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 you all for your continued comments and feedback to UT 2 Me. I have tried to establish an open communication channel with you through this e-newsletter, and your responses are vital to this dialogue. As a result of your feedback and contact, I am now aware of areas for improvement, immediate needs that require attention, and what a difference committed individuals make to our Medical School. I have heard wonderful stories about your attachments and loyalties to this school – you can be assured that we will support those who are good to our school and serve as role models for leadership. I look forward to this continuation of open communication.
One area in which we are continuing to try to bridge gaps and foster communication is on the research front. To create a culture of improved collaborations, we need a structure and a vision. I am planning to convene an executive research committee which will identify the top three research priorities in which the school can invest and promote over the next 3-5 years. We will strengthen these identified areas within the next 6-12 months. We also must work to break down the culture of cost-center silos, with everyone protecting just their own research interests. We will create a format per research area to facilitate meetings and social events to build collaborations, and we will rely upon research leaders to identify promising young stars.
The Center for Clinical and Translational Science (CCTS) is instrumental in bringing our researchers together. This center is accessible and beneficial to departments and researchers, and we are strongly committed to enriching the CCTS. I invite you all to see its new home on the 11th floor of the UT Professional Building – it is beautiful. We will link some of our scholarly concentrations to the premier teams of the CCTS as we seek to capture the scientific attention and foster the career development of our students, college students, and even high school students.
Faculty burnout and satisfaction rates are areas that continue to hold our highest attention. Tom Cole, director of the John P. McGovern, M.D. Center for Humanities and Ethics, along with Dr. Henry Strobel are promoting a Faculty Health and Well Being Program, which addresses and responds to the stresses specific to faculty. I recognize this need, yet I caution that there is not a single program or initiative that can solve morale or culture issues. Salary, mentoring, open communications are all important factors. We don’t want a “virtual program” on paper that no one uses – nor can we accept benign neglect of these issues. We must be committed to support and encourage the success of our faculty and of one another.
Speaking of successful faculty, I had a wonderful dinner with Dr. Sam Kaplan, chair of the Department of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics, this week in celebration of his election as a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Dr. Kaplan understands the role of mentor, as two of his graduates are members of the National Academy of Sciences, and he has attracted a loyal following of investigators and students, many of whom are now on faculty. He has a passion for his people, his department, and his research, and we are so proud of him.
A Texas-sized welcome to Dr. Martin Citardi, as he begins his first week on the job as the new chair of the Department of Otorhinolaryngology. I expect him to have a first-class department, and he has had outstanding candidates coming in to interview for faculty positions. I want to thank the residents of this department for believing in the survival and growth of this program. Thanks also to Dr. Samer Fakhri for his work in holding the department together along with Dr. Richard Andrassy, who stepped up as interim chair.
I am pleased to announce Dr. Deborah Meyers is on board to run a first-rate congestive heart failure program and lead an aggressive recruitment for a heart transplant team. This will be a prominent program to lift the stature of Memorial Hermann – Texas Medical Center and the Medical School.
As we enter our contract negotiations with Memorial Hermann and the Harris County Hospital District, we are looking at strategically planning the growth of our clinical services. Input from the chair, DMO and service chiefs are vital to this process, and we welcome their input. We will be meeting with the chair and DMO of each department to propose a budget for next year, and we must have an honest approach to this process – do we need it, can we do it, can we afford it? We also will be looking at productivity issues, reviewing the need for additional resources from Memorial Hermann, and evaluating opportunities outside of the Texas Medical Center. The chair will be closely involved in each phase of the budgeting process and must create a budget based on national benchmarks and the realities of our academic environment.
As Kevin Dillon, executive vice president and chief operating and financial officer, explained at this week’s Administrative Council meeting, we expect a “flat” budget based on full-time employees for the Harris County Hospital District (HCHD) contract. With an increase in our productivity and collections here, I remain optimistic about this contract. Overall, the practice plan is $25 million ahead of budget in gross charges, which is a 10 percent increase – split about evenly between Memorial Hermann and HCHD. This is remarkable.
Also at the Administrative Council meeting, Dr. Steve Brown, associate dean for Harris County Programs, reported that a new emergency center will break ground at LBJ Hospital in the fall and funding for the design of a new ambulatory surgery building has been approved. LBJ Hospital also is searching for a new administrator. These are great opportunities for us as we continue to focus our efforts on quality and service.
In the next two weeks, we will be meeting with department chairs to discuss the chairs’ recommendations for incentive payments to faculty. The ability to provide incentive payments correlates directly with our expenses in the practice plan. Please remember this and the fact that the health science center leadership was granted $20 million to purchase the now UT Professional Building. Having clinics remain in this building – our building – is vital to our financial health.
We have found our new leader for the Medical School’s Advisory Council, Drew Kanaly. Drew and his family have been very supportive of the Medical School, and we congratulate him and thank him for his leadership position in our Medical School fundraising efforts. Barry Lewis, another great supporter of our Medical School, has agreed to serve as vice chair, and we appreciate his contributions.
We had a successful reunion at the Medical School last weekend, and I was happy to meet so many of our alumni. Three of our students, Bobby Aertker, Emily Krennerich, Chad Whited, who were alumni association scholarship recipients, did an outstanding job telling alumni why they chose our Medical School and why they wouldn’t go anywhere else. Alumni have a renewed interest in engaging with the school, and we welcome them. As part of our Medical School family, we encourage our alumni’s philanthropic support.
I would like to close with some feedback I received from Dr. Heinrich Taegtmeyer:
“The development of young physician scientists is a defining element in the culture of the school. What do you think of this goal: ‘By 2020, we will be among the top 20 medical schools in the country’? I may not live long enough to see this, but I am ready to help you now in every way I can.”
I thank Dr. Taegtmeyer and all of you for your continued commitment to this school. With your help, together we can reach Dr. Taegtmeyer’s goal.
Have a great weekend,