The University of Texas Medical School at Houston The University of Texas Medical School at Houston
November 22, 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, I ventured up to the Northeast to visit the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC). This was a fact-finding mission to understand another model of an academic health center and its relationship to its hospitals. I was accompanied by Juanita Romans, Craig Cordola, Dr. Jeffrey Katz (chief medical officer of MH-TMC), Dr. Osama Mikhail (senior vice president of strategic planning), Bernie Duco (chief legal officer, MH), Jo Anne Masson (system executive– MH), Barrie Strickland (chief financial officer, MHH-TMC), and Kevin Dillon. It was a great meeting and a good opportunity to learn from another institution.

One of the first things Dr. Marshall Webster, executive vice president and chief medical officer of UPMC, president of University of Pittsburgh Physicians and president of Physician Services Division, told us, was that they understand what works today may not work tomorrow – they are open to change. Their basic model is one of steady and aggressive growth that ties compensation to productivity – at all levels. Investment in academics is embedded in their culture.

There are some similarities between our institutions – we are aligned in our agreement to establish transparency with our budgets and to invest margins in our chairs, who will decide the direction and growth of their departments. The differences include their history and their structure – they are more than 200 years old, they have their own health care plan, they have a low percentage of uninsured patients, and their local environment is clearly different than that of the Texas Medical Center.  UPMC prides itself on financial accountability, sharing resources, promoting best practices, and having an incentivized workforce. They have built their success on access, quality, and relationships.

On the plane ride back, we talked about the potential for a “UTMH”. Building on the work done during the past year, we will have detailed discussions with our clinical partners in an attempt to develop a structure that builds upon full transparency and a strong commitment to our academic mission. This can be done, and I am proud of how we are planning positive changes for our educational and research programs and strengthening our image in the community. As we continue our quest for success, we will invest in people and programs that advance our mission.

Hard work also is on the horizon as we look toward the health care environment of tomorrow. I attended an elegant lecture given by Dan Wolterman, president and CEO of Memorial Hermann Healthcare System, on this topic Friday morning. UT System Regent Janiece Longoria introduced Dan, and we are pleased that our regents are involved with these issues. As Dan has reiterated on several occasions, we need to promote change in health care as it is not sustainable at its current levels. There are worrisome trends in health care as we see increasing costs and growing concerns with our unstable economic environment. Dan’s message is rather direct and universal in that everyone in health care – students, residents, fellows, faculty, nurses – needs to consider costs when making patient-care decisions, using evidence-based medicine as our guide. Does the patient really need that additional test? Or prescription? We need individual accountability from patients and health care providers for the prevention of diseases, maintenance of good health, early diagnosis and intervention, and cost containment. We are grateful for Dan’s leadership in addressing these challenges for the Memorial Hermann System, our community, and our state. We will continue to work with him to provide solutions to our health care challenges.

Regarding our clinical mission, the group practice continues to do well – it is atypical to post a significant positive margin early in the fiscal year, as we are doing as of the end of October. This good performance speaks to the work of our faculty, staff, and administrators – our DMOs are engaged, and our chairs are accountable. It is important for us to remain strong during these difficult times, and I particularly encourage individual responsibility.

We honored three of the Medical School’s outstanding young investigators at the Health Science Center’s annual lunch this week. I applaud the work of Dr. Danielle Garsin, Dr. Jainping Jin, and Dr. Michael Lorenz, and I am grateful to their mentors, Dr. Samuel Kaplan and Dr. Rodney Kellems. Our Medical School honorees joined Dr. Rebecca Casarez, from the School of Nursing; Dr. Muhammad Walji, from the Dental Branch; and Dr. Michael Hallman, from the School of Public Health. We believe in these young, productive researchers, and we are fortunate to have so many talented individuals on our faculty.

I had a productive meeting with Dr. Richard Andrassy and Dr. Erik Wilson, who were part of a clinical trial to perform a novel incision-free procedure to treat obesity. The procedure is done without cutting and is a great example of the clinical innovation of our people.

The Medical School said farewell Thursday to Dr. Arthur Jansa, who retired after 34 years of service to the Medical School. Assistant clinical professor of orthopaedic surgery and vice chairman of the department and former interim chair, Dr. Jansa has always been there for his department, the Medical School, and his patients. We wish him the best.

As we approach the Thanksgiving holiday, I am thankful for our faculty, staff, and students who continue to do great things for this Medical School. Each day we make progress as an institution, and that requires the hard work and dedication of each of you. I hope you have a wonderful holiday surrounded by lots of friends, family, and food. UT 2 Me will return Dec. 5.

Have a great weekend,


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