The University of Texas Medical School at Houston The University of Texas Medical School at Houston
July 18, 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.

This week, as you know, the medical community suffered the loss of two outstanding innovators and supporters: Dr. Michael DeBakey and Roy Huffington. I had the opportunity to attend the historical event of Dr. DeBakey’s services Wednesday, and I saw Dr. Jim Willerson and Dr. Hazim Safi as well as lots of friends and colleagues of Dr. DeBakey’s. I think Dr. Richard Wainerdi said it best, “Look around you. The Texas Medical Center is his monument. Even more, you’ll find it in the hearts and minds of people everywhere, because Dr. DeBakey’s monument is the human heart and what he did to make it stronger.”

There was so much admiration, respect, and gratitude in that room for the professional and human values that Dr. DeBakey has taught. It is the highest accomplishment of any academic faculty member  to have trained people who become leaders in their field. There is nothing more gratifying. Dr. DeBakey taught us that we can set a goal and achieve it. This is the same sentiment that made Mr. Huffington so successful. He was a pioneer, and our school is grateful for his generous support.  He and his family have been particularly supportive of our neurology and gerontology programs, and we appreciate his legacy of giving.

I thank you all for the questions and comments you have sent, and I encourage everyone to continue send in their most chronic unsolved challenges and new program ideas that we can address. While we strive for open communication, there are many things that we do not see, and need your eyes and ears so that we can be the best that we can be.

One such question this week addressed the proposed Medicare cutbacks and our clinical payor mix. We are thankful to those who have responded to the threat of Medicare cutbacks – as they have been averted for now. We will have to protect the reimbursements of our doctors, and with our graduate medical education program underfunded, any cuts on reimbursements will markedly compromise our service and be a blow to accessible care. At the same time, we do have to respect the funding polices and be accessible, providing the good experience for which the state is paying us.

This has been a slow month for charges and payments. Our Medical School is heavily dependent upon the productivity of our faculty at all levels – our clinical revenues support our teaching and research missions. I encourage our faculty to keep applying for grants – it’s like fund-raising, if you don’t ask, you won’t get. We must also remember that clinical service is not seasonal. I know we all want to take our vacations in the summer, but we must keep access to our clinical services open, and we will not compromise our patient care.

Now that our two contracts are signed, we expect to release the final budget structure for FY09 early next week. The administration is here to help monitor and manage operations to allow growth to progress, and budget adjustments will be made for those departments with compelling stories for enhanced productivity and financial responsibility.

We acknowledge and are grateful for the support of our partners, and we need to deliver. Growth, good service, good payor mix, and delivering quality measures – these are universal requests. I applaud several of our chairs and faculty who have reached out to private practices and other institutes to promote growth: Dr. Susan Ramin has promoted her maternal/fetal program throughout the city, Dr. David McPherson is offering his services throughout the community in private practices, Dr. Jim Grotta has established telemedicine stroke coverage as far as San Antonio, and Dr. Dong Kim has been bringing his neuroscience program to the suburbs and throughout the city. These are just a few examples of how we are thinking outside of the box. We will have a team from UT Physicians to advise us on such growth – the community is ready for us.

There must be a tight link between productivity and compensation so that we can “survive” and be competitive. There is ongoing discussion regarding incentive research payments, and we must be accountable with our funded efforts – especially as they compare to our peer institutions. Our new President Dr. Larry Kaiser is in line with our ambitious mandate and has been emphasizing authority, accountability, and productivity.

I also had a question this week about resident funding, which I touched on in last week’s issue. We are enjoying new graduate medical education support from the Legislature, which translates into about 30 new positions. We will request more funding from the Legislature in this area so that we can build up our quality programs. Dr. Patricia Butler and her office will be meeting with our chairs to review the state of our programs in light of our recent site visits. We must plan and incorporate new initiatives into our programs. I have attended meetings of residents who love our faculty, are very pleased with our patient population, but who have requests such as parking, meals, and discretionary funds. We must be sensitive to their requests and plan for changes so that we can remain competitive.

Another comment this week regarded the status of clinical programs at LBJ Hospital. I will be meeting today with Dr. Larry Kaiser, Kevin Dillon, and David Lopez to further implement our new contract, which will allow for strategic growth. The president, the majority of chairs, and I all will be practicing at LBJ – this is our commitment to our patients, residents, and students.

We had a great celebration this week in honor of someone who always keeps his patients and students at the forefront – Dr. Richard Ruiz. He will be stepping down as chair of the Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Science Aug. 31 after 37 years, but he will remain on faculty and has said he will continue to support his department and our school. He has been a strong, loyal leader of this school who was prepared with his teaching programs before the school even existed. He set the highest bar for the standards of care and offers all patients the best clinical care, with the latest in clinical research. He is a shining example of what our Medical School is – an academic environment inclusive of the community.

UT Physicians also is committed to providing the best experience in the city, and to help achieve this mission we have enlisted patient focus groups to help guide and prioritize areas of need. Everyone is responsible for helping with patient access – it is a team effort. We all have to smile, show courtesy – these are the cultural changes that must happen. As they say, it’s the little things that make the difference between good and great.

We are looking forward to adding Dr. Kaiser to our faculty. Houston and the Texas Medical Center will greatly benefit from this internationally-known thoracic surgeon – now our President. Although we look up to him for leadership of our health science center, he is trained as an educator and a clinician, and we will learn from his skills and expertise. He is intent on closely collaborating with our specialties. We will have the best of both worlds, as Dr. Jim Willerson will remain on our clinical faculty as well.

Speaking of leaders, I want to leave you with some thoughts about leadership. Good leaders bring people together, don’t split groups, and engage and empower the right people to do their jobs. I encourage our chairs to be engaged and respectful with their faculty and staff as we move forward in our budget process.

Have a great weekend,


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