The University of Texas Medical School at Houston
The University of Texas Medical School at HoustonThe University of Texas Medical School at Houston
The University of Texas Medical School at Houston
May 2, 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 hearing from staff that they want to become more involved and integrated with the Medical School and in this communication. I welcome you to submit your activities, good stories, challenges, and requests for help that you need from administration. As always, I thank you for your good work and encourage your feedback.

UT Physicians coders and data entry workers received a congratulatory lunch last week for their improved performance. According to Andrew Casas, vice president and chief operating officer of UTP, they have been coding cleaner and are more efficient than ever, which is great news – congratulations!

Speaking of good news, I was never so proud of our medical school than I was on Saturday, when I stopped by the first-year students’ service project. More than 150 students, faculty, and volunteers helped to revitalize a home for more than 30 women with AIDS. The women wanted new landscape with a grill, fixes to their dining area, and a computer with Internet access. I was too happy to donate the computer, and I am so pleased with our outstanding representation – these volunteers are great ambassadors for our school.

I attended a council of deans meeting in San Antonio this week, where again I heard the alarming news about our projected physician shortage. We need 30 percent more physicians in Texas by 2015, and Texas ranks 42nd in number of physicians per 100,000 people. In primary care, the numbers of our physicians rank 49th nationally. We need 56,000 physicians in Texas by 2020 to remain at our ranking of 42nd. The good news is that nationally, Texas ranks second in terms of where medical school graduates train – 60 percent of our graduates stay in Texas. And, 80 percent of our students who graduate from medical school as well as complete their residency in Texas stay and practice in Texas.

How can we meet this seemingly insurmountable need? Early exposure to medicine is critical to address this predicted shortfall. Bringing in students early, when they are in high school, like our Anatomy Enrichment Program does, is a great start. Other medical schools in our state have expanded their preceptor programs, giving medical students one-on-one mentoring and contact earlier in their medical education. Students want this early involvement, and having a preceptor program in the first and second years of medical education – creating that spark of chemistry between a student and a specialty - would flow nicely into a scholarly concentration program for the third and fourth years. I encourage your feedback on this issue, as we must work together to solve this health care challenge.  As I have quoted the Chinese proverb, “Tell me and I will forget. Show me and I may remember. Involve me and I will understand."

During the month of May, we will be celebrating those who best demonstrate this quote with our annual teaching excellence awards. Check Scoop each week for news about these outstanding educators.

Thank you for your feedback on our UT Physicians tagline. I was interested to receive feedback last week, which challenged the “700 doctors, 80 specialties, individual care” tagline, saying such a large group does not lend itself to individualized care. I believe the honest concept of personalized medicine is having a caring, highly qualified doctor establish the physician-patient relationship. The number of physicians will not determine an individual’s experience, which happens from the minute you make an appointment. Our physicians and staff are very personalized, and UT Physicians must reflect the caring culture of personalized medicine. Historically, the concept of service for academic faculty has been a struggle. Times have changed, and we know patients will only return if their experience is of high quality. The integration of new knowledge and technology in genetics and pharmacogenomics will bring more personalization to our patient’s medical treatment. There is another tagline for your feedback: UT Physicians – The Present of Future Health. And again, I encourage you to submit one of your own.

The postdoctoral association leadership and I met this week to discuss promotion and integration of our postdocs. There are about 150 postdocs throughout the UT Health Science Center, and I applaud their initiative as they work together to create career development programs and mentoring opportunities.

I want to thank the Medical School and Darla Brown, director of the Office of Communications, who nominated me, for the International  Association of Business Communicators Executive Communicator of the Year Award. Through increased communication, we have tried to involve every one of you and help to demystify the operation of the Medical School. We want to change your minds – the finance department doesn’t bite! The administrators are fully supportive of the ambitious mission of our great institution. It is you, the Medical School family, who has the stories and does the talking, and thank you for sharing your good news.

We had a terrific turnout for the first Dean’s Outreach Visit, which was held at the River Oaks Country Club this week. Our alumni from the Houston area, as well as some of our supporters, were invited to hear an overview of the school and the status of our fund-raising initiatives. I strongly believe that the school is poised for success – and it goes beyond enthusiasm and passion, it takes quality in pursuit of our ambitious mandate. Let’s start with a large number of scholarships for our highly talented students.

I am looking forward to attending the School of Public Health commencement today. I will be with them to congratulate them and encourage them to stay and further their collaborations with the Medical School. The School of Public Health is a well-known and respected program throughout Texas and the nation. Congratulations to these soon-to-be graduates!

The research incentive awards are being released, following a very difficult analysis. The final decision has been made for allocations for investigators in clinical departments, and I will ask the chairs to assist with the distribution of this (limited) funding. Next year, we hope to have an incentive plan for individuals who, although somewhat sheltered by the financial performance of their department, will be linked to the productivity of research programs and indirect cost recovery dollars. I have called a meeting with the compensation committee to reassess the manner in which we award research in clinical departments. As it stands now, we do not have the funding for an incentive award program that is satisfactory to our faculty – however it will be there, we want to incentivize.

Following the May 21 Annual Faculty Meeting, Dan Wolterman, president and CEO of Memorial Hermann Healthcare System, will host a town hall meeting with our faculty to discuss future plans and our partnership. This is a very timely meeting, which I hope you will attend. We will need to be strategic in our plans with Memorial Hermann due to the increasing financial challenges of health care facilities throughout the country. This feeling has been pervasive and has affected our system, with the financial performance of Memorial Hermann – Texas Medical Center declining. There has been some “softening” of patient volume over the last six months.

In light of these observations, the annual operating agreement negotiations will be challenging as we continue to seek strategic growth of our programs. Just as a patient will give signals to a physician before they are admitted to the intensive care unit -- now is the time for us to mechanistically understand where the problems lie regarding this national issue.

We continue to see satisfactory results with our group practice plan, and remain cautiously optimistic about our stability and growth in light of our new and strategic partnership with Memorial Hermann and Harris County Hospital District.

Have a great weekend,



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