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.
I want to thank all of you who are giving feedback to me via e-mail and through the new comments section of this e-newsletter. Each week in UT 2 Me, I will address some of the top comments from you. This is a great avenue for you to contribute and help formulate this communication.
I had a comment this week about the state of our collections for the practice plan. I agree, there is great room for improvement in this area. As a result, we have a team of experts rotating through each department to study and improve our billing and collections. The chairs want to be involved in this process and are asking appropriate questions about benchmarks for collections and the costs of billing. We do have a shortage of medical coders, which creates a challenge. We will make it better, and I assure the faculty that they will be pleased with the improvement.
There also was a comment this week about creating a benefit for maternity and paternity leave. These types of benefit rules come from the UT System, and each campus may not customize these policies. I agree that the work-life balance can be a struggle, but the Family Medical Leave Act and the ability to create a flexible schedule, with departmental approval, can ameliorate these situations.
Please don’t forget that I will be hosting a town hall meeting at noon Monday, Feb. 25, in MSB 1.006. I’ll be sharing priorities for the Medical School at that time. This medical school and the UTHSC already have a strong foundation on which to build: We were one of the first 12 schools in the nation to receive the $36 million Clinical and Translational Science Award, we have nearly $200 million in research expenses and have been constantly increasing our NIH funding, the quality of our students is second to none, we have successfully recruited some new outstanding chairs, and our group practice is doing well.
This foundation will serve us well as we strengthen our development efforts. This is also an area for improvement as we seek to cultivate new and existing donors. There is ample opportunity – the current giving rate of our alumni is 1.5 percent – the lowest of all UT System schools. The aim of the Office of Development and Alumni Relations is to increase that to 8-11 percent – comparable to our peer institutions. The fund-raising goal of the Medical School’s development office is to raise $20 million by the end of this fiscal year. More than $8 million has been brought in to date, already an increase from last year’s total of $6 million.
Development affects us all – it is how talented students are recruited, how professors are retained, how bridging funds are granted to promote research, and how special projects and initiatives are funded for the good of the school. Just as we can all benefit from fund-raising efforts, it is up to all of us to contribute to them and to discern the passions of our donors. I encourage you to partner with the development office as they ramp up this effort. As Susan Coulter, vice president for institutional advancement says, “The more proposals created, the better.”
I attended the Department of Internal Medicine’s faculty meeting this week. Faculty at this meeting, and in general, know that incentive payments are coming for productive faculty, yet many are worried about a reduction in their salaries. This boils down to good communication between the chair and the faculty – faculty must know their targets and the requirements to receive incentives. It is the chair’s responsibility to make faculty aware of their expectations.
Good communication in departments is key to producing a healthy culture and environment. We must foment this culture, as well as provide new resources, to our outstanding young faculty who need additional support. New faculty must know that they are supported, that we believe in them, and that they are here because we want to invest in them. However, an attractive startup package is not the only key to success – the right academic environment is needed, and each chair and senior faculty must be accountable for this. There also are a variety of measures in place to help faculty in their research: bridging grants, K grant supplements, and a new pilot program to encourage new research.
We cannot overlook our new graduates and trainees as we seek the very best to recruit to the Medical School. We will be developing strategies to transition graduates and trainees to our world of academics. One big step to achieving this goal of recruiting our best graduates will be through the establishment of our scholarly concentrations. These multidisciplinary programs will not affect the curriculum but will help to guide students into specialty areas to better prepare them for their profession.
Speaking of talented trainees, I applaud the efforts of the Postdoctoral Association of The University of Texas, Houston, as they are receiving a visit from national postdoc leaders next month. This is an incredible accomplishment of this young group, which was created just last year.
As part of budget season, I am working with Juanita Romans, CEO of Memorial Hermann – Texas Medical Center, on the annual operating agreement. I am looking to the chairs for their requests and recommendations for services for their departments. As the spokesperson for the Medical School, I will fairly represent the departments and the school, seeking reasonable support for quality services in our academic environment. These budget requests must be based upon national benchmarks and the reality of our medical center. Our mission is well defined, and we must try to fairly price our services to respect Memorial Hermann’s mission and to try to do our best to support them.
As a reminder, Brain Awareness week is kicking off March 1 with the annual public forum. The topic will be stem cells and the brain, and I encourage you to attend this free event. The Neuroscience Research Center also will be hosting an event for children at the McGovern Health Museum March 20. Keeping with the brain theme for March, a group of faculty will present in a panel at the upcoming President’s Executive Luncheon, which is an event for our special invited guests and donors. We will show off some of our exceptional scientists, Dr. Jim Grotta, Dr. Richard Frye, Dr. Michael Gambello, and Dr. Paul Simmons from the IMM, who will speak about the latest in stroke, learning disorders/autism, tuberous sclerosis/epilepsy, and stem cells.
Have a great weekend,