The University of Texas Medical School at Houston The University of Texas Medical School at Houston
Aug. 21, 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 still recovering from the world-famous student retreat held at Camp Allen last weekend. What a great party and a wonderful display of talent and creativity by our students – they never cease to amaze me. The theme was Hollywood and the event was truly incredible – with a walk of fame, Olympics, dinner, amazing costumes, and the always-entertaining skit. A record number –  45 – faculty attended this year, and several of them took the stage. We saw them as the Bachelorette and as Dancing with the Professors.  I expect to see some chairs next year. Yours truly got to play the Godfather – I have to thank the students for their patience during the filming and for making me look “decent.”

Of course there is a serious side to the retreat. It is a time for us to re-emphasize professionalism as a key value of this school, and it is an opportunity for us to see collegiality and teamwork at its finest. The entering students were able to have a very engaging discussion and question-and-answer session on career development with such distinguished alumni as Dr. Mark Farnie and Dr. Joel Dunnington. Dr. Henry Strobel received a well-deserved standing ovation for his amazing leadership and contributions to this annual event, and he, in turn, thanked all of the second-year students who put on such a good show for the first years.

Earlier in the week, the first years experienced another important Medical School tradition – the White Coat Ceremony. It is touching to see these unfolded coats, gently carried to the stage over the arm, and then the pride with which the students don them for the first time. The ceremony, held in a new venue this year at Rice University, was very well organized and directed by Pat Caver and Dr. Skip Gleason, who led the podium. The family and guests enjoyed the message of professionalism, and I was pleased to see them all, especially the smiling face of Mr. Ralph O’Connor, who is a good friend to this school. Dr. LaTanya Love was the main speaker and told the students about the lessons of the white coat. “Today your coat is clean and shows no sign of wear and tear,” she said. “Regardless of the status of your white coat at the end of your four years, I want you to never forget the lessons that you learn.”

Reflecting upon these interesting times in Houston, I recently met with Osama Mikhail, senior vice president for strategic planning, to discuss the critical role of the Medical School and our group practice. He agrees that we need a strong marketing effort for UT Physicians, that we need visibility in multiple sites outside of the Texas Medical Center, and that we need consensus on what “quality of care” means. These are important cornerstones to promote careful growth and further integrate our group practice. As I have said before, the strength of our Medical School relies upon the strong performance of our group practice, which is founded upon investment in our people.

Speaking of good people, I want to say thank you and best wishes to Dr. Alex Valadka, who is leaving the Medical School to go into private practice in Austin. I thank Dr. Valadka for his contributions to our clinical program and for his leadership as the primary investigator on the traumatic brain injury grant from the Department of Defense. We are working on a succession plan for this research and are in discussion with Drs. Pramod Dash, John Holcomb, Gerard Francisco, Pan Narayana, Andrew Papanicolaou, Charles Cox, Dong Kim, and Peter Davies on this. I am confident that the UTHSC will continue to lead these efforts and generate significant contributions to this area of research.

I attended a very informative meeting in Austin last week with Dr. Guy Clifton, Dr. Jon Tyson, and Andrew Casas on the topic of health care policy reform. With the goal of improving the quality of care, we need support from insurers and hospitals to reduce costs. Dr. Clifton is leading our efforts on creating such a proposal, and it is valuable to have “protected time” to discuss such issues with our experts.

Dr. Tyson is also one of those experts here at the Medical School who is impacting health care policy and delivery. He and his team recently received a fantastic score on a highly competitive Challenge grant on comparative effectiveness. This is just another example of the great work being done here at the Medical School.

Defining quality and building on outcomes were the topics of a recent meeting with Dr. Jeffrey Katz and Julie Page regarding a quality project leaders program – a major focus of the group practice and Memorial Hermann – Texas Medical Center. This program will ensure that our institutions are aligned in safety outcomes, and I expect the program will be officially announced within the next few weeks.

Many of our reporting systems are built upon the honor code. Vacation and conflict of interest are two of those. I encourage our chairs to continue to lead by example when it comes to accurate reporting of vacation time and use of state equipment. The liability regarding these issues, both personally and of the Health Science Center, can be great.

I am pleased to report that our annual operating agreement with Memorial Hermann is in its final stages. I greatly appreciate the effort and partnership of Juanita Romans, Julie Page, Barrie Strickland, Kevin Dillon, Craig Cordola, Dan Wolterman, and President Larry Kaiser. I expect the agreement to soon be finalized and for us to turn to a new model of agreements in the future. I ask for the support and understanding of our chairs if we cannot provide the resources they expect.

I had a wonderful opportunity last Friday morning to introduce the Medical School to more than 70 members of the White Hall breakfast club at the River Oaks Country Club. They were very engaged and astonished to hear of our growth and accomplishments. I thank Drew Kanaly for arranging this meeting.

I also thank Drew and Barry Lewis for recently coming to me and asking me to “grade” them as leaders of the Dean’s Advisory Council. I was impressed by their accountability and their request for feedback. They volunteer a lot of time with the Medical School in these advisory capacities, and I know I speak for the whole school when I say “thank you!”

I had the pleasure of meeting Dr. Ward Casscells, who has returned to the Health Science Center from Washington, D.C. I look forward to working with him and learning more of the history of the Medical School and Health Science Center from him.

A reminder to faculty that we recently sent an e-mail related to documents needed to submit for the SACS re-accreditation/site visit that is upcoming. Please respond to this request.

It is hard to believe, but President Kaiser recently celebrated his one-year anniversary as president . We enjoyed a wonderful dinner in honor of his first year, and I am happy to say that we have not had any recent visits from hurricanes. Nevertheless, “our beautiful school, the light of our students’ life, would resist anything and will always keep her honor as our students strongly believe in UT and would never dishonor her.” Creativity is an enormous gift from our students, and one of the best gifts we can provide to them is to create the best educational environment possible.

I know you all are working hard to make this a great new year for our incoming students here – one of the largest medical schools by enrollment – number 7 in the nation as listed by the AAMC. Thank you, and enjoy your last few days of summer.

Have a great weekend,


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