The University of Texas Medical School at Houston The University of Texas Medical School at Houston
January 30, 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.

Over the past two weeks, I have started attending department faculty meetings, as promised. I have had the opportunity to visit with the Richard S. Ruiz, M.D. Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Science and the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. These have been a good time for me to visit with the faculty, hear their questions and needs, and provide updates, as well as put names to the faces. Our faculty want to be engaged, and I will continue these visits to be more involved and to listen.

I was able to spend some time in my “home” department of pediatrics this week interviewing faculty, attending the Division of Medical Education meeting, and meeting with my fellow to go through cases and literature. I am still sharing call and covering weekends with my department faculty – trying to keep my skills up so that I am ready when this job ends – it appears that the lifespan of a dean’s job is up to 5 years.

I have contacted some of the candidates from the physical medicine and rehabilitation and psychiatry chair searches and have been reviewing new recruits for the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery with interim Chair Dr. Thomas Clanton.  Juanita Romans and I are very pleased with the rich list of candidates for many positions – both in quality and in volume.

We are looking forward to planning the next annual operating agreement with Memorial Hermann and are seeking ways to have predictable data related to our financial performance – both in individual clinical services and overall. This data also is important as we plan to decide if we will release additional incentives for our clinical and research faculty. We also need to establish reserves for our group practice for rainy days – such as to provide funding during gaps for our scientists and to be able to hire when a great opportunity presents. The reserves also will support our incentives, which are tied to performance, which I am happy to say has been strong. Kevin Dillon and Angela Hintzel report that our group practice had a 10-12 percent growth last year and expect a similar increase this year. Thanks to everyone for our improving group practice.

We have a weekly meeting with President Larry Kaiser about the status of our group practice – updating him on financials, success stories, difficulties, contracting, and recruiting. Please send me your information and feedback about UT Physicians so that I may share it with him.

We are in the final stages of establishing an inpatient hospitalist service to cover 70-100 beds at Memorial Hermann – TMC. This will be a strong program and will allow for the consistency of care and improvement of core measures. We will meet with the service chairs who we believe will benefit from this new service. I am certain it will improve the flow and experience of patients in our busy hospital. This service will allow us to protect our teaching programs and better plan where our residents are needed. I am grateful to Juanita for being supportive of this structure and program, which will be offered to any patient in our facility.

It was a big day for Dan Wolterman, president and CEO of Memorial Hermann Healthcare System, Tuesday night at the Greater Houston Partnership’s Fifth Annual Houston’s Greatest Awards. Dan accepted the award for most charitable hospital in the community, and he noted the partnership with the Medical School in his speech. He spoke of the high volume of patients in the emergency room and for trauma and emphasized that the hospital is here for the community.

Led by Juanita Romans, there is a UT-MH delegation in Guatemala this week for a meeting with the Central-American Parliament. The group includes Dr. Adan Rios, Dr. Pedro Mancias, Dr. Max Buja, Rosanna Moreno, Dr. Carmel Dyer, Dr. Philip Johnson, Dr. Philip Orlander, Dr. Joan Bull, Dr. Jorge Quesada, Dr. Rodrigo Hasbun, and Dr. Sharon Ostwald. They will have the opportunity to tell our story, present our services, and review possibilities for collaboration. This is one of many international programs being explored.

I had a “difficult” but encouraging meeting with Dr. Stanley Schultz, Susan Coulter, and Jackie Callies about the status of institutional advancement and philanthropy in the Medical School. We have been “struggling” to create a structure to build relationships with our faculty in the areas of development as well as have our own marketing and co-branding efforts and integrating those with the Health Science Center. I rely upon our development office to lead us in these efforts, as we have many compelling stories to tell, and I just know there are friends out there waiting to hear from us. I am certain that with patience and hard work, our needs in these areas will be realized.

With my busy typical work schedule, I jumped at the chance to get away from the office a bit Wednesday night by going to the Rockets’ basketball game. Dr. Carlos Hamilton, in the president’s office, organized the outing, which included Dr. Kaiser and Gene Vaughan, our development board chair, who is planning to attend Match Day this year. No, we weren’t sitting courtside, we had the cheap tickets – and we were not spending funds from the department. Of course, even though we were trying to watch the basketball game, we ended up talking shop. But, it was still a fun getaway (even though the Rockets lost).

Congratulations to Ester Fant, who is retiring today after 34 years of service to the Medical School. We wish her the best in the next chapter of her life. Congratulations also to LBJ Pediatrics, whose clinical program was featured on the American Academy of Pediatrics’ Quality Improvement Innovation Network.

Thank you to all of those who turned out for the Employee Appreciation lunch sponsored by the Employee Relations Committee yesterday. This is an opportunity for the Medical School to say thank you for a job well done.

Dr. Guy Clifton, Andrew Casas, and I had an honest discussion this week on the priorities of health care. We will have to implement well integrated changes to promote quality and decrease costs. Focusing on primary care as an initial opportunity to implement prevention, early diagnosis, and continuity of care is one way to keep people out of the emergency room. Just like duty-hour violations, improving our health care system is not an option. Former chair of the Department of Neurosurgery and former Robert Wood Johnson Health Policy Fellow in Washington, D.C., Dr. Clifton has written a book on the topic. “Flatlined: Resuscitating American Medicine.” In it he outlines the problems and offers solutions to improve our current system. One more to add to our reading list.

I’m in Austin today with Dr. Judianne Kellaway for the Texas Medical Association meeting, which I will update you on next week. In my discussion with colleague deans here, there is the feeling of considering strategic downsizing because of the new economic environment. Our school will not follow this strategy. Instead, we will work on efficiency to access new resources for growth.

Have a great weekend,


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