The University of Texas Medical School at Houston The University of Texas Medical School at Houston
May 30, 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.

Well tomorrow is the big day. One-hundred and ninety-one of our students will be making the transition to physician as they walk across the stage at the George R. Brown Convention Center. I am confident that they will continue to master skills better than anyone and always recall and share the fundamental value of medicine –that they are caring for a patient not treating a disease. Our students must remember that learning is a lifelong process, and that none of us are young enough to know everything.

I am especially looking forward to tomorrow as it is my first commencement as dean. I could not be more proud of our students and our faculty and our “special” environment that is molding such excellent and caring physicians. This is also a special day for Dr. James Willerson, as he celebrates his last Medical School commencement with us as president of the UT Health Science Center. I encourage everyone to support our students and their families by attending tomorrow at 10 a.m.

I had a good meeting this week regarding our educational program. We discussed the idea of implementing a preceptorship program for the first two years of the curriculum, which would be followed by a scholarly concentration program. We have heard from students that this type of hands-on learning and involvement early in their medical education is what they want and need. The preceptorship program not only would involve our students shadowing physicians in the community but also would encompass our Summer Research Program, which I am pleased to report is at its highest population ever, with 106 students participating this summer. This preceptorship program would provide key exposure to our students so that they will be ready to practice any specialty or primary care. Our plan is to execute this in FY09. Dr. Ian Butler made this keen observation about our students, “If you expect them to do something, they will do it. If you expect them to do something really, really well, they will do it really, really well.” I agree – our students consistently exceed our expectations and are ready for new challenges.

Speaking of students, I met a great group representing the Graduate School for Biomedical Sciences Educational Committee this week. You may know that some of our basic science faculty serve as mentors to these students. I commend our faculty for their good leadership of these exceptional students. I am impressed that both the students and the faculty have a “code of commitment,” which stresses the establishment of expectations and goals, ethics, lifelong learning, and a relationship based on trust and respect. The Medical School will continue to support the GSBS and its students, and I look forward to meeting with these talented students.

I had a good visit recently with Dr. Larry Kaiser, our incoming president of the UT Health Science Center. The more exchanges and dialogues we have, the easier his transition will be into this complex institution, which faces challenges but also has considerable strengths and is growing. These conversations will allow us to craft the direction in which he wants the UT Health Science Center to go – it’s all about planning strategically. We must establish a strong group practice, which is driven by our chairs and faculty; reassess relationships with our partners and add new partners; and effectively manage what we have. These meetings with Dr. Kaiser have been very, very positive, and I am certain that he will provide great leadership. Dr. Kaiser soon will be meeting with the Medical School leadership team – for research, education, and our clinical program. And, I will be hosting a Town Hall meeting in August and will invite Dr. Kaiser to attend. I encourage you to send your questions and ideas in advance, as you will shape this meeting – we’ll talk about what you want to talk about.

We are making progress in the recruitment of faculty in many departments, and I thank the chairs’ leadership and the support from our partners, Memorial Hermann and the Harris County Hospital District. We have secured about 10 investigators for the Medical School Expansion, and they, along with our current faculty, will compete with the best scientists in the country. We are making incredible strides with our limited resources – just imagine what we could achieve with funding like that of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.

We continue to discuss priorities for research growth and will plan to develop our current strengths and areas in which we plan new recruitments. We will continue to have our faculty exposed to donors and foundations before we start an official development campaign that will aggressively grow our research programs.

Today, I attended the Orthopaedic Update Spring Course, co-sponsored by the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery and Memorial Hermann – Texas Medical Center. More than 130 physicians and allied health care professionals from around Texas, Arkansas, California, and Minnesota attended the continuing medical education course to learn the latest protocols and advances from our UT faculty. I am pleased that they are sharing their knowledge with the community as they understand it takes multidisciplinary teams to care for these patients. They are working to increase the awareness of the high caliber of our faculty and the care that they give. They have re-emphasized their commitment to the community as it relates to the profession. I am also very proud of the three orthopaedic residents who are graduating this spring – all of whom will practice in Texas.

I am also quite proud of our first group of McGovern Scholars, who graduated from the certificate program offered by the John P. McGovern, M.D. Center for Humanities and Ethics. I had the opportunity to read the final report of one of these scholars, Joseph Lockridge, who did an amazing job outlining the history of American health care reform. He tackles this difficult subject and concludes that “public opinion should influence the direction of reform, for it is the patients that have the most at stake in this reform debate.” He, and Dr. Schultz (who was honored at the event) and I had a healthy discussion about the challenges and benefits of health care in the United States – where we have the best training for physicians, funding for research, and a highly sophisticated level of care, yet great challenges for access and prohibitive costs – and health care in a socialized European model – where medical care is easily accessible and paid for by the government, yet the level of research funding and care is lacking. Texas has the dubious ranking of first in the nation for number of uninsured children, and we must work together to change these unacceptable trends in health care. I am glad that our students are concerned and are entering the debate.

I would like to conclude today by paraphrasing some of Dr. Judianne Kellaway’s speech, which she gave at the McGovern banquet. Dr. Kellaway, assistant dean for admissions, told the graduating students, “You are ready – you know how to take a history, perform an exam, start an IV, operate a ventilator. You also know how to hold their hands. Be amazed every day that something little can change your life. When you care for your patients, ask yourself what someone extraordinary would do – ‘heal’ them in many ways.  It is not a teaching case or a disease that inspires us, but people inspire us. Keep inspiring your patients and your students as you have inspired us.”

Class of 2008, make us proud!

Have a great weekend,


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