The University of Southern Maine is cutting its applied medical sciences department. This is the very department that offers undergraduate courses such as immunology and teaches graduate students how to do important research in the biological sciences.

This department is vital to us as we face possible pandemics and the spread of devastating viruses such as Ebola, West Nile and Middle East respiratory syndrome.

We should be supporting students who want to increase their viability in the job market. We should be encouraging Maine people to pursue study in the medical biological sciences, not cutting back on their instruction!

USM’s bad decision will affect all of us in the long term. With pride we have watched southern Maine’s biotech industry blossom. Idexx, Alere, the Foundation for Blood Research, the Maine Medical Center Research Institute and others have drawn on our university to locally train, sustain and grow a well-trained workforce.

These industries employ many, and they are performing vital testing and cutting-edge research in the area of human and animal health, both nationally and internationally.

Given our need to grow our industries, sustain a well-educated workforce and draw from and keep our young people and families in Maine, it makes no sense for USM to cut this critical department. Cutting applied medical sciences from our university bodes poorly for the future of all of us here in Maine.

Claire Smith