The University of Texas Medical School at Houston The University of Texas Medical School at Houston
May 23, 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.

We had a great turnout for the Annual Faculty Meeting this week, and I want to thank those of you who joined us. If you were not able to attend, please see the video link to the meeting on the Medical School homepage. There you may also download the Annual Faculty Meeting handout.

I was pleased to have Juanita Romans, CEO of Memorial Hermann – Texas Medical Center, and Dan Wolterman, CEO of Memorial Hermann Healthcare System, speak at our meeting. Dan told us that Memorial Hermann is strong, yet it is stronger through its affiliation with the Medical School. The faculty have told me they welcome Memorial Hermann’s strong leadership, participation and this positive message. It takes planning to have a successful partnership with Memorial Hermann, and as I said at the meeting, expect to see more of Dan around our school as we develop this plan. We welcome this re-engaged role of the MHH leadership with our faculty and chairs. Dan and Juanita have a strong desire to incorporate the new knowledge and technology generated by our academic center into an already established, large healthcare system with the goals of improving patient health and saving lives. Several of our faculty have told me they would like the opportunity to practice as a UT physician in their community; this is something that could be achieved through a stronger partnership with Memorial Hermann. We also are reviewing a proposal to create an outstanding clinical tenure tract to promote the powerful alliance of safety and quality measures within our large academic structure. The alignment of our talented physicians and scientists with the expertise and quality-driven programs of our hospitals would result in an incredibly powerful win for health care in our state.

Two of our students, soon-to-be Drs. Hillary Skelton and Rhet Langley, reported at the meeting, sharing with us their thanks for their education. In my book, that was better than any video or photo we could have shown.

I want to thank Dr. Henry Strobel, associate dean for faculty affairs, for reminding us of the three C’s: communication, collaboration, and courtesy. These three values are applicable to each of us, no matter what role we play in the success of this medical school.

We celebrated teaching excellence yesterday at our annual Teaching Awards Reception. This year’s winners clearly demonstrate excellent teaching and the specific attributes of their award: Dr. Cheves Smythe, winner of the Herbert L. and Margaret W. DuPont Master Clinical Teaching Award, which promotes the legacy of clinical education; Dr. Han Zhang, winner of the John H. Freeman Award, which is given for enthusiasm and excellence in basic science education; Dr. Eugene Toy, winner of the John P. McGovern Award, which celebrates the humanistic  aspects of clinical teaching; Dr. Pedro Mancias, who received the Leonard Tow Humanism in Medicine Award for his display of compassionate medicine; and Dr. Octavio Pinell received the Minnie Stevens Piper Professorship, a state award for overall educational excellence. I congratulate all of our winners and all of our educators who are passionate about sharing knowledge with our students. Believe me, your students thank you.

When it comes to our educational program, we must strive to be innovative, not reactionary or passive. I spoke to Dr. Max Buja, executive vice president for academic affairs, this week about the UT System initiative led by Dr. John Stobo, former president of UTMB, to create a repository for state-of-the art curricula and new cases. This knowledge and tools would be accessible by all faculty and students within the UT System. We want to be a leader in this initiative and improve our efficiencies through this communication and collaboration (two of the three C’s).

Communication and collaboration comprise the backbone of our Center for Clinical and Translational Sciences. By pooling resources and information, we can create great efficiencies. This is also in line with finding solutions to our everyday issues – such as rising gas prices. Talk with each other, drive with each other – we have to use our survival skills in these tougher times. I support the mobility initiatives recently outlined by Kevin Dillon, vice president, chief operating and financial officer, which speak to these specific issues, and I encourage all of our employees to take advantage of them.

You might know that Kevin was awarded CFO of the Year, Large Nonprofit, by the Houston Business Journal. He was cited for leading the financial improvements of the health science center; for his key role in negotiating new agreements for physician services; and for reorganizing reporting lines to the Office of Finance. Kevin has many talents, and our relationship is based on trust and transparency. Through a close relationship with the CFO, our school has demonstrated growth and stability in research, our educational program, and through our clinical practice. The strength of our school in these areas, especially during these hard times, is remarkable. We can all take pride in that. Thank you, Kevin, for your leadership!

With Kevin’s leadership of improving operations and enhancing communications, we have been able to disperse $2.3 million in faculty incentives. Several faculty members have not seen salary adjustments for years due to the performance of the practice plan. Creating a credible compensation plan has been a priority in these last six months, and we have relied on faculty input and feedback. We strive to be more efficient with how we manage our group practice and are more carefully looking at expenses. We are not done yet – we need about two years in the context of this culture change to have better ownership of our billing and collections and to improve efficiencies to the point that we can grow ourselves through investments and the redistribution of funds. I would like to see us with a substantial margin to invest in ourselves, and I think we can do that if we work together to maximize efficiencies and integrate operations. We must improve our operations in clinical services, review the compensation of funded investigators, and better manage our contracts with affiliated institutions.

We have committed our new state graduate medical education funds to support more than 40 new resident positions. I am looking forward to closure with Memorial Hermann on the final number of residency positions and a proposed salary adjustment – especially since our residents will be here in six weeks. Just as we fight for faculty compensation, our residents deserve the same treatment.

I told you last week about the dinner I hosted for our department chairs. As chair of the Department of Pediatrics, I hosted a dinner for our division directors. One of the directors said that the reason we have little turnover in pediatrics is because the faculty feel like they are part of the family. One director said after being on vacation for two weeks, he couldn’t wait to come back home and “drive down Fannin.” As Dr. John Ribble has said, there is something special about this place – an attitude of caring, something that brings people together.  Keep up the great work!

It is my aim to re-engage our alumni through a series of “road trips” to Fort Worth, Austin, Dallas, and San Antonio. We need the support and involvement of our alumni – they are such an important part of this school. On these trips I will be bringing students, faculty, and former deans with me, as we share the good news of our Medical School. We began this effort with an event in Houston, and already our alumni giving rates have almost doubled – to approximately 2 percent now. This contribution is still too little for your great medical school.

Enjoy your Memorial Day and be safe.

Have a great weekend,


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