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
June 6, 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 want to thank everyone who participated in the Medical School’s 35th commencement ceremony Saturday. It was a day that we will never forget. I am so proud of our graduated students, who are well prepared to take the next step in their careers as they train to be the best physicians they can be. As we heard from our speaker, Dr. Red Duke, it is the relationships physicians establish with their patients that are of utmost importance. And as Class President Dr. David Nolen shared, our Medical School is a special place comprised of great people working together in the support of our educational mission. Our new graduates will always be attached to this school, and I encourage them to become active alumni.

You may recall the words of Margaret Mead, who said that small groups of motivated people can change the world. Today I offer three examples of individuals who have changed our Medical School.

  • You may not have heard of Mrs. Imogen Papadopoulos – but she is founder of what has become our Medical School’s Organization of Parents and Friends. It was 1981, and she was with her son, a Medical School student, at the Shamrock Hotel. She noticed a Medical School student eating only crackers and drinking water. She asked her son what was happening, and he said it was because they did not have money for food. She took her idea of creating an emergency loan fund to the Medical School leadership, and since that time, more than $9.6 million in interest-free emergency loans have been made available to our Medical School students. These funds have gone to worthy student causes, including helping one student attend his parent’s funeral.
  • Grants 101 and 102 are two Medical School courses offered to faculty who would like guidance with the grant submitting process. Established in 2004 by a steering committee and now led by Dr. Kevin Morano, the program has had great success, resulting in better informed faculty and positive outcomes for research. More than $13 million in grants have been funded as a result of this faculty-driven initiative, which educates faculty by building upon past experiences. I would like to take this opportunity to thank Peter Davies, Executive Vice President for Research, for his leadership in this area.
  • Colt Melton, one of our new graduates and leader of our student ambassador group, has left his mark on our Medical School through a successful student-driven program aimed at improving the interview experience for prospective students. Faced with a less-than-great interview experience himself, he approached our Office of Admission and Student Affairs, which charged him with creating a program that could do better. And he did. He created 13 subcommittees to involve students, faculty, parents, and friends. Now based upon applicant surveys, there is a 100 percent satisfaction rate with the interview process – up from a 70 percent satisfaction rate prior to this initiative. I wish him the best of luck in his emergency medicine residency in Chicago and thank him for the positive changes he has created here. I know he will keep in touch with us, and I look forward to him coming back as a faculty member – his long term goal.

These are just a few ways in which individuals have made a difference in this school. Each day every one of us works hard to make this Medical School great, and I appreciate your commitment to our common goal.

As we work to grow our research program, I am asking for input of the faculty to help identify areas of opportunity. Our goal is to continue to grow our research enterprise by 5-10 percent per year. This is a group effort that will take more than resources – it takes the leadership of our committees and requires strong input regarding new faculty we would like to recruit. Our strategy is to retain our established investigators and aggressively recruit young, motivated investigators with “high-risk” and innovative projects.
We have already started growing our research program by doubling the number of K12 grants funded through the Center for Clinical and Translational Sciences – now up to four – and increasing the size of our Summer Research Program for students, with our largest class ever joining us this year. We also have created start-up packages for new investigators, revived the pilot grant program, and granted incentive payments to successful researchers. The Medical School is strongly committed to our research endeavors, and it shows.

Research will be one area of focus for our upcoming fund-raising campaign that will kick off with the arrival of our new President Dr. Larry Kaiser.  We will need everyone’s help to share the potential of this school. Our alumni giving rate has already made great progress – up 2.3 percent from 1 percent. Philanthropy will help us expand and maintain our excellent status.

Our newest group of ambassadors, the Medical School Advisory Council, will help us reach out into the community and share our message, as well as support us in our philanthropic work. I am pleased to welcome this talented group into the Medical School family, and I want to especially thank Drew Kanaly and Barry Lewis for their leadership of this important council. I look forward to working with them, as we have our first meeting next week, and I know that they will be so proud when they look back and see what their efforts will mean for our school.

I want to thank one of the newest members of the Health Science Center Development Board, Denis Braham, of Winstead Attorneys, who brought in a group of young and talented people today. He explained how his organization is a lot like a medical school or hospital with triage for patients (they call them clients), and their strong belief in interdisciplinary teams. Their goal is to bring new values and innovations to the community – which is a great example of how our goals and missions are aligned.

On the clinical front, I want to make you aware of our development of UT Physicians at the building at 6700 West Loop South, at the intersection of 610 and Bellaire. Instead of just offering imaging services at this location, we are expanding women’s, family practice, surgery, and bariatric surgery here, as well as increasing our imaging services. Awareness of our new facility is important, and we must promote these services not only to our group practice but also out in the community.

Compliance issues in the clinical arena are of paramount importance and scrutiny. We must follow all rules as there is great liability for faculty, the institution, and the stability of the group practice for doing otherwise. We need the help, ownership, and accountability of our Medical School chairs, faculty, and staff that must be committed to our compliance effort. Physician auditing regarding Medicare documentation – as it links from the physician to the hospital to the patient – will begin June 16 as it relates to observation status and inpatient admission management. We are teaming up with the hospital to provide education, monitoring, and management for all faculty, staff, fellows, residents, and students. We cannot tolerate a superficial approach to compliance. Five states have been audited on these measures and close to $300 million in refunds will have to be made to Medicare as a result.

We are making tremendous progress on our operating agreement with the Harris County Hospital District (HCHD). They are very supportive of our new staffing model, and we are engaged with them on strategic planning. We want to improve access to specialists and deliver care at LBJ Hospital that is as good as anywhere in the city, and the HCHD is strongly behind our commitment to quality service and growth. The differences presented with the Memorial Hermann negotiations will not be easy to reconcile in a short period of time. We remain positive that a resolution that will not compromise or alter our teaching and clinical services will be reached.

We also are seeking input on the faculty compensation plan. As I have said many times, our goal there is to create a fair and transparent plan that rewards productivity. The compensation committee has approved an immediate change in augmentation for researchers. This change, when formally approved by UT System, will clearly benefit our funded investigators and the school as the augmentation can be considered in the base salary calculation for NIH grants. We are also looking at ways to restructure the plan for our scientists so that it supports research and productivity.

I had a great dinner this week with the Office of Communications. They thanked the administration for what has been done for their office, and I absolutely believe that we need their quality and passion to advance this Medical School.

A reminder that hurricane season is upon us. We may feel experienced in this area, having survived Tropical Storm Allison, but we also have learned to respect nature, which can be powerful and unpredictable. Please do your part to be prepared this season.

Have a great weekend,



For archives of this newsletter, visit the Dean's Communications homepage.