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.
It has been a busy, but short, week for me as I was on vacation Monday and Tuesday in Colorado. I love to ski but came back a bit sore as the result of pushing myself a little too hard on those black runs.
Last night I was honored to be an invited guest at the senior class banquet. Our students were decked out like a fashion show at La Colombe d’Or, and everyone I spoke to was very happy about their residency match. We are so proud of them – almost everyone received their first choices in the match. I gave the final toast of the evening, encouraging them to take the knowledge and values that they have learned here. We wish them the best.
I also met this week with the Parents and Friends Organization of the Medical School – that was a great meeting with a good turnout. I gave them a brief update on the school, and I was asked about our plans to market UT Physicians. I assured them that this summer we will begin to look at a significant marketing campaign for our physicians. Meanwhile, we are focusing on the Web site of both UTP and the Medical School so that we can have a user-friendly and exclusive public face.
We welcomed a special visitor to campus this week who had the opportunity to see our physicians in action. Rep. Warren Chisum, chair of the Texas House Appropriations Committee, visited our Surgical and Clinical Skills Center, along with LifeFlight, the Stroke Unit and the Children’s Memorial Hermann – Texas Medical Center intensive care units. As chair of appropriations, Rep. Chisum and his committee hold the purse strings of our state funding, which has been on the decline over the last several years. Formula funding, which pays the Medical School on a per-student basis, has not kept pace with our growth in students, space, or research. Our state dollars for education are down about 5 percent since fiscal year 2000, with infrastructure support and research enhancement down 29 and 47 percent, respectively. We hope that our state funding can be restored to the levels of seven years ago, especially as we are increasing class sizes and adding new residency programs to meet the future physician needs of Texas. Rep. Chisum’s visit was a very helpful and engaging dialogue, and he understands our funding challenges and how we spend state dollars.
Speaking of money, faculty incentives have been released to the clinical faculty—the research faculty members of the clinical science departments are next. The compensation plan continues to present challenges as there is a plan but no funding allocated for it. These incentives signal the start of a productivity-based system for Medical School faculty. We are happy to reward productive people, and I am hearing from those productive faculty about how pleased they are to finally receive incentive awards for their hard work.
We are meeting this afternoon to review 12 clinical departments in preparation for our budget process for the upcoming fiscal year. We are taking a conservative, guarded approach to the FY09 budget as we must consider the changing reality of the health care market in Houston and predict variables that could have positive or negative effects on the stability/viability of our clinical programs. There are some departments who will struggle to make their budget as projected – overall, faculty salaries have risen faster than relative value unit (RVU) productivity. We will make recommendations that include the controlled recruitment of faculty and consider salary adjustments for those faculty not in line with the productivity plan. These changes will lead a stronger school financially – which is a priority. I want to assure you that no faculty or staff layoffs are planned. Our goal is to control expenses – especially in light of our dwindling state support.
I remind you that collegiality has to be the overarching sentiment of all departments, offices, and clinics. The chair, or the supervisor, is responsible for setting this tone and must support and educate junior employees. Communication and high ethical standards are key to work relationships. The expectations, roles, and duties of all positions – faculty and staff – must be clear and simple.
I want to thank you for your continued feedback and attention to this newsletter. Through communication to our faculty, staff, and students, I will continue to be transparent, keeping you abreast of our strategic plan and the decision-making process, as well as major accomplishments and recruits to our school. I also will continue to solicit your involvement through other communication mechanisms – such as town hall meetings and department meetings. We will offer confidential surveys as another way to receive your feedback, and we will listen and may act on your feedback. Through communication and establishing a dialogue, we are building a partnership to strengthen this medical school. I want, and need, your involvement in this process of changing our culture. We are not perfect yet, but we are making great improvements, and I thank you for that.
We are taking aim at improving our residency programs, and will release additional funding for graduate medical education at the start of this fiscal year. These funds will help protect the time of program directors so that they can concentrate on education, creating a residency educational model that is not simply built around clinical encounters. I will ask program directors and their chairs to present their curriculum structure, educational goals, capacity, and residency strengths at an upcoming chairs meeting. We want to understand the organization and structure of these programs and are here to help with resources. We are looking for ideas and innovation to reinvigorate these programs and to solve any challenges that we may have in this area.
Dr. Brent King is leading our effort on the pharmaceutical conflict of interest policy and the initial draft has been submitted this week to Dr. Kenneth Shine, executive vice chancellor for health affairs. It is now being reviewed by various members of our administrative team, members of the Faculty Senate, as well as by student leaders Chris Thompson and Larry Nickell. The policy will be a balanced document with the highest attention paid to protecting the integrity of our academic programs and health professionals as well as our students and residents. Our policy will be aligned with the forthcoming guidelines from the Association of American Medical Colleges.
I have some leadership updates for you. Mark G. Yudof, chancellor of the University of Texas System, was appointed today as president of the University of California system. His overall record as chancellor of the UT system, one of the nation’s largest higher education systems, is outstanding - our loss is California’s gain. The UT system has experienced a tremendous growth under his leadership and has more than 194,000 students, 81,000 employees, and an annual operating budget of $10.7 billion.
Progress is being made on our presidential search process, with four highly qualified candidates set to visit our campus in April. I cannot reveal their names yet, but details should be forthcoming after this visit.
I am pleased to announce that Col. John Holcomb, M.D, will be joining our faculty. He has accepted a position in the Department of Surgery and will serve as director of a newly-formed Center for Translational Injury Research, an interdisciplinary center of the UTHSCH dedicated to the development of new programs in the area of trauma research. He will lead an interdisciplinary team of specialists in order to enhance the knowledge and technologies used for civilian and military care. Dr. Holcomb will be a great asset to our institution.
For our medical school to build upon its success, we must be proactive in inventing our future. Together, we can create an amazing tomorrow. I leave you with this quote from Garson Kanin, “Amateurs hope, professionals work.”
Have a great weekend,