The University of Texas Medical School at Houston The University of Texas Medical School at Houston
August 16, 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 have wondered why you did not receive UT 2 Me in your e-mail
yesterday. I have spent yesterday and this morning at the annual student
retreat - and I wanted to give you a full account of this great tradition,
which I have now experienced for the first time.

The Medical School student retreat started in the summer of 1976 as an idea
to welcome students and create a sense of normalcy for the first-year
students, who were coming to a medical school that had just been flooded
(yes, that was the first flood). A group of faculty and students, including
Dr. Henry Strobel, decided that a student retreat would help pave the way of
an excellent teaching program. This great idea, which has evolved over 30
years, exemplifies the importance of our teaching mission. Teaching is the
engine that runs this school, and our students are its pulse.

That this group of faculty had the resilience to overcome a disastrous flood
with an innovative idea to introduce the incoming students to the school and
each other shows their strength, their great planning, and their dedication
to the students. The first student retreat was held in 1977 for the incoming

I have heard of the retreat, but I am so pleased to have experienced it
first-hand this year. All I can say is that the talents and dedication of
our students is amazing. Each retreat is organized by the second-year class.
It is full of team-building exercises, talks and small group sessions about
preparing for medical school, and the most anticipated event - the Friday
night skit. The imagination and skills of these students is incredible. They
even involve faculty in their performances - some are live, and some have
been taped. We saw a hysterical interpretation of "Wayne's World," the
amazing talents of our students who sang from the "Lion King," and I had the
chance to compete in the category of microbiology on "Jeopardy." Even our
new President Dr. Larry Kaiser could not resist visiting the highly
acclaimed retreat, which he termed as "spectacular" and "impressive."

The student retreat provides an exceptional experience for our incoming
students, and it is all about making them comfortable in our environment.
Our students are collegial, charged, and ready to learn as a result of the
retreat. We admire students who work together, with each other, and our
faculty. The retreat also helps to instill our value of lifelong learning in
our students, who have chosen a profession that demands this. If the
incoming students had any doubt that they had joined a great school, those
thoughts were washed away by the retreat.

I had the pleasure of granting the Betty Murphy award at the retreat today
to Dallas Stobaugh. This award goes to a student who stands up for what is
right and remains objective of life outside of studying and good grades.
Congratulations, Dallas!

I want to give a special thank-you to our second-year students and Dr. Henry
Strobel who put on such an amazing event. They made the freshmen feel
welcomed and special. We will plan to post links to videos from the retreat
so you can see the talent for yourself. Now I know what this school is all
about because of the retreat.

The retreat brings into focus the importance and the value we will place on
our teaching mission. I met with the basic science chairs this week, who
told me they were worried because they do not see a succession plan for our
teachers of today - many of whom have taught here for decades. The chairs
also told me that there is a need to formalize an effort to recognize
teaching for promotion. Teaching has been necessary but not sufficient on
its own for promotion. We will have to look into this situation and quickly
create a succession plan and re-study the value of teaching for promotion
for our faculty. We also talked about increasing the faculty of the basic
and clinical science departments in support of teaching and offering courses
that incorporate leading technology - online courses could be a short-term
solution to the shortage of faculty.

Attracting top graduate students and fellows is another priority, which we
will address through advertising and increasing scholarships. It was
determined that the best advertisement we could offer is early exposure to
our faculty and environment. Graduate students are important to our mission
as they are the junior faculty of tomorrow - and the future of research. We
also spoke about interdisciplinary collaboration that cut across traditional
boundaries. It was a very good meeting!

The White Coat Ceremony was held this week with 221 incoming students and their families. Dr. Pedro Mancias gave the keynote speech, and I also
welcomed the students to the largest medical center in the world and let
them know what makes our institution special is its people. I shared the
general values for the profession, plus our UT values - aggressive reading,
continuous search of new knowledge, and a caring and collegial attitude. Our
students are well prepared and will not fail - the talented and dedicated
faculty of our great school will help them achieve what they want.

I am pleased to say we have completed all of our departmental budget
meetings, and we have a very strong group practice. Each chair is united and
they are building on the same values of our students - encouraging
camaraderie and being sensitive to other departments' needs and
circumstances. We could all learn from our students.

Have a great weekend,


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