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
Nov. 7, 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.

At this week’s Association of American Medical Colleges annual meeting in San Antonio, there was good discussion about issues academic medical centers across the country are facing. Five “tough” questions were posed to us by Dr. Darrell Kirch, AAMC president and CEO:

  • How do we achieve freedom from conflicts of interest?
  • How do we address the disparity of resources among our institutions and the economic inequality among medical specialties?
  • How do we find true balance in our missions of education, research, and patient care?
  • How do we achieve flexibility and responsiveness in preparing a new generation of doctors?
  • How do we lead improvements to health care quality?

The Medical School has been working hard to address these five challenges: we have a new conflict of interest policy to protect the integrity of our research and education; the issue of resources is a complex one that we have been discussing with leaders of the Texas Medical Center; finding balance in our mission is a high priority, and we are asking for faculty involvement and guidance from our chairs on this topic; we are planning a retreat on our educational programs as we better plan to prepare the next generation of physicians; and our highest priority is leading improvements of health care quality. Memorial Hermann – Texas Medical Center recently was named sixth in the nation for academic hospitals in quality and safety, and we recently received outstanding benchmarking scores from LBJ Hospital for patient satisfaction.

Transparency, mentoring, mission, environment, and a focus on communication all were topics tackled at the AAMC meeting, and again, they are all areas on which our Medical School is particularly focused. We have tried to create a “bottom up” philosophy, encouraging active participation and input from all, and have created special initiatives this year on the communication front – including encouraging chairs to hold regular faculty meetings. Mentoring is a subject on which we can improve; but overall, I am pleased with our environment and the relationships we have established with our hospital affiliates – these relationships will set the tone of our environment over the next few years.

While in San Antonio, we had a great meeting with parents, alumni, and friends in the area. Our school is proud to have such successful alumni, and I was pleased with the turnout of the event. We heard that the Medical School prepared our graduates well for their careers, and the parents say they are so pleased their children are in our environment. Dr. Henry Strobel also addressed the group, and talked about how the Medical School is still home – after 37 years. I also want to thank Dr. Frank Moody, who told the crowd, “Our school is on a roll. We just can’t stay still – it’s not good enough.”

The UT Health Science Center’s Mobile Health Clinic, which is under the direction of Dr. L. Maximilian Buja, Dr. LaTanya Love, Dr. Margaret McNeese, Kelly Bolton, and Dr. Kathy Becan-McBride, recently won a best practices award from the Texas Associations of Counties. The mobile clinic serves the population of the Lower Rio Grande Valley that would otherwise not be able to see a health professional. This is an important service to the people of Texas, and I am proud of those involved and this recognition.

This week I had a very productive meeting with Dr. Richard Andrassy, Dr. John Holcomb, Angela Hintzel, and Cynthia Huehlefeld to discuss the trauma program at Memorial Hermann – Texas Medical Center. Currently, the trauma group has 5,000 admissions per year, and approximately 1,500 of those have an injury severity score over 15. The toughest clinical cases receive the highest level of care at MHH-TMC from a relatively small number of providers. This meeting was truly informative to me, and I thank the group for their eloquent description of the strengths and challenges of this program. They have proposed a short-term and long-term plan to take our trauma center to the next level, promoting the best care, and including education and research. A few months ago, Juanita Romans, CEO of MHH-TMC, shared her vision to have a Texas Trauma Institute at MHH-TMC – it is now time to begin a detailed discussion on this topic in light of our unparalleled strengths in this field and our new recruitments. I would encourage other leaders and chairs to strategically think about which of their programs can really shine and to present a game plan on how and why it would work.

We are continuing to meet with the department chairs and their DMOs to discuss compliance. I have found that our people are very prepared, engaged, and collecting information and benchmarking best practices to address this important area for academic institutions. Similarly, our redesigned weekly revenue cycle billing meetings are going well. We have the right expertise and the right approach to go after a billing performance for the group practice for which we all can be proud. We have high expectations for these initiatives, and I am certain these efforts will have a positive influence on the overall performance and morale of the group practice.

At the Executive Council meeting this week, Kevin Dillon, executive vice president, chief operating and financial officer, presented the fiscal year 08 financial performance results. He shared the concept of “financial watch” with us, and said we have not been on “financial watch” by the UT System for five years now, which is a testament to Kevin’s outstanding leadership. In this time of financial instability, I feel comfortable knowing we have a very professional, insightful team of administrators, led by President Larry Kaiser, who are in a planning mode – not a reactionary mode. In order to grow, we need a positive margin – our success and future depends upon the group practice. We have a stable school and must be vigilant regarding the management of resources, careful reviews of expenses, and prioritizing our needs. As we approach a challenging fiscal environment, we will not forget our missions.

As you are planning your office holiday parties, please be mindful of your budgets and the new per person limit and plan on the conservative side as far as expenditures.

We continue to receive a large number of very talented faculty applicants from out of state. This is a unique position for us. We are looking for the right people who fit into our family and who will advance our programs. We aim to recruit young, high-risk faculty – before they get too expensive. We are running short of office space, and the Medical School Expansion is nearly full with funded investigators. We are planning for controlled growth that is responsible, strategic, yet high risk – as we do not want to miss opportunities.

At this week’s meeting of the health science center deans, our discussions focused on the SACS re-affirmation process, specifically the Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP), which will be the special project outlined and funded by the health science center. Faculty and students voted on four topics, rating which one they preferred: critical thinking, ethics and professionalism, evidence-based practice/patient safety, and interdisciplinary education. Critical thinking leads the responses to date, and the input from the community has been very helpful as the QEP team works through the final selection process. To find out more about these topics, click here to participate in a short QEP Opinion Survey. There were some very thoughtful comments in favor of each subject. On critical thinking, one wrote, “It is the cornerstone of education, research, and practice for graduate level professionals. It cuts across all schools and disciplines. If our students excel in this area then they have the essential skill for success.” On evidence-based practice/patient safety, a respondent wrote, “These are concepts that guide the care all of us provide on a daily basis. It influences patient care, education, and research and is a fundamental component of good practice.” This is a good discussion, and I look forward to hearing the final results.

I have two events to remind you about: Please join me Wednesday, Nov. 12 for the Ernst Knobil Distinguished Lecture, where Nobel laureate Dr. Phillip Sharp, from MIT, will present on “Gene Regulation by RNA.” The lecture will be held at 4 p.m. in MSB 3.001. Also, I hope to see you this afternoon at Fun Fest – our annual appreciation party – held this year at Grant Faye Park.

Have a great weekend,



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