The University of Texas Medical School at Houston
The University of Texas Medical School at HoustonThe University of Texas Medical School at Houston
The University of Texas Medical School at Houston
Aug. 1, 2009 | from the Office of Dean Giuseppe Colasurdo

Distributed every other Friday via e-mail to all Medical School employees, students, residents, and postdoctoral fellows, UT 2 Me is Dean Giuseppe Colasurdo's update of news and items of interest. He also welcomes feedback through this two-way communication.

I am technically on vacation this week, but I want to share the good news of the past two weeks with you – you may have noticed that UT2Me has shifted to an every other week schedule.

We heard many positive reports at last week’s Medical Service Research and Development Board quarterly meeting. Kevin Dillon shared good and constructive fiscal news with us about our growing practice plan, including robust increases in professional and contractual revenues both at LBJ and Memorial Hermann. Considering the new expenses of our research building and new recruits in clinical and basic science departments, it is reassuring to hear such news. Andrew Casas, chief operating officer of UT Physicians, let us know that telephone wait times for clinic appointments are down and patient volumes are up. Among those clinics posting the largest patient increases are cardiology, adult neurology, otorhinolaryngology, general surgery, orthopaedic surgery, pediatric neurosurgery, and pediatric surgery. As these patient volumes are going up, UTP is working hard to lower the cost per visit by improving efficiencies and using a data-driven approach to operations.

I am looking forward to attending the world-famous student retreat Aug. 14. This is an important early experience for our incoming students and their families, and they expect student, alumni, and faculty involvement – so come prepared to make a fashion statement on the red carpet as this year’s theme is Hollywood.

As we continue our branding initiatives, I think the most important thing we can do is to open our doors and listen and share. Such informal, and local efforts – like the Pre-entry Program dinner hosted by Drs. Ian and Patricia Butler last week – are genuine and from the heart.

I was able to take a tour of the South Campus construction projects this week to check on the status of the Center for Advanced Biomedical Imaging Research (CABIR) and Biomedical Research and Education Facility (BREF) buildings. These facilities will provide wonderful opportunities for our faculty scientists and researchers in mental sciences, cardiac imaging, regenerative medicine, and neuroimaging. This is also where our new Department of Nanomedicine and Biomedical Engineering, led by Dr. Mauro Ferrari, will be housed.

Regarding our clinical partners, we continue to make progress with Memorial Hermann on our annual operating agreement, and Memorial Hermann is increasingly involving us in searches for new personnel, including their chief nursing officer. This speaks to our spirit of partnership. As we work on our budget agreement, I ask our chairs and DMOs to monitor productivity, and this office will continue to scrutinize the “famous” request to recruit forms as they are submitted. Our group practice needs to be very careful because we have only professional revenue and little margin can be realized. We are therefore heavily dependent upon our hospital partners to maintain viability and sustain growth.

I ask the chairs to complete their faculty reviews by the given deadline as I am in the process of completing a survey of values deans and CEOs feel clinical chairs should possess. The choices include “ensuring quality,” financial and operations management,” “leading cultural change,” and “customer service.” These are all important characteristics of a department chair and areas we will discuss at our upcoming clinical chairs meeting.

I want to thank Dr. Bill Doubleday ’81, who is leading the search committee for our new director of alumni relations. I understand we have very qualified candidates for the position, and I look forward to working with the new director. I know our alumni will be pleased to be working with Dr. Henry Strobel, who in addition to his associate dean role for faculty affairs will be the new associate dean for alumni relations. Dr. Strobel is the symbol of so many of our student activities, and is a treasure of this school. I cannot think of a more appropriate role for him as a champion and ambassador for our Medical School.

I had a very informative meeting regarding external relations and institutional advancement on the UT System level with Jim Noffke, executive director of external relations for the UT System. I thank him for his visit and opportunity to exchange goals of alumni participation.

Last week I spent time with our incoming chair of orthopaedic surgery, Dr. Walter Lowe. I give credit to the search committee for his selection as I see in him the energy and commitment to build a first-class department. He has already started meeting with those inside and outside the department so that he will be prepared when he takes office next month.

As we welcome Dr. Lowe, we also said farewell to Dr. Thomas Clanton, who spent a lot of time as a leader here at the Medical School and never hesitated to help when called upon. He is headed to Vail, Colo., to join a very strong orthopaedic team, but I am happy that he will remain on our faculty in a volunteer role. We thank him for his leadership and wish him the best of luck.

I had the great pleasure of sharing the outcome of the orthopaedic chair search and updates on faculty recruitments with the orthopaedic residents recently. I enjoy hearing about our educational environment first-hand, and it is an opportunity for me to share administrative updates – both from the Medical School and our clinical partners. I only wish I had more time to spend with these future alumni.

On the topic of education, I have asked the Office of Educational Programs to answer six questions so that we can get to know this area better:

1.       What are the top three objectives of your office?
The main objective of the office is to support the Curriculum Committee, course and clerkship directors, and faculty in providing the best education possible for our medical students.

In addition, the Office of Educational Programs collaborates with the UT Dental Branch and Baylor College of Medicine in providing an excellent program in educator development.  Educator development activities include workshops and mini-fellowships, the Educational Scholars Fellowship Program, and a Master’s in Education offered through the University of Houston.  Faculty can find out more about these initiatives by clicking here.  The Office of Educational Programs seeks to enhance medical student education by developing innovations in education and by the use of cutting-edge technology.  We work one-on-one with faculty to improve course objectives and to integrate interactive teaching modalities into their courses.  We have a robust standardized patient program, which is integrated throughout the undergraduate curriculum and provides our students with early exposure to history-taking and physical examination skills.

2.       How do the goals of your office support the mission and goals of the Medical School?
As an office that serves the Medical School faculty and students, our goals are aligned with the Medical School in terms of the educational mission.  The office supports the faculty in providing educational experiences for our students so that they become competent physicians that are competitive for the most prestigious residency programs throughout the country.  Along these lines we have developed a set of competencies that we expect each student to achieve prior to graduation.  In addition, through the Summer Research Program, the office supports the training of medical students who are interested in a career that also includes clinical and translational research.

3.       What are you doing differently in your office this year? What is new?
In using One45; we are now able to capture student evaluations online, as well as document student patient encounters, clinical skills, and work hours. The latter documentation is a requirement of the LCME and ensures that student work hours are not excessive, precluding self-study time (similar to resident duty-hour standards).  We work closely with the clerkship directors to ensure that students have a variety of patient experiences and the opportunity to observe and/or perform particular clinical skills.

Jeffrey Ahrendt recently joined the office as director of educational technology.  His responsibilities include the optimization of classroom resources, such as student response systems; the stronger leveraging of existing online tools and content to support flexible instructional models; and strategic alignment of technology, curriculum, and training resources in consideration of contemporary students’ 21st century learning styles.

4.       What role will your office play in the future of the Medical School?
Our office will continue to examine and support the curriculum to ensure that we provide an excellent general professional education that prepares our students for their residency programs.  We are currently particularly invested in the use of technology throughout the curriculum and in the development of further integration among courses at all levels.  We are also interested in developing a specific set of clinical and scholarly concentrations that will be of value to many of our students and will broaden their education.  We have begun to develop these concentrations (Women’s Health and Global Health).

5.       Which accomplishments of your office are you most proud?
We are very pleased with the recent changes in the third- and fourth-year curriculum, including the placement of neurology in the third year, and the development of the Advanced Patient Care Selective, the Critical Care Selective, and the Transition to Residency Month in the fourth year.  These changes have been well received by the students and undoubtedly enhance their preparation for residency.

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

With the increase in class size, we face challenges in terms of our physical facilities and in the number of faculty required to teach and supervise our students on the wards and in the clinics.  As we introduce more technology-based education, we are also challenged to maintain the robust technology infrastructure, up-to-date resources, and timely faculty development necessary to support such innovations.

Another challenge relates to the exposure of our students to clinical and translational research so that they have an understanding of the precepts of the scientific method, including critical thinking and decision-making.

Have a great weekend,


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