The University of Texas Medical School at Houston
The University of Texas Medical School at HoustonThe University of Texas Medical School at Houston
The University of Texas Medical School at Houston
November 2, 2007 | from the Office of Dean Giuseppe Colasurdo

Distributed on Fridays via e-mail to all Medical School employees, students, and residents, UT 2 Me is Dean Giuseppe Colasurdo's weekly update of news and items of interest. He also welcomes feedback through this two-way communication.


I hope you have the opportunity to set your DVR to record the amazing story of one of our own faculty and her astute clinical care, which is scheduled to be broadcast on Good Morning America Monday. Dr. Mary Kay Koenig, an assistant professor of child and adolescent neurology, corrected the misdiagnosis of a 2-year-old patient who was originally diagnosed with mitochondrial disease but in fact has folate disease – a rare condition affecting only about 100 children worldwide. As a result of her correct diagnosis, he is making great improvements. This is a stellar example of our great and caring faculty who are committed to excellence.

On the topic of faculty excellence, I must applaud the Department of Anesthesiology for their hard work during a time of tremendous challenges. The demand for anesthesiology has jumped as the number of operating rooms has increased by 16 with Memorial Hermann’s new additions over recent months, and the departure of several faculty members has made the situation tougher. I ask this group to hang in there as an infusion of new resources and new leadership is coming. As of Tuesday, Drs. Carin Hagberg and Evan Pivalizza were named vice chairs of the department to assist Dr. James Arens, who is retiring Jan. 10. I am optimistic that we will have a new chair for the department by that date.  It is incredible what this department has endured, and I am making it a priority.

On the teaching front, we are looking at expanding our residency offerings with a new off-site location to provide a community experience at Memorial City Memorial Hermann. We have been in talks with that hospital leadership, as well as with Juanita Romans and Dan Wolterman, and think this would be a worthy endeavor for some of the new graduate medical education funds granted to us by the state Legislature.

Speaking of money, I promised last week that I would focus on Kevin Dillon, the chief operating officer of the health science center, this week. I would like him to present some information directly to you in this communication, so I asked him some questions:

Q: Kevin, what has the financial performance of the practice plan been over the last two months?

I’m pleased to report that our practice plan has done well over the first two months of fiscal year 2007-08. October, in particular, was a strong month, with gross charges above $46 million and collections exceeding $10 million. I was especially gratified to see charge and RVU (relative value units; a measure of physician work effort) growth at LBJ Hospital and the Harris County clinics. As you know, we’re moving to a largely productivity-based reimbursement arrangement with the county early next calendar year, and so the need to capture all of our physicians’ efforts out there has never been greater. I’m very grateful to our clinical faculty, residents, fellows, and administrators whose hard work has contributed to this success.

Q: Tell us about the recent partnership meeting between UT and Memorial Hermann.

A: We had a very productive meeting between the two institutions that was attended by Dr. Ken Shine, Memorial Hermann board chairs, and senior leaders from both organizations, including Dr. Willerson and Dan Wolterman. We focused on topics such as co-branding, co-marketing, and critical, upcoming appointments for the Medical School (e.g., searches for chairs of Internal Medicine, Anesthesiology, and ENT). I’ll echo here what I’ve heard you say many times, Giuseppe: We have no more important partner than Memorial Hermann, and we must work closely with them and communicate with them almost daily to ensure that we’re aligned and “in step” with one another. It’s critically important for both of us. Our futures are highly interdependent.

What can you tell us about the possible moves of certain UT Physician clinics into the Memorial Hermann Medical Plaza (MHMP)?

A: In my view, these are strategic business decisions. The Plaza is a wonderful, beautiful building. The Ophthalmology department has already moved in MHMP. I believe that Neurosurgery will relocate there as well (as part of the significant program support arrangement for that department from Memorial Hermann). I think a couple of other departments or services of ours will ultimately be in the Plaza. But these will be business decisions (i.e., the projected benefits from the higher costs of the Plaza must make financial sense, for our practice plan).

I believe the UT (formerly, Hermann) Professional Building (UTPB) is a good home for much of our clinical enterprise. We just outfitted a new clinic for Urology there. We’re building a new clinic for Orthopaedic Surgery in UTPB, the CTSA’s home will soon be there as well. We will invest hundreds of thousands of dollars, in the coming years, refreshing and rearranging a number of our clinics within UTPB.

You’ll recall that Dr. Willerson obtained nearly $20 million of tuition revenue bond support for our purchase of UTPB, just over three years ago. We’re committed to it being a significant part of UTHSC-H’s “clinical teaching” home, for the foreseeable future. You and I have discussed ways the practice plan might more clearly benefit from the rental and parking income in UTPB that the practice plan “drives.” I think this will help provide better incentives for occupancy in UTPB.

You sent an e-mail earlier this week announcing our new associate dean for clinical business affairs, Julie Page. Tell us about her role and how the other positions you also announced will impact the Medical School.

A: Julie will help all of our clinical DMOs be more effective. She brings broad, relevant experience to this position: She is the DMO of a large clinical department. She was the CFO of UT Physicians. She has private practice administrative and financial experience. She’s “one of us,” and her familiarity will help her greatly in getting up to speed quickly. I’ve seen her develop excellent working relationships with doctors. She has great business sense and just works hard every day to make things better. I couldn’t be happier that she’s joining us in this role. She’ll focus a lot of her energy on improving our revenue cycle, getting us ready for the new, productivity-based environment at HCHD, and helping us prepare for the incentive compensation plan.

Laura Smith and Mike Tramonte are very talented financial people who play major roles in managing this nearly $800 million enterprise, especially in the budget and accounting areas. They’re terrific people who have my complete trust.

You will be hearing much more from Kevin as he is debuting his own electronic newsletter next week.

Have a great weekend,