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.
Friday, the Health Science Center had the opportunity to present our accomplishments to Dr. Ken Shine, executive vice chancellor for health affairs, during his annual visit.
President Larry Kaiser kicked off the presentations, expressing how optimistic he feels about our direction and the “unlimited skies” of this largest and most comprehensive health science center in the Southwest. Kevin Dillon followed with an overview of our stable financial state, which has featured a positive margin – a “razor-thin” positive margin – but positive nonetheless. Dr. Peter Davies and Dr. Max Buja presented on accomplishments and opportunities in research and academic affairs, respectively. Dr. Shine was complimentary to the administrative leadership on their progress reports and financial accountability, yet he cautioned that as we plan for the future we need to curtail expenses. Several institutions in the Texas Medical Center and around the country already are implementing drastic measures for cost containment, and we will have to make adjustments as we protect our strong programs and bright future.
Dr. Shine is always supportive of innovative programs and competitive people joining our institution, so I was pleased to give him an update on our new initiatives in education, the clinical progress we have made in a very challenging environment, and our research expansion.
On our education mission, Dr. Shine wanted a report on our class size and its diversity as well as innovations in our curriculum development. We have pledged to make diversity a priority and have put that plan into action with the efforts of Dr. Judianne Kellaway and Dr. LaTanya Love. I am certain that our trend in this area will look very favorable in the next few years and that our Medical School family will become more diverse. I presented our plans of further incorporating technology into our curriculum as well as our scholarly concentrations aimed to provide mentored experience to our students very early on in their medical education – we are confident these initiatives will have a positive influence on their career development.
Dr. Shine was interested in the Medical School’s proposal to focus on education excellence through the creation of our Academy of Educators, which will go live July 1 with seven members, with plans to increase its participants in the next biennium. On the clinical education side, Dr. Shine was pleased with the progress of our joint Quality and Safety Academy with Memorial Hermann – Texas Medical Center, which we plan to expand to include students and house staff.
With respect to the clinical mission, Jorge Zambra and Andrew Casas updated Dr. Shine on our revenue billing cycle improvement. I feel very comfortable about the progress we are making in quality control, compliance, and our gross collection rate. Our uncompensated care service continues to challenge our already “razor-thin” margin, and we will struggle to achieve balanced budgets if we continue to see an increase in these services. We will be rigorous on complying with the new pharmaceutical conflict of interest policy, the creation of which was led by Dr. Brent King. We have experienced a 12-13 percent growth of our group practice in last two years and have expanded our clinical services around the Houston community.
Dr. Shine was pleased that we have been able to fill our Medical School Expansion with highly competitive and funded investigators and was very pleased with our areas of research focus for that facility and the rest of the Medical School. Remarkably, we have been able to grow our research funded by the National Institutes of Health in this very competitive environment. As we continue to integrate our programs within the Health Science Center, we will try to have a closer relationship with Dr. Tom Caskey and his magnificent research programs at the Institute for Molecular Medicine. Regarding conflict of interest and compliance issues, Dr. Shine complimented Dr. Peter Davies on his leadership at both the Health Science Center and UT System levels.
For the first time, our faculty body now exceeds 900 members, which is attributed to the growth of our research and group practice and is a measure of improved morale and strong partnership with MHH and HCHD. We are experiencing a good momentum for the school in terms of faculty recruitment, and I thank the department chairs for their outstanding work in this area, which is only limited by resource availability.
The number of residency positions is another area we are planning to expand and must coordinate with other institutions. The demand is there to increase our slots, but the funding for these positions and the stipends must be increased accordingly.
After all of the schools made their presentations to Dr. Shine, he had the opportunity to have his “favorite” lunch with students from the six schools of the UTHSC – we all know how much Dr. Shine enjoys meeting one-on-one with the students to hear our strengths and weaknesses directly from them.
I want to thank Dr. Shine for his continued support of our School as well as his positive comments about UT 2 Me – we are honored that he reads our communication so that he can be connected to our school in Houston.
Upcoming, I want to remind you of some important events – April 27 I will be hosting a Town Hall meeting in the Medical School, and the Annual Faculty Meeting is scheduled for May 20. Also upcoming is the March of Dimes’ Walk for Babies April 26. The president is leading our efforts for that important event. I will be there, and I am asking all of the chairs, faculty, students and staff to be there, too.
I attended a couple of other important events in the life of our Medical School this week. It was a farewell reception for Tamara Owens, director of the standardized patient program, who is leaving us to join Howard University. I thank her for all of her hard work with the Surgical and Clinical Skills Center and wish her the best in her future. I want to congratulate Ned Holmes, the 2009 recipient of the Eugene Vaughan Civic Leadership Award from the Center for Houston’s Future, which recognizes someone whose “civic leadership has made significant long term contributions in the Houston region in the areas of human capital development and diversity, quality of place, and/or 21st century economies.” Preacher Caldwell at that event told the audience “There are no winners on a losing team.” In our clinical, research, and educational programs we must all be at our best to comprise a winning team.
I thoroughly enjoyed the spirit of Dr. Shine's campus visit - he is very passionate about positive changes, innovation and "winning teams.” His visit was a great opportunity for us to better familiarize him with our institution and our people. Our team will continue to grow and improve as long as we continue to care and work hard to achieve our highest goals. Gene Vaughan, chair of our development board, recently shared an appropriate message with me from John W. Gardner, former president of the Carnegie Corporation, founder of Common Cause and Independent Sector and former secretary of health, education and welfare, who once said to a Houston audience:
A [city] is never finished. You can’t build it and then leave it standing as the Pharaohs did the pyramids. It has to be built and rebuilt, recreated in each generation by believing, caring men and women. It is now our turn…. Today our communities need us, desperately need our loyalty, our understanding, our support.
I count it as one of the marks of maturity that men and women nurture the institutions that nurtured them, not uncritically, but lovingly, not to preserve them unchanged but to renew them as the times require.
I thank you for all your support to our Medical School. Our greatest achievements are because of you.
Have a great week,