The University of Texas Medical School at Houston The University of Texas Medical School at Houston
December 12, 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 one of our own was honored as the 2008 TIAA-CREF Distinguished Medical Educator, Dr. Henry Strobel, associate dean of faculty affairs and professor of biochemistry and molecular biology, was feted at a beautiful dinner Tuesday, where he received the prestigious accolade. There now have been five winners of this award, and Dr. Strobel follows in the footsteps of Dr. Ralph Feigin, Dr. Michael DeBakey, Dr. Frank Arnett, and Dr. Herbert Fred – names and leaders you all know well. I was most impressed by the letters from students who talked about their encounters with Dr. Strobel: “Could anyone make biochemistry interesting? After just the first lecture I knew he had been blessed with a special and rare gift: the ability to captivate an audience. Our class didn’t listen to his lectures, we felt them.” This is a very deserving award – please join me in congratulating Dr. Strobel.

That same evening, I attended the open house of the Mischer Neuroscience Institute at Memorial Hermann – Texas Medical Center. This 32-bed clinical and research facility is the result of the expansion of our neuroscience services led by Dr. Dong Kim and Dr. Jim Grotta. It is a great clinical care operation that includes a portable CT scanner, which will help improve patient care. This institute complements and reflects the stature and strategic growth of our neurology and neurosurgery departments.

Furthering our partnership discussions with Memorial Hermann, we had an 8-hour retreat this week led by Dan Wolterman, president and chief executive officer of Memorial Hermann, and President Larry Kaiser. We talked about changes that would benefit our partnership and improve our efficiencies, quality of care, physician integration, and our economic outlook. It was a very positive meeting, and it was agreed that the success of the Medical School is key to the success of Memorial Hermann. I appreciate Memorial Hermann valuing the Medical School and supporting us in our growth of research, academic, and clinical services. Both of our institutions must have financial “health”, or we will have no mission or vision.

Juanita Romans, CEO of Memorial Hermann – Texas Medical Center, attended this week’s department chairs meeting to revisit the role of the chair and division chief as they relate to leading the efforts of quality initiatives. The work of our clinical leaders will support our drive to rise in the quality rankings of academic institutions from six to the top three. We will be looking at redefining the several hats our chairs wear – from directing clinical operations at UT Physicians and LBJ General Hospital, to promoting Memorial Hermann’s quality programs, and being the administrative leader of their department. We need to be able to delegate responsibilities when needed and to include our house staff in our ongoing quality discussions.

Today we are graduating our first nine faculty in the joint Medical School – Memorial Hermann Quality and Safety Academy. We are proud to be able to offer such an innovative curriculum, and I remind our graduates that their education in this important area does not end at graduation. We look forward to having many graduates of this academy who will be leading quality efforts in the name of patient care.

Finances are on everyone’s mind, especially in light of the memo we all received from Dr. Kaiser and Kevin Dillon. This news from the Health Science Center reminds us that we need to be prudent in these times of economic uncertainty. Thanks to our department chairs, I remain upbeat about the state of our group practice. What we need to work on is introducing the concept of efficiency into our operation, as well as always planning for the future. Resources that are being used inefficiently are taking away from programs and people in whom we should invest. We will carefully address areas where compensation is not being linked to productivity or areas of emphasis for the growth of the school. You have my assurance that any reductions in expenses will not compromise our educational mission.

Speaking of our educational mission, we received a response from the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) regarding our three-year accreditation. The review uncovered six areas for improvement in our residency programs: fear of retaliation in the educational/work environment; the balance of service versus education; the availability of secure lockers; the proximity of call rooms; a culture of underreporting resident duty hours; and resident supervision. These results follow site visits and surveys of residents in 14 of our programs. Thanks to Dr. Patricia Butler, we are already working to address these issues – a resident duty-hour survey has been sent to our residents, these items will come before the House Staff Senate, meetings will be held with the program directors, and a town hall for all house staff will be scheduled. We are committed to compliance and education and need everyone’s help to address these serious issues.

The Medical School Advisory Council convened last week to hear a spectacular presentation by Dr. Dianna Milewicz about her research on the genetics of aortic aneurysms. The council leadership, Drew Kanaly and Barry Lewis, made it clear that they were amazed about the work that goes on at our school. It is our intent to familiarize the council with our scientists and their discoveries and to encourage them to share our news with their friends. During these times of economic uncertainty, philanthropy is critical to the growth of research.

Thank you for all of the wonderful feedback on the Medical School’s holiday card and for those who told me about their collaborative efforts around the Health Science Center. If you have photos that reflect the values of our school, please send them.

I hope you had the chance to sample some cookies and holiday spirit at the annual cookie reception yesterday. It is important to take time out and enjoy each other’s company.

Have a great weekend,


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