The University of Texas Medical School at Houston The University of Texas Medical School at Houston
July 11, 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 hope everyone had a great holiday last week. This week has certainly been busy and productive.

I am pleased to report that the contract for our clinical and educational services at LBJ Hospital, known as the Affiliated Medical Services (AMS) contract, and the contract for our clinical and educational services at Memorial Hermann – Texas Medical Center, known as the Annual Operating Agreement (AOA), have been signed. I want to thank the leadership of these affiliated institutions, as well as our UT employees, whose hard work made these contracts a reality. These agreements do not mark the end, but rather the beginning of our new partnerships with these institutions.

The AMS agreement will require leadership and management by the chiefs of services and the chairmen. The county can be assured that the UT Physicians will provide the best care in the nation for its patient population, regardless of site. We have a strong commitment from the Harris County Hospital District to maintain our teaching program at LBJ and its affiliated clinics, and we will continue to strategically plan for quality growth.

With our AOA, it is critical that all leaders and faculty in the Texas Medical Center campus realize that the delivery of health care and access must change in the next few years due to costs and our national benchmarks in quality rankings. The issue of “bundle payments,” whereby a patient will receive one bill – not individual statements from the hospital, clinic, physician, and other providers – will occur in the next few years. Therefore, we have a narrow window for full integration with our partners. The payment won’t get any bigger, so we must create efficient care and consolidate services as we pursue quality service and meet quality indicators.

Academic medicine will drive cost containment and unparallel care in the future of health care. We have more than 800 physicians, sharing their knowledge with trainees and linked to a growing research effort that works to bring the latest treatments and findings to the bedside. We will be leading health care in the state, and we will make our case before the Legislature for its support of this endeavor.

We also will be approaching the Legislature specifically on graduate medical education funding – there is a tremendous shortage on this front. Right now, our funding is $5,600 per resident per year – but the need is $16,000 per resident per year. As we increase our medical school student population and work to maintain our ACGME accreditation as well as meet the growing demand for physicians, GME funding is crucial.

I hope you have had the opportunity to see the latest issue of the Medical School’s magazine, UT-Houston Medicine, with the beautiful cover and article about President Jim Willerson. His vision, persistence, and drive to achieve excellence have been constant – think about all of the good he has done. He recently said that he will be here to help each one of us, “until I can’t breathe, until I can’t walk, until I can’t talk.” The Medical School is tremendously grateful for his leadership and vision. I encourage all clinical faculty to attend the next meeting of the Medical Service, Research and Development Board (MSRDP) at 4 p.m. July 24 in MSB 2.103. Dr. Willerson will attend the meeting – and he “does not plan to say farewell."

Another event I encourage all faculty, residents, and fellows to attend is the annual student retreat, which will be held Aug. 15-16 at Camp Allen.  The second-year class is working hard to create a retreat full of fun and fellowship to set the tone of medical school for our incoming class, as well as to prepare them for the hard work ahead. I hear this is one of the best retreats in the country, and I am looking forward in participating in my retreat and first skit. I hope to see you there to help introduce our new students to our Medical School family – contact for details.

Another recent accomplishment for the Medical School was the posting of our entire redesigned department Web sites. They look fantastic! I applaud the leadership of the Office of Communications and thank everyone who provided input on these sites. We will not micromanage the look and feel of our sites, but we do want consistency and standards so that we may project a face that reflects the quality and stature of our people and programs. The community is looking at us, and this marks the beginning of our strong campaign to increase the awareness of the Medical School among many constituents.

We also have two new department chairs in our midst: Dr. John Hancock, Department of Integrative Biology and Pharmacology, and Dr. Carin Hagberg, Department of Anesthesiology. Dr. Hancock is a very strong professional who has a genetic vision for excellence. He received more than 200 applications for new faculty positions, and the three offers he made to the top candidates were all accepted. Dr. Hagberg, one of our alumni, is a very energetic and passionate faculty member who has been persistent in her dream to become a chair. She has built strong relationships with students, residents, and faculty, and they support her new mission for the academic and clinical programs of the department. Both of these chairs represent the excellence and the direction in which we are heading together as the Medical School.

I have a strong impression that recruiting faculty to our Medical School recently has become easier for many reasons – such as the leadership of our chairs and the value we place on strong people who care about the success of our educational programs and our quality core measures for patients. We just hired 10 new faculty for our new research space – all of whom are tremendously talented. The larger strength of our city, which Kiplinger’s recently listed as the number one city for 2008, also is helping our recruiting trend. Our stronger economy, cost of living, recreational opportunities, and power of energy and oil, all help to elevate the position of the Medical School and the UT Health Science Center. As we continue to strive to be among the best, we will attract strong chairs, faculty, and staff who all believe there is something special here.

I had the opportunity to speak to a group of young people this week, who were part of the National Youth Leadership Foundation. They were impressed by our Medical School and the Texas Medical Center, and we have already received e-mails regarding their interests in participating in our student research programs. This is a wonderful example of how we are engaging young people in the field of medicine and introducing them to our great school.

I was happy to have input from and about staff this week – keep it coming! A student wrote in about the caring attitude and commitment of the Learning Resource Center staff.  “It makes a tremendous difference to have caring, cheerful staff around when one is under the stress of preparing for Step 1,” wrote the third-year student. I agree. The LRC staff is doing a great job being available to students 24 hours a day and catering to their studying needs. Whether it is a pair of earplugs or the latest study guide or pre-test, students know they can count on the LRC.

A staff member wrote in this week about the great contributions of our own Dr. Donald Parks, director of the Division of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, who specializes in burn care. “The majority of his patients are indigent, self-pay individuals – but to Dr. Parks – every patient is royalty and is treated as such! … He is the ultimate educator – the medical students and residents enjoy working with him and are always stating that to me.”  Dr. Parks is a dedicated physician who shows his passion and motivation for severely ill people with devastating burns every day – what a wonderful difference he makes. We are proud to have such caring individuals at the Medical School – indeed, this is what makes our environment so special.

A recent report from the Association of American Colleges (AAMC) points to the importance of faculty feedback. The pulse of the faculty is taken via surveys, and we are trying to engage everyone with open communication. But surveys alone will not have an impact on our environment unless they are discussed and the issues prioritized. The involvement and the expectations of faculty are of paramount importance for the Medical School leadership. Daily communications and actions speak louder than surveys, and I encourage everyone to speak up.

Have a great weekend,


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