The University of Texas Medical School at Houston The University of Texas Medical School at Houston
June 13, 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.

You may be seeing more of incoming President Dr. Larry Kaiser around campus this summer before he officially takes office Aug. 1. He has been visiting the campus to meet with leadership, take tours, and visit with different constituent groups. This week he introduced himself at our first Medical School Advisory Council meeting and visited our inpatient facilities, which impressed him greatly. Dr. Kaiser will have a faculty appointment in cardiovascular surgery and a secondary appointment in surgery – he can’t wait to practice in our operating rooms. I had the opportunity to discuss the faculty compensation plan with him, as well as our progress on our operating agreements with Memorial Hermann – Texas Medical Center and Lyndon B. Johnson Hospital. I also gave him an update on the financial state of our departments, opportunities in the city, and we talked about the issue of marketing to increase the visibility of UT Physicians in our community. Dr. Kaiser is working hard to be engaged, and he is the type to lead by example – I look forward to his permanent arrival.

I want to thank the attendees of our first Medical School Advisory Council meeting this week – Drew Kanaly is providing great leadership to this organization. The purpose of this group is to serve as ambassadors of our school out in the community, as all of you do, and to help support us in scholarship and research growth. We want to give this group great access to our school and our great people so that they will share the good word with their colleagues, friends, and family. With their help, we will go after our goals and discover, reach, accomplish, achieve, obtain, and realize them – or “raggiungere,” as Drew Kanaly said in Italian. We plan to have dean roundtable meetings with small groups of these ambassadors to receive their input and to give them access to our accomplished faculty and students who will be honored to share their knowledge of prevention and state-of-the-art treatments for human disorders relevant to our society.

Dr. James Willerson

On Wednesday evening, I attended a magnificent dinner and program in honor of President Jim Willerson and his commitment to “world’s best.” It was an unbelievable evening, with the history of medicine and the financial history of Houston present – the overall “energy and intellectual power” in that room was truly impressive. Everyone came out to give their best regards to Dr. Willerson, who has shown us the true human values of caring and compassion. He has an incredible work ethic, and he has had the vision and persistence to accomplish his goals on our behalf. There were several inspiring speeches given, and Dr. Denton Cooley, Dr. Michael DeBakey, and Lex Frieden all delivered very touching messages. I know we are up to the challenge, as delivered by Dr. DeBakey, “The better your school gets, the better our school will be.” We thank Dr. Willerson for helping us get to where we are today – this is a great start to even greater potential.

The concept of a “graveyard shift” is nothing new to medicine, but it is one that is living up to its name, according to a recent article from the New England Journal of Medicine. The quality and safety of care alarmingly differs depending upon the daytime versus the nighttime or weekend. We must remember that although our house staff is the front line during these hours, the practice of medicine is not a shift job. It is a profession, and the physicians must take ownership of their patients and their conditions and be responsive to them, no matter the hour. Our faculty and staff have the ultimate responsibility to the health of their patients. We cannot afford to have a circadian variation in supervision and care if we want to have the highest quality and safety.

I want to remind you that Monday, June 16, Medicare will begin auditing physicians in Texas related to physician documentation and how it matches with inpatient/observation status and medical necessity. This program netted $247.4 million in improper Medicare payments from New York, Florida, and California last year.  We will host training and town hall meetings and will arm our clinical chairs with presentations for their faculty meetings. UT Physicians has made progress in the proper documentation of our billing, and we need to monitor the changing laws to respect and match the hospital billing.

You may have remembered that this week marks our seventh anniversary of Tropical Storm Allison. Kevin Dillon did a nice write-up in his UT Matters newsletter about the storm’s impact on our school. That disaster showed how we were able, with Dr. Willerson’s leadership, to overcome significant challenges, which led to our Surgical and Clinical Skills Center, a redone Webber Plaza, a new lobby and basement, and our six-story Medical School Expansion.

In the news this week there were stories of Harvard Medical School faculty who allegedly did not disclose all income received from a pharmaceutical company. We have a very strict policy for the Medical School regarding such disclosures, and the committee drafting our conflict of interest policy regarding pharmaceutical companies will be sure to highlight this topic in their policy.

This week, I had the opportunity to meet the national champions of the 2008 Mind Games competition – three of our own psychiatry residents (all of whom are alumni of the Medical School). Dr. Tanya Krolls, Dr. Peter Ly, and Dr. Magdalena Peixoto told me of the great educational experience and intensity of the training they are receiving in their chosen specialty. They were very complimentary of the faculty, who went out of their way to give them training to help them prepare for this national competition, which is sponsored by the American Psychiatric Association. Number one in the country! Next year, they will be back to win again.

A special thank you and best of luck goes to Dr. Brenda Morris, a neonatologist, who is leaving UT to move to Tyler to practice. She exemplifies caring and dedication to her patients and her family – Brenda and her husband have recently adopted six children. She is truly an incredible woman, and I wish her the best!

The KHOU-TV Spirit of Texas Food Drive kicks off in the Texas Medical Center next week. Boxes already have been placed throughout the Medical School for this worthy cause – all donations go to the Houston Food Bank. This is a great way to show the community how we care.

Have a great weekend,


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