The chairman of the Board of Trustees at a major Catholic college in Massachusetts is also chancellor for a medical school that dabbles with human embryonic stem cells. The chancellor, Dr. Michael F. Collins, was named chairman in 2002 and will head the board at the College of Holy Cross until 2008. It is his full-time job as interim chancellor at the University of Massachusetts Medical School in Worcester, however, that has drawn notice. That occurred last May. As an assistant professor at the University of Massachusetts acknowledges candidly, "We employ a variety of embryological, cellular, molecular and genetic approaches. These include lineage analysis, chimeras, and embryo culture as well as time-lapse imaging, tissue specific knockouts, wholemount in situ hybridization and immunofluorescence. We also utilize embryonic stem cells for gene targeting." The use of human embryos for stem-cell research has been condemned by the Vatican as tantamount to abortion, resulting as it does in the death of a human, albeit in the earliest stages. Those involved in such research face excommunication from the Catholic Church, said the Vatican’s chief family official, Cardinal Alfonso Lopez Trujillo, head of the Pontifical Council for the Family, in an interview in Italy's leading Catholic magazine, Famiglia Cristiana, a year ago. "Two papers published by University of Massachusetts Medical School Department of Cell Biology and Cancer Center investigators report striking changes in control of growth in human embryonic stem cells," noted a scientific website in 2006. "The studies were carried out on a National Institutes of Health funded grant using two of the six federal government approved human embryonic stem cell lines." While "approved" human embryonic stem cells do not come from clones but rather embryos already in existence, they remain a sharp point of moral contention -- derived as they are from the leftovers of in-vitro fertilization. "Chimeras" are embryos that contain both human and animal genes.
On September 6 it was announced that plans for a $235 million science facility and an embryonic stem cell research bank at the medical school had "passed an initial funding hurdle yesterday as the finance committee of the board of trustees included the projects in a five-year capital plan for the university system," according to the Worcester Telegram and Gazette.
"Dr. Michael F. Collins, the interim chancellor of the medical school and senior vice president for health sciences for the university, recommended last month that the new science building be included in the five-year plan, even though plans for the research facilities are still evolving," reported the newspaper. "He said while the capital projects plan must still be approved by the full board of trustees, he is pleased to see it get initial approval by the committee. He said he hopes the life sciences research facilities can be developed quickly. 'For me, it’s very exciting. We are at a moment where there is tremendous momentum and at an intersection where we have a very far-sighted governor who understands the importance of investing in the life sciences, and a school poised to take action,' Mr. Collins said." Collins, a Catholic and alumnus of Holy Cross, has been actively involved in numerous professional and civic organizations, states a biography, serving as chair of the board of the Catholic Health Association of the United States, an organization that represents over 1,200 U.S. Catholic health care institutions.
The Holy Cross Board of Trustees has unanimously confirmed the selection of a new chairman at its Dec. 1 meeting. Michael F. Collins, M.D., '77 will be the first medical doctor to serve in this capacity. He will begin a six-year term on July 1, 2002, when current chairman, H.E. "Jack" Lentz '67, completes his tenure. Collins is president and chief executive officer of Caritas Christi, the health care system sponsored by the Archdiocese of Boston. Caritas Christi is an integrated health care system with six hospitals, two nursing homes, a hospice, a home for women and children, and Laboure College, where nurses and allied health professionals are educated. Caritas Christi has just under $1 billion in annual revenues, over 12,000 employees and the second largest inpatient market share in the eastern Massachusetts health care marketplace. "Michael Collins has an outstanding record of leadership. His experience as the successful CEO of a major nonprofit organization and his extensive involvement in fund raising, for both Holy Cross and the Catholic health care system, will be most helpful to me and to the Trustees," says Holy Cross President Michael C. McFarland, S.J. "His long and devoted service to the College shows his great loyalty to and love of Holy Cross." After graduating cum laude from Holy Cross in 1977 with a degree in chemistry, he attended Tufts University School of Medicine in Boston. Collins, who trained at St. Elizabeth's Medical Center of Boston, is board certified in internal medicine. He spent two years at Texas Tech University in Lubbock as a member of the faculty in internal medicine and as a member of the Dean's Office at the Health Sciences Center. Returning to Boston in 1986 to become a member of the faculty at Tufts, he is currently a clinical professor of medicine there and a member of the medical staff at St. Elizabeth's Medical Center of Boston. Collins is actively involved in numerous professional and civic organizations. Currently, he serves as chair of the board of the Catholic Health Association of the United States, an organization that represents over 1,200 U.S. Catholic health care institutions. In addition he serves on the boards of the Massachusetts Business Roundtable and Newton Country Day School of the Sacred Heart. At Holy Cross, Collins served as a class chair from 1983-1994 and as national chair of the Holy Cross Fund from 1994-2001; he joined the Board of Trustees in 1996. As a Trustee he has served as chair of the Academic Affairs Committee since 1998; he is also a member of the Development and College Relations Committee, the executive committee of the Board and the Campaign Steering Committee. Collins lives in Westwood, Mass., with his wife, Maryellen, and their two children.