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 sure you have heard the news about Dr. Ken Shine being named interim chancellor of the UT System. Dr. Shine is an outstanding leader and has served the UT System and the UT Health Science Center at Houston very well. He clearly knows the Medical School infrastructure, strengths, and challenges, and I am pleased that he will continue to support the success of the Health Science Center.
Closer to home, the search for our next Health Science Center president is ramping up with campus visits by the three candidates this week and next. You may recall that there were four candidates, but one has withdrawn for family reasons. And no, I do not think that having an interim chancellor will impede or slow our presidential search – especially due to the relationships each candidate has built with Dr. Shine. All three candidates are intrigued by the strength and potential of the Health Science Center and understand that the Medical School is key to the success of the Health Science Center. During the tours, the candidates are meeting with all of the deans and the Health Science Center leadership and have been asking about our strengths and challenges. They are impressed by our research growth and the changes that they have seen in the Health Science Center. They agree and support the Medical School’s priorities, and I am encouraged that the UT System Board of Regents will announce a great new leader in May.
Searches also are continuing for four of our department chairs – internal medicine, psychiatry and behavioral sciences, physical medicine and rehabilitation, and ophthalmology. I have not placed a deadline on these searches as we want to make sure we get the right leader for each job. However, I am hopeful that these positions will be filled by the start of the academic year. We do not have an active search for my replacement as the chair of the Department of Pediatrics, and I will be discussing this leadership change with the new president.
I want to thank all of the chairs and departmental directors of management operations (DMOs) for their collaboration during the budget process. Throughout the process, I am pleased to report that we have seen an increase in responsibility and accountability for state dollars. However, we have not seen any proposed salary decreases – only increases. This approach is not in line with a successful compensation plan, and I am relying upon the chairs to monitor and predict productivity. Any salary changes that are put into effect will be done through the chairs and will reflect academic and/or clinical productivity.
I am pleased with our strategic discussions regarding department budgets – this is about more than just numbers and finances. We are working to improve education, research, and our clinical endeavors and integrate our clinical practice with our other missions. Our clinical integration is key to sustain growth. Toward this end, there soon will be a family medicine presence at our Loop 610 facility at Bellaire, and we are looking at a citywide strategy to integrate several clinical programs including neurosurgery and children’s in an attempt to meet the needs of our growing suburban communities. We also are working on an executive care program for UT Physicians and creating the Texas Fetal Assessment and Treatment Center, which will involve the close interaction of our maternal/fetal specialists with Dr. Kevin Lally and Kuojen Tsao, from the Department of Pediatric Surgery. This center will allow for the early diagnosis, intervention, and preparation for abnormalities discovered prenatally. This is a natural fit with the growth we are seeing in women’s services at Memorial Hermann – Texas Medical Center, and will build upon our strengths in cardiology, genetics, surgery, and other disciplines.
The clinical practice plan’s performance is going in the right direction. It was projected to be at a loss of $2.1 million at this time, but instead it is posting a $1.9 million positive margin – a variance of approximately $4 million (not counting professional liability insurance rebates and upper payment limit -UPL). Our priority, with the help of Kevin Dillon, Andrew Casas, Dr. Brent King, and all of the department chairs is that we work on improving the performance of the practice plan. This is just the start of our work, and it is all about the team – the faculty have prioritized productivity and Andrew’s billing and collection teams are doing a good job capturing charges. I do not take credit for this turnaround – my only contribution is to the pediatric faculty performance, which with emergency medicine and other departments, has added positively to our group performance. Congratulations to everyone on this good work!
I would like to reply to some feedback I have received regarding the reinstatement of a Medical School gym. I acknowledge that having a gym in your “home” is a good thing – it’s convenient and promotes good health. The concerns with establishing such a site is that the space that could be dedicated to a gym have been reduced due to facility needs, and an informal estimate to create a gym that would not be a health hazard is outside of our budget right now. We can discuss this issue further, but I request your patience and understanding as the Health Science Center budget is somewhat “stretched” right now – we have a projected liability of $210 million in new construction costs.
Spring is such a busy time, and I want to let you know about some upcoming events: the Spring Course Orthopaedic Update is set for May 30-31 and is co-sponsored by our Department of Orthopaedic Surgery and Memorial Hermann – Texas Medical Center. The Division of Rheumatology is putting together a team for the Houston Chapter of the Arthritis Foundation’s Annual Walk May 3. If you are interested in participating or donating to the cause, please contact Dr. Sandeep Agarwal. And this weekend – April 6 – is the annual Run for the Rose in remembrance of Dr. Marnie Rose, ’00, and in support of brain tumor research. Congratulations to Dr. Jim Grotta and his Stroke Team, who hosted the prestigious 2008 Princeton Conference on Cerebrovascular Disease last weekend.
I will be attending a physician workforce stakeholder forum in Austin next week – organized by the Governor’s Health Care Policy Council and the Texas Medical Association. The topic will be “Physician Workforce Needs for Texas and the Role of Graduate Medical Education.” We want to be proactive in this area and share our best practices with our colleagues. I’ll give you an update on the meeting next week.
Speaking of best practices, at the department chair meeting this week, we discussed professionalism. There have been several examples of unprofessionalism brought to my attention, and I want to ensure that the expectations for the behavior and collegiality of all employees are clear. Our trainees and students look to us to set the example in this area, and it is imperative for us to role model professional, service-minded behavior. Professionalism must be the keystone to our culture, which will engender success.
I had the opportunity to meet with the incoming class at Welcome Weekend last week. We had about 130 students attending the program, and they were challenged to do better than our graduating class – which is a lofty goal given their USMLE scores and match record. I welcomed them to their home for the next four years, and they are excited to be here. They asked for hints and tips for success, and I told them that they must have great passion and read more than anyone else – if they do this, they can succeed in whatever they decide to do as they must drive their own success.
Along those lines, I will leave you today with this final thought: When Enzo Ferrari was asked how he had been so successful and lucky with his unparalleled line of cars and Formula 1 racing, he replied that he never believed in luck and only believed in planning, hard work, aggressive search for new knowledge, and passion. I believe this is the recipe for the Medical School’s future success.
Have a great weekend,