The University of Texas Medical School at Houston The University of Texas Medical School at Houston
March 14, 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.

Happy Spring Break – hope everyone is enjoying their day, even if they are working on this skeleton holiday.

This week, leaders from the UT Health Science Center had a very productive meeting with Memorial Hermann leadership to strategically plan a closer partnership between these two organizations. This open discussion is indicative of true partners, and I appreciate the time and interest of Dr. James Willerson; Juanita Romans, chief executive officer of Memorial Hermann – Texas Medical Center; and Dan Wolterman, chief executive of Memorial Hermann Healthcare System, to engage and build upon the strengths of Memorial Hermann and the Medical School. We are exploring how our organizations can promote the visibility of joint ventures and creating a relationship that promotes exceptional clinical care and efficiency while maintaining the highest standards of teaching and research activities.

I hope you had the chance to read Dan Wolterman’s article in last Saturday’s Houston Chronicle. In the column, Dan spoke about the reality of Houston’s health care situation, calling for insurance reform.  Access to health care and the growing uninsured and underinsured population make up the true reality of our city these days. It is incumbent upon us to not only recognize these realities but also to understand how they will influence our future.

I had the opportunity to visit the UT Harris County Psychiatric Center (HCPC) this week, and I have to tell you that I am touched by the work of these employees and caregivers. Lois Moore, Dr. Andrew Harper, and Dr. Pedro Ruiz gave me a great overview of the center’s history, and my tour included the Oasis, a residential treatment center for adolescents, which features a family environment and is filled to capacity, and the juvenile detention center, which includes a school with teachers committed to their responsibilities. Mental health care is in a crisis mode in our country, with children and elderly populations suffering. I encourage HCPC to work aggressively with our chairs and faculty to create a model of care in our state.

The Medical School had an outstanding showing at this week’s President’s Executive Luncheon, which is a recurring lunch presentation for our donors and friends. This being brain month, our speakers spoke to the topic, “Leading Research and Clinical Care: The Human Brain.” The neurosciences are one of our areas of clinical and research strengths, and we are committed to growing this program. Dr. Richard Frye, Dr. Michael Gambello, Dr. Jim Grotta, and Dr. Paul Simmons each presented incredible information in their areas of expertise: autism, tuberous sclerosis complex, stroke, and stem cells. We also learned from this group why each of them came to the UT Health Science Center – and it boils down to opportunity. Whether it was because this is the largest medical center in the world, or because of research support and collaboration, they showed why people not only come here, but stay here, and succeed here.

That path to success starts with recruitment. The art of a chair is to entice young promising faculty here and facilitate mentoring, which helps to focus as well as to protect junior faculty. Young faculty must be supported with resources, which is the chair’s responsibility to secure. Nationally, the average investigator does not receive independent funding from the National Institutes of Health until they are in their low-40s. But here, we are very fortunate -- our young investigators not only get funding at a younger age but are getting funded on their first grant application. This is remarkable.

I am pleased to announce that our hyperbaric medicine group now has a home in the Division of Cardiology. This is a good fit, since the group provides many services for vascular diseases and will integrate well with the recent expansion of cardiology and cardiovascular services at Memorial Hermann – Texas Medical Center.  I want to thank Dr. David McPherson and Dr. Brent King for being persistent in granting a home to these exceptional individuals.

I attended my first Alpha Omega Alpha induction banquet this week. The honor society inducted many talented students, and it was a truly wonderful event. Associations like this can help create positive opportunities for our students as they take the next step to residency.

I would like to reply to a request by a second-year student who suggested a speaker to assist in the USMLE reviews. We will openly discuss this request with the class presidents and assistant and associate deans for student affairs. This school will do anything that might better the educational experience, and I support activities to improve our students’ scores on national exams. We want all students to benefit from such study resources and need to ensure they will not conflict with an already busy curriculum. A single intervention is not the magic answer to improved competitiveness, but everything helps.

I also want to reply to feedback received from UT Physician employees, who are now receiving this e-newsletter. They cited concerns of turnover, training, and lack of merit awards. I have forwarded their issues to Andrew Casas, vice president and chief operating officer of UTP, to address. As a reminder, clinic budgets are dictated by departments, and increases are distributed on the advice of the physician office administrator (POA).

I want to assure you that we are looking at staff morale and retention issues in addition to those of faculty. A generational analysis of the Medical School has been done by Human Resources, and we know that nationally employees leave their jobs because of lack of career advancement. Retention issues must be looked at not only globally but in the micro environments of offices and departments.

As you may know, we are in the midst of budget season for next fiscal year. I will be meeting with each chair and director of management operations to review budget requests, which must be realistic and in line with our academic environment. Creating a productivity-based plan is the role of the chair, as is setting reasonable salary requests. I will tell you that some faculty salary requests are way out of the ballpark of what the group practice can consider. We have very talented physicians who continue to contribute to our teaching and clinical missions, but we must pay on productivity (RVUs, teaching) within the framework of our academic setting. Our benchmarks are not private practice -- they are UTMB, Baylor, UT Southwestern, and UTHSC San Antonio.

Budget expenses are mainly tied to salaries, and chairs must show the group practice that they have a strategic plan for faculty retention and the survival and growth of their clinical services – both inside and outside of the Texas Medical Center. If a department wants to grow, its revenues must increase and it must strategically address patients’ needs. We cannot assume patients will come to us. We must prioritize our services, and we rely upon the chair to maintain and develop relationships throughout the city. Like Dan Wolterman talked about in the Chronicle article, today’s health care environment is challenging, and we must be able to adapt.

Have a great weekend,





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