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 the Medical School had the opportunity to be the first stop on President Larry Kaiser’s Town Hall circuit, during which he will visit locations around the UT Health Science Center. He provided the packed house on Thursday updates about the legislative session, saying the mood in Austin has improved and that Texas is one of only six states with a projected budget surplus. He noted that there are great opportunities in our state right now despite these tough economic times.
He also spoke about our clinical partnerships with Memorial Hermann and the Harris County Hospital District, saying that the Memorial Hermann relationship is the best it has been in years. He added that much of the success of the Health Science Center is dependent upon our relationships with our clinical partners.
Collaboration between the Health Science Center schools also was a topic of focus. He said that collaboration has improved, and he aims to create centers that cross schools, such as a Center on Aging.
After opening remarks, the discussion turned into a lively question-and-answer format, and here are some of those paraphrased:
Q: How are we affected by the UT System hiring freeze?
Dr. Kaiser: We have had a flexible hiring freeze since the fall, and we are also looking carefully at such areas as travel. We have a cost-containment committee in place, as the UT System has asked, and the UT System also has frozen the salaries of senior level executives until 2010.
Q: What is the rule on hiring faculty from UTMB?
Dr. Kaiser: We do not want to hit UTMB while they are down, but we have been receptive to those from UTMB who want to come here. We have been in touch with their president, Dr. David Callender, on such recruitments.
Q: Will we benefit from any stimulus funds coming to the UT System or the state?
Dr. Kaiser: We have been looking at areas of rebuilding or reconstruction to request some of the funds expected to come to the UT System. We also will expect more funding from the National Institutes of Health to be made available primarily for two-year projects.
Q: What is the Medical School doing to work with Memorial Hermann to improve the health care system?
Dr. Kaiser: The Health Science Center has been working with Memorial Hermann on quality improvement and patient safety. We have an advantage of being able to best serve the community with our UT Physicians through the venue of the large Memorial Hermann system.
Q: UTMB is making forays into the Houston area with clinics. Are there plans for UT Physicians to expand its locations to the community?
Dr. Kaiser: We do have the Bellaire clinic of UT Physicians in place on South Loop 610, and we have the opportunity to be all over the region with Memorial Hermann’s far-reaching system.
Q: What about improving funding for trauma care?
Dr. Kaiser: The Legislature is looking at the $337 million collected for trauma as the result of an irresponsible drivers’ tax. We are committed to seeing those funds be put to trauma and not other budgetary items. We are seeing an increase in trauma in Houston that is not sustainable at current levels.
Q: How will the Health Science Center be different in two years?
Dr. Kaiser: We will continue to recruit and retain outstanding individuals and build upon closer working relationships with the schools. I look for our NIH grants to increase and to use informatics to build our research base. We also have several building projects in the works that will be completed or making good progress, such as the CABIR (Center for Advanced Biomedical Imaging Research), the BREF (Biomedical Research and Education Facility), a Neuroscience Center, and the new Dental Branch on the South Campus. We will continue to develop our relationships with our clinical partners.
Q: It has been said that research loses money for the Medical School. How is that, and what can we do to prevent that?
Dr. Kaiser: Yes, research loses money, but that’s OK. About 40 cents is lost on each research dollar brought in – this is due to infrastructure costs, not every minute of research being funded, grants that are lost, and recruitment costs. Education also loses money, and clinical care has to make up for these shortfalls. Each one of these areas is an important part of our mission.
Q: What are the strongest attributes of the Health Science Center?
Dr. Kaiser: Our people. We are a force to be reckoned with, and there is great work being done here. The word is out, and we are trying to make people aware of the outstanding things going on here.
I agree. The talented people who make up the Medical School are doing terrific things, and I thank each and every one of you for your important contributions. I also want to thank Dr. Kaiser for his visit, his open discussion, and his leadership.
Have a great weekend,