The University of Texas Medical School at Houston The University of Texas Medical School at Houston
February 28, 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.

I am very pleased to give you great news today on the incredible performance of the practice plan. As of today, February is our highest month of gross collections on record – this following our best month ever in charges. We should be able to approach $11 million in gross collection (for a “short month”) and have markedly increased our charges and collections at HCHD – incredible! I want to thank everyone involved in this amazing achievement – and congratulations especially to Andrew Casas and our billing group. Everyone is working smarter, and I attribute this turnaround to a renewed attention to accountability.

Members of the UT Development Board were very pleased to hear the report of the Medical School this week. I shared our strategic vision for the school with this influential and incredibly supportive and important group. They are looking forward to hearing more good news from the school and are enthusiastic about our quest for excellence. The development board is a wonderful, growing group, and I cannot wait to work with them – we need their support and their help for us to achieve our ambitious mandate.

I appreciate all of the questions, comments, and feedback during the Town Hall meeting this week. If you did not have a chance to attend, a link of the Webcast soon will be made available. I was inundated with questions for the meeting, and did not get the opportunity to answer each question but would like to follow up on some of them now. One was regarding the billing, the wait times, and telephone issues of UT Physicians. I want to assure you that the Medical School is working very hard with UT Physicians to improve operations and to better integrate our goals. We welcome your feedback to correct problems, and a series of focus group meetings soon will be held for Medical School employees who are patients at UT Physicians. Regarding the marketing of our UT Physicians clinics, we are developing a referral guide for all of our physicians and institutions of interests. The UTP Web site soon will be redesigned to better link with the Medical School’s, and future advertising will occur. But, I ask you, what do we want UTP to be known for? Please submit your ideas, including new taglines.

One person asked about the Medical School’s policy regarding the pharmaceutical industry. We must have the highest of ethics, and we will not be controlled by the drug industry. The Health Science Center is in the final stages of creating a policy on this topic. Such a plan must be well done to avoid conflicts and to protect faculty and patients, yet we must be open within the restrictions of the guidelines. We will have input from an Association of American Medical Colleges task force, which will be issuing guidelines next month.

I also was asked about the role and support of the Employee Relations Committee. This is the group responsible for the employee awards program as well as many outreach and social activities of the school. I am open to your advice and input on how to improve morale, and perhaps this group can help lead this issue. We must develop strategies and work together to retain our good people – be they faculty, staff, or students.

One group that we must focus on retaining is our junior investigators. We rely upon the department chairs to identify the rising stars.  It is also their responsibility to identify the resources needed to retain them – the Dean’s Office will be there to help. The success of a department is measured on how well the junior faculty perform. I echo this point from Dr. Heinrich Taegtmeyer, who has focused on this topic because he cares. To better groom and support our junior faculty and soon-to-be faculty, we plan to create the scholarly concentrations and link and expand Center for Clinical and Translational Science (CCTS) funding to K12 funding for the Medical School. Sean Meiner, a fourth-year student, has worked with his mentor, Dr. Stephen Fletcher, during the course of his Medical School career to pursue research and clinical care in his chosen specialty of pediatric neurosurgery. This is an example of how our scholarly concentrations will work to better prepare our students for their future.

In addition to identifying rising stars, our department chairs have incredible responsibilities – they are accountable for the successful operation of their department and must have a structure in place to ensure goals are met. The chairs will be hearing more from me about a new mandatory leadership course for all chairs – to make sure we are providing the basic knowledge so that they can be successful. I’ll be the first to sign up!

Jorge Zambra, from the Dean’s Office, has been spending time with the Department of Diagnostic and Interventional Imaging to provide support. I would like feedback from this department to know how that is going, and if such interaction is helpful. I have known Jorge for many years, and I have seen his human qualities and expertise make things happen.

One frustration that I hear from faculty is the geographic challenges of collaboration within our Health Science Center. People come here because of the great opportunities, yet some have found themselves stymied by physical boundaries. We will be aggressively engaging with the deans of the other schools, Dr. Tom Caskey at the IMM, and the CCTS to break down these boundaries so investigators do not feel so isolated. We also will be discussing social activities to bring researchers together, starting with areas of great strength and promise.

As the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education site visit approaches, I received some light reading material -- two huge notebooks of data to review from Dr. Patricia Butler and her team, who is doing an outstanding job leading this process. Our goal is to provide the best program for residents and fellows. To help us achieve excellence, we are in the process of auditing our performance in these programs – analyzing passing rates and scores from residents and fellows by specialty. We will identify best practices and improvement areas in order to give our students the best opportunities.

Congratulations to Juanita Romans and Dan Wolterman on the well-attended grand opening last night of the Memorial Hermann Heart & Vascular Institute-TMC. This 147-bed addition reflects Memorial Hermann’s commitment to cardiovascular medicine in Houston and allows us to continue to expand our cardiology and cardiothoracic surgery services. Memorial Hermann – Texas Medical Center was named last year to Solucient 100 Top Hospitals: Cardiovascular Benchmarks for Success, and I am certain with the good work of our physicians, more awards will be forthcoming. I am optimistic about the continued leadership of Dr. Hazim Safi, chair of the Department of Cardiothoracic and Vascular Surgery, who just signed a five-year agreement with the Medical School.

Dr. Safi gave me a thought-provoking book called “The Black Swan.”  The author describes a Black Swan as a highly improbable event that is rare, has a massive impact, and retrospective predictability. He says that Black Swans occur because “we are unable to truly estimate opportunities.”  Let us be open to opportunities as we chart our course to excellence, revealing a medical school second to none -- unveiling a Black Swan.

Have a great weekend,


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