as allowing greatly expanded educational programs across our colleges. All very exciting!

We will continue to rise to future challenges as we face and make the best of new opportunities. Our track record in running three affiliated hospitals in Taiwan has landed us the role of managing a hospital overseas. Because Ningbo Lihuili Hospital is known as one of China’s most successful public hospitals, we now receive numerous invitations from clinical establishments asking us to join forces. We will carefully evaluate these proposals before making further partnership decisions.

All of these developments resulted from our open-minded philosophy. Our faculty and staff are encouraged to think big, and their plans will be supported if they are in line with the university’s strategic development. We seek to help our faculty pursue new endeavors by providing streamlined administrative procedures, so their ideas for innovative research can become realized with minimal difficulty.

Looking ahead, our future lies with IT development at both institutional and individual levels. We will continue to enhance our IT infrastructure and apply the newest technologies to all of our daily operations. Students coming to TMU will improve their IT literacy too, as we have embedded relevant skills and knowledge in the curriculum to prepare them to operate with wide-ranging abilities and qualities. We have also introduced humanistic elements alongside clinical education to nurture students with a well-balanced approach to healthcare professionalism.

On a personal level, I am proud of having played a part in TMU’s transformation over the past six years. While I first started at TMU as a student, I never thought serving as the university’s president would be a career option. Before accepting this role, I enjoyed working as a physician, scientist and professor, and I was able to balance between work and life.

Prior to the start of my term, I was slightly reluctant to move out of my comfort zone and take up the challenge of managing a complex operation of 6,000 students and 10,000 employees. But six years later, I can look back at what we have achieved together with some level of satisfaction and give myself a B+ grade. I think I passed my test.

This job also re-sharpened some of my soft skills. Being able to quickly process information and come up with a reasonably good conclusion is never easy. Quite often, I was expected to make difficult decisions, sometimes with high-stakes outcomes, at the end of a five-minute conversation. This used to be unthinkable for me, but now it’s becoming a norm, and I think I am doing okay without letting personal preferences get in the way.

If I were to give one word for my successor to keep in mind, it would be fairness. Being able to resist pressures that come your way will be a significant part of your job, and at times this will require a bit of compromise between operational needs and personal bias. It is easy to overlook the amount of time and effort that people have put in behind the scenes before their propositions are set in front of you. But it is important to bear in mind the need to play fair and be prudent in ensuring the best possible outcomes for all parties, because every decision we make involves someone’s life, career or deeply-held beliefs.

I have worked with a wide range of professionals, and I had a great staff when I worked in the States, but I never saw a cohort that matched TMU’s perseverance and integrity. Our people are very hard-working and faithful to their mission. I consider myself lucky to work with amazing individuals whose commitment to TMU goes far beyond expectations. It is such a great honor and responsibility to serve as president, and having had the pleasure of working with such devoted people, I want to make sure they are not taken for granted.

Now that I am approaching the end of this journey, I look forward to going back to my routine as a professor, a role that I thoroughly enjoy. Having spent six years taking care of many other people’s interests, I am ready to go back to my lab and focus on research, ready to teach younger professionals, and ready to serve patients again.

There are things I gave up over these six years that I look forward to enjoying again, such as enjoying family life. After countless occasions and duties that kept me from returning home for dinner and spending time at home, I will be able to put these commitments back on track. I hope that in a year’s time I can also get rid of the 15 pounds that I gained during this job!

In conclusion, I leave one final message for everyone at TMU before my departure. In the end, what really counts is not one’s title, money or fame, but the most basic principle in life: being a good person. That is all that matters.

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