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
Aug. 1, 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.

In this week’s issue of UT 2 Me, I am responding to some of the questions you have sent in but I have not yet answered. Please feel free to send more questions.

Q: Can we have an inside dining facility?
Space at the Medical School is at a premium. We do have the Grab N Go café on the ground floor, and have redone common eating areas so that employees have an inside place for lunch. However, we do not have plans to dedicate any of the Medical School’s real estate to additional dining, especially since there are many choices within walking distance.

Q: Why aren’t the search processes for chairs open – let everyone know who the candidate is, make the CV available?
In order for us to recruit the best chairs we can, our search processes are done quietly. This is done to protect the interests of the candidates, who may not want their institution knowing they are applying for a position here. This is the general rule for such searches conducted at UT.

Q: Why does the Surgical and Clinical Skills Center (SCSC) charge so much?
According to Dr. Eric Reichman, director of the Surgical and Clinical Skills Center, the fee structure that was set up during the planning stages of the SCSC has changed very little. The structure was based upon other institutions’ fees, and the SCSC fees are not above its peers. There are numerous fee structures based on the user being: UT residencies, UT research, an outside educational institution, an outside non-educational facility, or commercial users -- listed in increasing order of fees. The fees in no way cover the costs of the SCSC used by any particular group.

Q: Can we pay for parking for patients who are not seen by a physician when scheduled?
According to Andrew Casas, vice president and chief operating officer of UT Physicians, the decision to give a free parking ticket to a patient is left up to the office administrators. “If they brought it up to the office, they would have most likely been given a ticket unless they parked in the Plaza or TMC garage 4.  I even carry 10 with me in case I see a disgruntled patient in the lobby or something.  We don’t have a general policy for when and when not to give free parking to patients.”    

Q: Why can’t we get our own airline tickets to save the Medical School money?
Per the university’s travel Web site: The contracted travel agency, Corporate Travel Planners (CTP) must be used regardless of fund source. University Travel (CTP) must be given first option to quote State of Texas airfares and other modes of transportation.   If airfare is found outside of the contracted agency at a lower cost, (usually $50 or more, excluding the service fee) or another exception exists when arranging travel, please contact the manager of Food and Travel Services, Diane Collard, via e-mail or phone (713.500.8405) to receive advance approval to go outside of University Travel.

Q: What about cost-of-living raises for staff?
According to Kevin Dillon, executive vice president, chief operating and financial officer: “So far, employee pay raises are not the lead topic of discussion at the capitol. UT System, which sets the legislative agenda for each session on system-wide issues like tuition and pay raises, is focused more on achieving increases in formula funding (by $13.7 million per biennium) and related issues that affect our ability here at UT-Houston to provide raises. Such an increase by the Legislature in formula funding should increase departmental funding and thus enhance the ability to give employee pay raises.”

Q: How do we share good news? How do we share complaints?
We welcome your good news. If you think it is appropriate for publication, please send to If you would like to share the good work of others, the Employee Relations Committee has an employee award program. Nominations may be sent to If you have a good experience at UT Physicians that you would like to share, there also is an employee recognition award, Best Employees Program:
As far as complaints, it really depends on the venue. If it is a UT Physicians issue, you may contact the clinic in question or Diana Browning, If it is a problem with a co-worker, the supervisor should be contacted, and if it is a problem with a supervisor, Human Resources should be notified so that proper procedure may be followed. Maintenance issues should be directed to the FIXT line: 3498.

Q: What is being done for support staff?
We can never forget about our hard working support staff, and I encourage all supervisors to show their appreciation. The Employee Relations Committee presents an employee appreciation event in the fall as well as sells items (in concert with the University Classified Staff Council) to show support of employees throughout the year – from Halloween and Valentine treats to gifts for administrative professionals day.

Q: What about cashing out our unused vacation hours each year? Could we do that?
According to Kay Williamson, interim chief human resources officer, the answer is no as explained in the Texas Government Code, 661.062 Entitlement to Payment for Vacation.

Q: Can DNA (daily news access, which is displayed on the ground floor television monitors) be posted to our computer monitors?
According to Jennifer Canup, director of university Web communication, Axis TV does have the capability to stream to desktops as a screensaver or as an instant message. However, there is an additional cost per monitor to set this up, and with thousands of monitors, it is not something on which we have decided to spend our resources at this time.

Q: How can we improve research collaboration? What is being done on this front?
The Office of Research Affairs is actively engaging in enriching support for investigators and will continue to fund initiatives that focus on collaboration. Funding opportunities include the NIH K-Award supplements, the Bridging Grants, and the Just Missed grant program, which help faculty maintain current projects and compete for new awards. The annual Medical School Research Retreat, which will be held Sept. 25 at the Sarofim Research Building, also is a great opportunity to encourage collaboration.  According to Maureen Goode, administrative director of the Center for Clinical and Translational Science, one of the main goals of the CCTS is to facilitate and synergize such collaborations, at both the individual and group levels.  Through programs such as the pilot funding awards to informal referrals and weekly noon seminars, the focus is on sharing ideas and encouraging collaboration.

Q: Can we get a Web-based phone directory with beeper listing for everyone in the hospital and Medical School?
A: The student pagers are accessible online to students only. Many faculty keep their pagers private – so due to privacy issues, an online directory would not be feasible.

I know you all join me in thanking Dr. James Willerson for his leadership over the past several years and in welcoming Dr. Larry Kaiser, our new president, who starts his position today.

Have a great weekend,


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