The University of Texas Medical School at Houston The University of Texas Medical School at Houston
January 16, 2009 | 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.

Yesterday morning, I had the opportunity to meet with this year’s class in the Academic and Administrative Leadership Development Program. The AALDP is a UT Health Science Center initiative that aims to improve the leadership and management skills of selected senior faculty members and administrators. Our discussion gave me the opportunity to talk about and think about the concept of leadership.

I had to admit to the group that I have not felt prepared for any of the leadership roles I have taken. I have not had any formal leadership training, aside from the AAMC dean’s meeting and leadership books I have read. As far as the dean’s role goes, the most challenging aspects have been to understand the job, forge a closer relationship with Memorial Hermann and other partners, recruit outstanding department chairs, and promote the financial stability of the group practice.

Despite my lack of specific training, I have had mentors and supporters to help guide me in this new position. Both as a department leader and a school leader, I have found the formula for leadership to be the same – you must define a clear structure and direction, tell your story, invest in good people and empower them. Human relations are at the heart of a good organization and good leadership. As Mayor Bill White said during his state of the city address yesterday, “The best infrastructure is the one you build between people.” 

The group asked me how I prepare to deal with my bosses. This is honestly something I rarely think about – my superiors are very supportive of our mission and provide guidance when needed without "micromanaging" the Dean's office. Therefore, I can be focused on the Medical School as a whole – what is needed to continue moving it in the right direction and empowering others to provide this leadership. They also asked about the status of co-branding with Memorial Hermann. We have made significant progress on this front, and work here continues as members of the Medical School have been interviewed by Memorial Hermann’s marketing agency to see how our two brands can be more closely aligned. For those of you who fly Continental, you will notice a co-branded Memorial Hermann ad in their magazine, with the Medical School’s logo.

I am upbeat about the Medical School’s relationship with Memorial Hermann and about working with Juanita Romans, CEO of Memorial Hermann – Texas Medical Center. We have a clear direction and a new, strong relationship that is built on cooperation and very ambitious goals. Being unified on our efforts gives us strength.

At the school, the chairs are the leaders. With strong, committed chairs, the dean position becomes rather pleasant– I can spend more time letting chairs grow their departments. The dean’s job is to intervene when a chair is not effective, and while we have formal search processes for chairs, the search committee never will be blamed for a chair who fails. That responsibility falls to the dean’s office. The chairs are responsible for setting the highest standards and promoting the career development of their faculty and staff – and they are judged on that. When it comes to my leadership style, I would describe it as inclusive and participative. Yet, at the end of the day, you can’t rely upon committees – as dean, I must make the decisions, especially when they are difficult.

This morning, the clinical chairs and I attended a special meeting of the Memorial Hermann System regarding planned restructuring to manage this organization during these new economic times. Juanita Romans and Craig Cordola told us that this executive restructuring was done to position Memorial Hermann for the future, to improve efficiencies, and to bolster opportunities to protect and build the front line – staff and clinical employees. There are no plans to cut front line staff. This new organizational structure – with Juanita leading Memorial Hermann Southeast and Northeast and the service line of neuroscience/trauma for the MH System in addition to the TMC campus, and Craig heading up the women/children service line for the system in addition to Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital – will provide an opportunity for us to grow into the community. We will be discussing our annual operating agreement and plans for strategic growth and improved efficiencies with Memorial Hermann in light of this new paradigm.

I enjoyed my recent lunch meetings with the class officers of the third- and fourth-year classes. I like seeing how they are growing and finding out what drives their interests. I am looking forward to participating in the 2009 Student Forum next week, when students will present on issues of concern for the student body – from testing to parking. This is a great opportunity to listen and be supportive of their ideas.

I was very impressed by my visit this week to the Vanguard Urologic Institute in the Memorial Hermann Plaza Building. They have a very functional navigation system online and in person using new technology and an electronic check-in process. I met with the leader of this group, Dr. Kevin Slawin, to discuss new structures that would further integrate the academic and clinical expertise available in urology at UT and MHH. I’ll keep you updated.

We are approaching the new structure of our billing revenue cycle, which I feel confident will be endorsed by UT and McKesson. We have the expertise in place for a great new system that will improve results.

Resident duty-hour violations were the topic of the recent Housestaff Senate meeting. The turnout was lean in comparison to our first meeting, and I was somewhat puzzled by the broad, unfocused recommendations by the Senate on this issue. We need their help to prioritize and resolve this problem. Accepting resident-duty hour violations is not an option.

Turning back to leadership, this Monday we have the occasion to remember a great leader of our nation, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Here at the Medical School, and across our communities, we continue to work to make the dreams and goals he championed a reality. Just this week, I attended a special meeting on diversity with Dr. Larry Kaiser, Dr. Max Buja, and Kevin Dillon. We are reviewing our policies and initiatives to address diversity so that our students, faculty, and staff accurately reflect our community.

I leave you today with a quote from “The Present” by Dr. Spencer Johnson:

“It is hard to let go of the past if you have not learned from the past. As soon as you learn and let go, you improve the present today.”

Have a great weekend,


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