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Ornt offers tools for success in booming medical industry

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A. Sue Weisler

Daniel Ornt

Opportunity knocked twice for the Ornts one day last October.

RIT called with an offer Daniel Ornt, M.D., couldn’t refuse—the chance to be the first vice president and dean of the Institute/College of Health Sciences and Technology. On the same afternoon, Dartmouth-Hitchcock Health System rang his wife, Jeanine Arden-Ornt, with an equally intriguing invitation to become general counsel of the health system affiliated with Dartmouth Medical School.

They made up their minds to join the ranks of commuting couples: Ornt headed to Rochester; Arden-Ornt moved to Hanover, N.H.

“We do a lot of driving on the weekends,” Ornt notes.

His familiarity with the route from Rochester through New England harkens back to trips home to Penfield during his internship and residency at the Medical Center Hospital of Vermont, following his graduation from the University of Rochester Medical Center in 1976.

Since then, Ornt has spent a combined 30 years in academic medicine at URMC and at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine in Cleveland, where he held the position of vice dean for education and academic affairs. He is also a fellow of the American College of Physicians with numerous publications on renal disease and disorders.

Ornt had an early tie to RIT through his late brother, Ken Ornt ’73 (mechanical engineering). While in Cleveland, Ornt stayed connected to the Rochester area through his numerous colleagues at area hospitals.

“I knew about President Destler and the excitement his ideas were causing in the community. I was intrigued by the educational opportunity of the Institute of Health Sciences and Technology and the college and the exciting change of direction for me compared to typical medical schools.”

Ornt arrived on campus Dec. 1. He settled into his office in the Center for Bioscience Education and Technology and set about meeting his new colleagues at RIT and Rochester General Health System, many of whom he knew from his days at the University of Rochester.

One colleague in particular, Michael Pichichero, M.D., director of the Research Institute at Rochester General Hospital, attended the University of Rochester Medical Center with Ornt. Pichichero’s research lab was one of the first in the RIT-RGHS Alliance to include RIT professors and students.

The potential synergy between RIT and Rochester General Hospital faculty excites Ornt, who is committed to developing collaborative research opportunities that attract new faculty and give students valuable research experience.

“Having come from a top 20 medical school, I understand the importance of having applicants with good grades and research experience,” Ornt says. “The competition is stiff. We’re talking about 43,000 applicants for medical school and roughly 19,000 openings. We have to make sure our students have outstanding records and breadth of experience in order to be competitive.”

The college and institute, including the research and outreach centers, will build research programs that advance health science and give students an edge. The college will also contribute to a university model of health and wellness, Ornt says. New programs will reflect the national interest in reducing health-care costs through healthy lifestyle choices, an area of interest to independent insurers like RIT.

“I have a lot of ideas,” Ornt says. “There are opportunities to grow existing programs and to establish new ones focusing on health and wellness that will help RIT and, hopefully, the whole community reduce health-care costs. It makes sense for us to be involved—we’re the health school.”

About Daniel Ornt

Age: 60

Degrees: Bachelor of Arts, Natural Science and Chemistry, Colgate University

Doctor of Medicine, University of Rochester

Hometown: Penfield

Family: Wife, Jeanine Arden-Ornt; five children


A. Sue Weisler

Daniel Ornt