The University of Texas Medical School at Houston The University of Texas Medical School at Houston
March 14, 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.

Much of my time these last two weeks has been spent with Juanita Romans and Craig Cordola, discussing recruitment priorities and the upcoming affiliation agreement between the Medical School and Memorial Hermann – Texas Medical Center and Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital. Like our graduating students, I also have been preparing for commencement. Dr. Henry Strobel, associate dean for faculty affairs, will be our featured speaker as chosen by the senior class. He is a symbol of this school, and it is a privilege for one of our own faculty members to be elected to this honor.

It also was an honor for the latest group of students, faculty, and housestaff to be inducted as members of Alpha Omega Alpha, the medical school honor society, this week. Dr. Denton Cooley addressed this group, saying that the purpose of a medical school is to give students the tools to learn and master the profession. He also said “the only place where success comes before work is in the dictionary.” Very wisely put.

I had the opportunity to join Dr. Strobel at his annual dinner for the senior class officers this week. It is always refreshing and informative to spend “protected” time with our students. They all had the Match on their minds. I know they are anxious for March 19, as it is a “painful” but exciting wait these last few days to find out where they will complete their residencies.

This week I also presented the Medical School’s strategic plan to President Larry Kaiser at a planning retreat. What I presented is what I shared with you in the Jan. 9, 2009 issue of UT 2 Me.

We continue our series of questions and answers with administration this week  – this time the Office of Student Affairs and Admissions is in the spotlight.

  1. What are the top three objectives of your office?

Our number one priority is the recruitment and retention of the best future physicians for the state of Texas. Our ultimate goal is to have the composition of the student body mirror the diversity of the state’s population, and we are working very hard through our outreach efforts to stimulate interest in medicine among young people at the undergraduate level as well as in elementary and secondary schools. 

2. How do the goals of your office support the mission and goals of the Medical School?

The education of physicians for our state is the reason we exist – to spread the word about our school, to attract and select the best candidates for medical school, and then to support them as students until they graduate with their M.D. Because the reputation of a medical school depends at least in part on the performance of our students on the steps of the licensing examination series, the USMLE, we place special emphasis on supporting our students in their preparation for those examinations, in particular Step 1, taken after the second year. 

3. What are you doing differently in your office this year? What is new?

Recruiting and retaining a diverse student body is always a priority, but this year we are stepping up our efforts in this area. We need to make diversity a priority, and to do so, Dr. Judianne Kellaway, Dr. Margaret McNeese and Dr. LaTanya Love will be visiting schools around the country to take our message to more diverse campuses for student recruitment.

We also are trying a more structured approach for USMLE Step 1 preparation. With the Dean’s support, in addition to providing a commercial online question bank as we have done for several years, we are providing our second- and first-year students with free copies of First Aid for USMLE Step 1, a good overall review guide for the basic sciences. For the first time we will also be giving the entire MS 2 class the Comprehensive Basic Science Examination on March 19. This four-hour exam is from the National Board of Medical Examiners, which also produces the USMLE series, and is a good predictor of performance on Step 1. Students can retake the exam for extra practice, and those whose scores aren’t high enough may be referred for additional preparation. We want every student to be successful the first time they take the test and score as high as possible.   

Another effort that we want everyone to be aware of is increasing our scholarships for medical students.   President Kaiser, Dr. Colasurdo, the Alumni Association, and the development team are reaching out to alumni and visiting key leaders and foundation representatives to make them aware of the physician shortage, rising medical student indebtedness, and the relatively small fund of scholarships at UT-Houston. Scholarships not only reduce our students’ debt but they are also a key to recruiting highly competitive applicants. We are grateful to the ongoing support of The Organization of Parents and Friends, which has just increased their endowed scholarship fund by $100,000, and continues to support our students in many other ways.

4. What role will your office play in the future of the Medical School?

In this climate of shrinking resources, Admissions and Student Affairs will continue to find ways to meet our goals as efficiently and as cost-effectively as possible even as we are enrolling more students (our student body will reach our expected maximum of about 950 students in 2009-10).

5. Which accomplishments of your office are you most proud?

We have a very talented and highly diverse student body who receive prestigious research fellowships and nationally competitive scholarships; present their research findings at state and national scientific gatherings; hold leadership positions in organizations at the state, regional, and national level; volunteer countless hours; perform at a stellar level on licensing examinations; and obtain highly competitive residency positions in Texas and elsewhere. 

6. Other stories/opportunities/challenges you would like to share?

It is a joy and privilege to nurture these physicians in training and watch them as they grow into full-fledged caregivers and colleagues.

I want to thank the office of Student Affairs and Admissions for their contributions.

Have a great weekend,


For archives of this newsletter, visit the Dean's Communications homepage.