The University of Texas Medical School at Houston The University of Texas Medical School at Houston
June 27, 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 for their feedback about Dr. Herbert Fred, whose teaching methods I mentioned in last week’s issue. Dr. Fred has committed three decades to improving our educational program, and I applaud him and all of our faculty who work to strengthen our Socratic teaching style – pairing irreplaceable bedside teaching with new technological advancements. Faculty told me how they, too, manage to emulate the traditional methods of teaching and patient care in our modern world. “While I am a big advocate of EMRs, technology cannot take the place of a methodical, human approach to a patient’s diagnosis,” wrote Dr. Gage Van Horn, professor of neurology. “Computers can regurgitate data, but they do not possess executive function.”  I concur. I, too, am “old fashioned” when it comes to the care of our patients. I believe building a rapport with our patients is one of the most important things we, as physicians, can do.

I am so proud of our school’s accomplishments, which are being recognized on the national level. Our student chapter of the Texas Medical Association/American Medical Association was named the best chapter in the nation last week. What a terrific job these student leaders do! And our own Dr. Keith Hoots has been named director of the Division of Blood Diseases and Resources at the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute. He is one of the best hematologists you can find, and although we will be sad to see him leave, this is an incredible accomplishment that speaks well not only of his expertise but also of the high caliber our faculty.

We had a visit this week from representatives of the Texas Cancer Initiative – the state funded program, which will have a $3 billion budget. The program will focus on prevention, early diagnosis and intervention, basic and translational laboratory research, creating a state cancer registry, and other initiatives, which will provide an enormous boost for cancer research and care in our state. The strength of our institution – with 800 physicians, 1 million patient visits a year, and our partnerships with Memorial Hermann, LBJ Hospital, and our community clinics –  puts us in a strong position to aid in this ambitious mission. In addition, we have successful collaborations with the other schools of the UTHSC, MDACC, and the Brown Foundation Institute of Molecular Medicine – each of which can take a leadership role in this initiative. Our UT Health Science Center provides a powerful infrastructure and will provide important contributions to the issues posed by the Texas Cancer Initiative.

This morning I was pleased to welcome our newest group of residents. They have an incredible opportunity for learning and teaching here, and I know they will be excited to receive their first paycheck as a physician. I encourage them to make each clinical encounter special and to learn as much as they can from our talented faculty and our “incomparable” patient population.

We are fortunate to enjoy a large number of applicants to our school and to our residency and fellowship positions. We have to ensure that these selective candidates are successful while they are here. The same approach must be used when it comes to our staff. We want to make sure we have the right person for the job – staff must be carefully selected not only for their skills but for the appropriate fit into our culture. When selecting our staff, we go beyond the human resources job description and look to build teams that work well together and contribute to the overall environment. I encourage staff to share their special accomplishments and initiatives, so we can see examples of great teamwork. I also would like to meet with representatives from the Classified Staff Council so that we can have more involvement from our staff and recognize them for what they do.

I have begun the reviews of our department chairs. I want to remind the chairs that the success of their department is driven by the success of their faculty. Mentoring junior faculty and promoting the career development of their faculty is their most important job. It is easy for me, and the administration, to support a chair who is strong, armed with a vision, ambitious, and cares about research and education, in addition to our clinical mission.

The teaching RVU system continues to be a challenge. We do not expect faculty to be evaluated solely by the teaching RVU formula as it presently exists – their “value” cannot be measured that way. As you know, incentivizing and paying faculty boils down to resources – we are committed to ask the Legislature to increase our state funding, and we are aggressively negotiating our contracts with Memorial Hermann and LBJ. We are sensitive to these difficult times at the National Institutes of Health, and we are pleased to have a profitable group practice this year. The RVU system has been a good exercise for us to look more closely at our revenue streams and prepare for controlled growth driven by quality and strategic planning.

I want to call your attention to the Office of Technology Management. This office has the capabilities to assist our scientists in translating their ideas into patented products available to the community and generating royalty income for the UT Health Science Center. The office has executed more than 200 license/operation agreements, and nearly $4 million was brought in last fiscal year in royalty/license fee income.

We are almost at our July 1 deadline for the department Web sites to be redesigned. I encourage everyone to review these sites and to provide feedback. Now that we have a beautiful face to the world, we must make sure it continues to grow and be populated with accurate information.

I encourage everyone to welcome the new dean of the School of Public Health, Dr. Roberta Ness, who will start Jan. 1, 2009. An outstanding leader, Dr. Ness is a great asset to the UT Health Science Center, and we will make sure she has an appointment at the Medical School and will engage with our program at any level. Building on the strong foundation and vision provided by Dean Guy Parcel, we expect the School of Public Health to reach new heights with her talent and expertise.

I am happy to report that the work on the conflict of interest policy with pharmaceutical companies is nearly complete. There has been much media attention on this topic as of late, and I read an interesting commentary in the latest issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association, which is titled “Everyone’s a Little Bit Biased (Even Physicians).” The article points out the inherent bias of humans – a character flaw that we all share and is often hard to overcome. I admit, I am completely biased toward the Medical School!

Have a safe and fun July 4 holiday. UT 2 Me will return July 11.

Have a great weekend,


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