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
November 12, 2010 | 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 via e-mail or comments.

This week I am taking a departure from the normal format of UT2Me and instead sharing a question-and-answer session I recently held with two of our Faculty Senate leaders, current Senate Chair Dr. Diane Bick and former Chair Dr. Don Molony, who has the record for holding the Senate chair office the most number of times. Faculty Senate is an important partner of the Medical School in improving our overall environment. I meet with the group monthly at its meetings and am happy to share some thoughts from its leadership with you today.

Q: How was the Faculty Senate created? How old is the organization?
Dr. Molony: Faculty Senate was created with the Medical School’s original bylaws. The one-year term for senate president was created in 1995.

Q: What is the goal of the Faculty Senate?
Dr. Bick: The mission of the Senate is to integrate faculty within the academic mission of the school and to keep faculty apprised of issues affecting their academic role.

Dr. Molony: It is the mechanism by which senators and departments work to make the Medical School a better place, remove barriers, and be creative. This can require a critical review. It allows us to have a voice at the table. Sometimes faculty feel the Senate is irrelevant.

Dr. Bick: Its role is to help the communication between faculty and the administration. I feel it is becoming a more dynamic, more proactive organization. This is evidenced by the two recent elections we held for chair-elect and secretary, which were very competitive and had a great voter turnout.

Dr. Molony: Part of the evolving relevance of the Faculty Senate is attributed to the fact that the dean is present for a dialogue during our meetings.

Q: How is the Senate a vehicle for transparency?
Dr. Molony: One way is by talking about global issues and policy changes. Issues that relate to a specific situation may not be served by the Senate unless they can be globalized.

Dr. Bick: Part of transparency is willingness on the part of the administrative officials who come to Faculty Senate to answer questions and to clarify issues.

Dr. Molony: The administration has been willing to engage in dialogue, and a good addition to the Senate has been inviting important members of administration to address the Senate and issues.

Q: What has been the most important initiative driven by the Faculty Senate?
Dr. Molony: Not done in isolation, but the Senate has been important in enabling the Medical School to expand the definition of faculty roles to advance tenure and support the means of recognizing those.  We also have worked hard to calm fears and reduce rumors in times of stress in the Medical School.

What is the Senate working on looking forward?
Dr. Bick: People are insecure right now about what is going to happen given the financial constraints, and we need to remove anxiety and clarify what the budget changes mean to people. Looking to the future we also want to strengthen our research infrastructure and broaden two-way communication with the administration.

I thank the Faculty Senate and their leaders for being important partners in improving our environment and facilitating two-way communication. I encourage faculty to be leaders, to give us new ideas and participate in these discussions as these debates help to foster a culture of curiosity that benefits us all.

As an example of their spirit of willingness to participate in the activities of this school, at October’s Senate meeting Mike Tramonte, senior vice president for finance and business services, and Charlie Figari, vice president and chief auxiliary enterprises officer, addressed travel issues from the senators. They explained how travel was first centralized and why we have to use Corporate Travel Planners – this is a contracted group that knows the state regulations and provides travel reports to the state and UT System. I know the comments and insights are appreciated, and I will work with the Health Science Center leadership to improve the travel process and decrease costs.

Also during the meeting, changes to the Memorial Hermann bylaws were presented by Drs. Alan Cohen and O. Clark West, from the Department of Diagnostic and Interventional Imaging. I am happy to promptly address the proposed changes and answer questions along with Dr. Jeff Katz and Craig Cordola. Our aim is to protect and advance our institution as an academic campus as we further integrate with Memorial Hermann. Dr. Katz spoke on the proposed changes at our recent clinical chairs meeting, where there was very positive discussion as we look to better align our group practice with our hospital partners. I want to thank the Harris County Hospital District leadership also for joining us at that meeting, where they gave us their quarterly update and reported that all of their outpatient sites had been designated Patient-Centered Medical Homes by the National Committee for Quality Assurance– an important accomplishment.

Our fantastic mentor Dr. Heinrich Taegtmeyer asked me a question at the meeting about how I characterize our school as being “chair driven.” I have been very consistent with this message: it is up to the department chair to assemble a strong team, define a clear structure and direction, invest in talented people and empower them.  I also believe that human relations are at the heart of successful organizations and good leadership. I think we have great leadership in our chairs, and I am proud of that.

Speaking of leadership, we are naming new leaders for clinical care in our departments as Vice Chairs for Quality of Care. These positions will be responsible for “identifying, developing, implementing, and reporting departmental measures of the quality of care and outcomes in both the inpatient and outpatient settings.”  Today’s Clinical Safety & Effectiveness Program Graduation and Quality Symposium at Memorial Hermann – Texas Medical Center showcased 13 physicians and their projects that exemplify our commitment to patient safety and clinical effectiveness. I want to thank Dr. Ken Shine for presenting his consistent message to strive for perfection. Our goal is always to improve, and I believe this emphasis on quality of care will help us achieve that.

Have a great weekend,


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