The University of Texas Medical School at Houston The University of Texas Medical School at Houston
August 29, 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.

Well, we have completed the student retreat, white coat ceremony, and first-year orientation – that can only mean one thing, it is officially back-to-school season. With the help and support of our talented faculty and staff, I know our students are going to have a great year – full of challenges and opportunities. Our top goal is to produce outstanding physicians, and I applaud all of you who help make that happen.

This also has been the season of legislative preparations as we ready for the 81st session of the Texas Legislature, which convenes Jan. 13, 2009. January may seem like a long way off yet, but there are numerous meetings and hearings that occur in advance of the session to move the process along. Sabrina Midkiff, vice president of governmental relations, and her team has been doing a great job of bringing elected officials to our campus to meet our faculty and administration, who can help them understand what a great resource we are to this state.

On Monday, I had the opportunity to meet with State Rep. Lois Kolkhorst, who is from Brenham, along with President Larry Kaiser and the other deans. This was her second visit to our campus, and the issue of the day was formula funding. Rep. Kolkhorst has served as chair of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Education since 2005. Formula funding is provided to state higher education institutions on a per student basis. Our school has demonstrated a strong growth in education (number of students and residents), research, and clinical programs, including training primary care and specialist physicians for the state of Texas, and we hope the Legislature will restore formula funding to its previous level. 

I had a good meeting this week with David Lopez, president and CEO of the Harris County Hospital District; Dr. Steven Brown,  associate dean for Harris County programs; and Dr. George Santos, new member of the Harris County Hospital District Board of Managers. Dr. Santos is a psychiatrist and an alumnus of the Medical School, and we talked about psychiatry services at LBJ Hospital. Our community needs access to child and adolescent psychiatrists, which reflects the statewide shortage of experts with training in the area of mental health. Together we will work to improve access and our training program at LBJ, and we also discussed new expanded services for women and children at LBJ and our community clinics. This meeting was followed by a tour of LBJ yesterday with the HCHD leadership, Dr. Larry Kaiser, Kevin Dillon, Dr. Brent King, and Dr. Steven Brown. Dr. Kaiser was very impressed with the facilities, our faculty, and the clinical programs offered to the community. I am certain we will continue the important work we are doing here as we continue to prioritize growth, quality, and safety.

President Kaiser attended his first group practice meeting this week. We discussed growing the group practice, compensation, and incentive issues. It is important for the chair to make clear the expectations of the faculty for the new academic year - a fair and credible compensation plan is in place, which means salary can move in either direction depending if expectations are met, or not. Of course, the practice plan must produce a positive margin in order to have funding available for incentives. I think we were successful in this first year delivering incentive checks to faculty who went above and beyond, as determined by their chair. Salary reductions, however, were difficult in the first year – and I attribute that to wanting to improve communications and expectations so that faculty will have the opportunity to make corrections, if needed. We have learned that we cannot have an incentive formula that works across all departments. Our foundation has to be retouched a bit before it works like it should. Dr. Kaiser provided his input and experience about the incentive plan of the Department of Surgery at the University of Pennsylvania, and he has made it clear that he wants to be involved and informed.

I had the opportunity to meet with the pediatric student association this week at its kick-off meeting. I never cease to be amazed by our very talented, high potential students. They want mentors, role models, and guidance about how to be competitive in their search for residency programs. They are excited about the preceptor and scholarly concentration programs that we are planning and have a genuine interest in primary care, including pediatrics. They are very intelligent, inquisitive, and proud of this school and its people.

Quality and safety are the top two determinants for the overall stature of health institutions. We have recently discussed with Juanita Romans and Dr. Michael Shabot, chief medical officer for the Memorial Hermann Healthcare System, strategic plans to make improvements in this area. Similarly, we have discussed with Dr. Steven Brown and Harris County Hospital District leadership quality improvement programs as a part of our new alliance. Patient satisfaction and clinical safety are more than just getting in "reputation" rankings – they are a top priority for this medical school, and we must working jointly with Memorial Hermann – Texas Medical Center and LBJ General Hospital to prioritize, invest in, and improve our already strong outcomes.  UT Physicians make up the bulk of these hospital physicians, so our leaders and chairs must be actively involved in quality program initiatives.

I am looking forward to the Medical School’s annual research retreat Sept. 25. To register and for more information, see We also are planning a retreat to review our education programs in light of the eminent announcement of our academy of educators. We have received positive feedback on this new academy aimed at innovations in teaching even from Dr. Kenneth Shine, chancellor ad interim and executive vice chancellor for health affairs.

I would like to take a moment and remind you of some of the highlights you have been a part of over this past year. It has been my honor to serve as dean this year, and I look forward to the next.

  • Leadership appointments: Dr. Carin Hagberg, Dr. Dong Kim, Dr. Martin Citardi, Dr. John Hancock
  • New trauma research center to be headed up by Dr. John Holcomb, and supported by $5M from state
  • Best match record in recent Medical School history
  • Several national and international awards to our faculty and students – Dr. Frank Moody received Society of University Surgeons’ 2008 Lifetime Achievement Award; Dr. Joan Bull received the 2008 J. Eugene Robinson Award from the Society of Thermal Medicine; Psychiatry residents placed first in national Mind Games competition; student TMA/AMA chapter named best in nation; Dr. Jianping Jin named a 2008 Pew Scholar in the Biomedical Sciences; Dr. Stanford  Goldman received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Society of Uroradiology; and several others.
  • Opening of the Medical School Expansion in December and the successful recruitment of outstanding researchers
  • Dedicating the Medical School Expansion lobby to John Freeman
  • Establishing the new home for the Center for Clinical and Translational Sciences in the UT Professional Building
  • Renaming of the Bellaire space to UT Physicians and inclusion of new patient services
  • Expanding the Office of Development and Alumni Relations for the Medical School
  • Establishing the Medical School Advisory Committee
  • Creating the 1,000x500 scholarship campaign
  • Hosting the first student phone bank to solicit alumni donations
  • Renovating all 22 department Web sites with similar look and updated content
  • Renovating the UT Physicians Web site
  • Opening a dialogue with employees and students through UT 2 Me
  • Successfully finalizing the Annual Operating Agreement and Affiliated Medical Services
  • Implementing phase one of a credible compensation plan
  • Hosting bimonthly discussions with each department chair and their administration
  • Bringing the Dean’s Office closer to UT Physicians with the help of Andrew Casas and Kevin Dillon
  • Holding frequent strategic meetings with Memorial Hermann and Harris County Hospital District leadership to discuss our future
  • Practice plan posting positive numbers and showing healthy growth.

I wish you a great and safe Labor Day weekend and thank you for your hard work this fiscal year. By working together, I know that we can accomplish even more in FY09.

Have a great weekend,


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