The University of Texas Medical School at Houston The University of Texas Medical School at Houston
February 15, 2008 | from the Office of Dean Giuseppe Colasurdo

Distributed on Fridays via e-mail to all Medical School employees, students, residents, and postdoctoral fellows, 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.

The coming of spring means the start of the baseball season, which got under way a little early at Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital this week with the opening of the new eighth floor. It is as beautiful as it gets – with replications of four of North America’s greatest ballparks and a new neonatal unit in a jungle animal theme. I can think of no better place for faculty, residents, or patients to be – and there is no doubt it will be a home-run for tours during interview season. Please join me in congratulating Craig Cordola and the MHH leadership for this accomplishment.

Recruiting is continuing for our research program, and the number of talented applicants is astounding. The sentiment that “this is the best place to be” is heard over and over by those wanting to come to the Medical School and experience our collaborative and innovative environment.

The culture of our institution has been a focus of recruitment and retention topics. While we have a collective culture at the Medical School level, each of our departments and offices has its own micro-culture. Each of us help to create this culture, and the department chairs have a very important role in establishing this as they set the tone for their departments. I would hope that each of our departments is a place where everyone contributes and can express feedback and ask questions during monthly department meetings.

Communication is key to a healthy culture, and that is why beginning with this issue of UT 2 Me, I am implementing a feedback mechanism on the Web site so that comments may be posted in response to this communication. Feedback also will be encouraged on the Scoop Web site beginning with next week’s issue. Many of you have responded to this newsletter via e-mail (which I really appreciate), but now I want you to have the opportunity to be more engaged so we can all see what is on your mind.

One item that I am seeking immediate feedback on is a new tagline for UT Physicians. The Medical School is working very closely with the leadership of UT Physicians in the areas of marketing and communication. UTP will debut a redesigned Web site soon, and we will ensure that we have a UTP presence on all of our clinical sites so that patients can be better served. Andrew Casas, chief operating officer of UTP, is looking to find a new sentiment to replace “Choose Health Live Well,” which presently appears on their Web site. If you have ideas on a tagline that would help market UTP, please e-mail me, or post a comment on the site.

You may be aware that we have been transitioning from a paper to electronic model at UT Physicians. This means we are phasing out the physical charts and inputting information and notes into the electronic medical record (EMR), called Allscripts. This EMR also allows for electronic billing and prescription writing. It is the wave of the future (and a mandate by UT System), so we need everyone on board. Dr. Brent King, executive vice dean for clinical affairs, informed me that we currently have about a 65 percent utilization rate and our goal is over 85 percent compliance by Sept. 1. I recognize that there is a learning curve and some growing pains with this system, and that the time it takes to update the electronic records takes away from patients and teaching. However, the benefits of improved patient safety and more accurate billing supersede the downside, so please help us in this effort.

Despite the challenge of our conversion to the electronic age in the clinics, we must always be cognizant of our clinical mission – to provide exceptional care. I will never forget the article I read about good care versus exceptional care, and how so few institutions focus on exceptional care. We must strive to be one of those institutions – and in many areas, we already are.

Regarding our clinical mission, I met with a group of first-year medical students this week. Their morale is very good, and they are excited about the new concept of scholarly concentration colleges for the Medical School. One of the students commented that first-years do not get enough clinical exposure. I let the group know that they must first have the foundation of medical knowledge taught in the first year before interacting with patients, but I applaud their enthusiasm and passion about their chosen profession.

On the clinical partnership front, we have re-engaged the discussion with the Harris County Hospital District regarding an agreement that reflects better communication, planning, and best practices. It is unclear if we will go from an FTE (full-time employee) to an RVU (relative value unit) system, but it will probably result in an FTE agreement with a productivity corridor. This will be very good for the school and LBJ General Hospital. We also are having positive discussion on the annual operating agreement (AOA) with Memorial Hermann, which must be driven by a joint strategic plan. We must stabilize specialty physicians who are in high demand in this competitive market.

Dr. Jeff Katz, chief medical officer of Memorial Hermann – Texas Medical Center, wants to remind faculty to complete the anonymous satisfaction survey from MHH-TMC, which was sent to appropriate faculty this week.

The first incentive payments to productive clinical faculty will begin at the end of this month. As chairs reward those individuals, they also must meet with those at risk for salary adjustment going the other way. The chairs will reward for all activity that contributes to the mission – not just RVUs, as we don’t want all of our faculty to be “RVU machines."

I will be presenting about the unique and special attributes of our school at the upcoming UT Health Science Center development board meeting. This is a good opportunity for us to increase our awareness.  We rely heavily on each of you to increase the awareness of our school, which you do through your daily work and interactions with students, colleagues, and patients. Keep being proud, and share that pride, about this wonderful institution.

I have a new department chair search to let you know about – Dr. Richard Ruiz, chair of the Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Science, will be stepping down July 15. We cannot thank Dr. Ruiz enough for his outstanding leadership of this department since its inception in 1971. It will be very difficult to fill his shoes as he leaves an incredible and historical legacy.

I want to let faculty know that they will soon be receiving a letter from our Office of Development, requesting them to contribute to the Medical School. We know that like so many things, philanthropy begins at home. I am giving $10,000 to create a children’s health scholarship, and I hope you will join me in a gift to the school to ensure a brighter future. This request is by no means limited to faculty – it would be wonderful to see gifts from the staff as well – we are all in this together, and every amount counts. Contact the Office of Development for more information.

In close, I would like to take a moment to remember the lives taken yesterday at the Northern Illinois University.  This is the latest in a series of tragic and senseless incidents at universities across the country. Let us keep safety for our students, employees, and patients paramount in our minds as we go through our day.

Have a great weekend,


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