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
April 1, 2011 | from the Office of Dean Giuseppe Colasurdo

Distributed via email to all Medical School employees, students, residents, and postdoctoral fellows, UT2Me is Dean Giuseppe Colasurdo's update of news and items of interest. He also welcomes feedback via email or comments.

For many of you, this is likely the first time you are receiving UT2Me. Since becoming dean of the Medical School, I have used these emails as an open dialogue with our community—sharing news, events, and items of interest and receiving comments from individuals across our campus. As I begin my new role as president ad interim of The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, I look forward to keeping the entire university updated on our progress and achievements in future editions and encourage you to send feedback and questions via email.  

I would like to begin by thanking Dr. Larry Kaiser for his years of leadership and service. Dr. Kaiser oversaw a period of unprecedented growth in each of our schools, and today this university is stronger than at any point in its history. I know we all wish Dr. Kaiser the very best and believe he will achieve great success in his new role with Temple University.

As Dr. Kaiser himself has said, though, this university is far greater than any one individual. I am proud to say that I recently celebrated my 15th anniversary as a faculty member at the Medical School, and over the years I have witnessed truly outstanding accomplishments from the students, faculty, and staff across our campuses. It is the people—not the buildings—that make this institution great, and I am grateful for the opportunity to serve such a talented and dedicated team.

When UT System Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa and Dr. Ken Shine, executive vice chancellor for health affairs, asked me to serve as president ad interim, they emphasized the need for stability and continuity for our institution, people, and programs—especially as we face the challenges of a difficult legislative session and healthcare reform. I am honored by the opportunity that Dr. Cigarroa and Dr. Shine have given me to show my commitment to the Medical School and The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston.

I have received many questions about my new role and how I will manage the dual responsibilities of president ad interim and Medical School dean. To begin, I believe the president’s most important job is to work with the leadership team to create a vision and strategic agenda and to deploy the deans to manage that vision. I will support, not interfere, with the deans’ efforts to drive results for their school. I recently received an article from my good friend Dr. Hazim Safi —“Google’s Quest to Build a Better Boss.”  I can assure you that our deans and leaders at UT align with the simple attributes of Google's better boss: have a clear vision and strategy for the team, be productive and results-oriented, help your employees with career development, and roll up your sleeves and conduct work side-by-side with the team when needed. But, even at Google, technical skill ranks behind being accessible, making that connection, and the "human touch."

For those who have concerns that I will either favor the Medical School in my decisions as president ad interim, or that I will no longer have enough time to devote to my position as dean, let me reassure you that I am committed to diligently serving both functions to the best of my ability. This will be a careful balancing act, but one I have experienced before serving as both chair of the Department of Pediatrics and dean of the Medical School since 2007. I also have sought the advice of Dr. John Ribble, who simultaneously served as president ad interim of the Health Science Center and dean of the Medical School from 1987-1989, and he offered simple and helpful insight into managing both positions effectively.

Ultimately, what is best for the schools is best for the university, as our true strengths lie in the work being done on each campus. This will be my guiding principle as I approach decisions with school-specific and university-wide impacts.

It also is important to note that the role of the Medical School dean is very different compared to what it was three years ago when I took the job. Today we have strong leaders in the Medical School, with more than 340 faculty and 11 new chairs recruited; we have incredible relationships with our clinical hospital partners; our students are excelling; our residency programs are very competitive; we are continuing the successful integration of The Brown Foundation Institute of Molecular Medicine for the Prevention of Human Diseases (IMM); we have a robust clinical program in and around Houston; and we are recognized nationally for our programs on clinical effectiveness and patient quality and safety.

Our other schools are experiencing phenomenal growth as well, with tremendous leadership and positive energy from all of the deans. Each of the deans recently presented updates to Chancellor Cigarroa, Regent Robert Stillwell, and Dr. Shine during the annual visit from UT System. Here are a few highlights:

  • Dr. Patricia Starck, School of Nursing, is truly our “dean of deans,” having served in her position for more than 26 years. She has built one of the best nursing programs in the country, and today the Nursing School ranks among the top 5 percent in the nation. She is also a terrific role model—promoting education and mentoring and showing a 30 percent growth in student enrollment with very limited resources. Dean Starck has communicated to me that she is willing to engage in any and all projects that will keep this university moving forward.
  • Dr. John Valenza, School of Dentistry, is redesigning the curriculum for his school, introducing innovative simulation programs in the field and preparing his school to move into a new state-of-the-art facility in 2012. Meanwhile, the search for a permanent dean is ongoing, and we have identified outstanding finalists for the position. Our goal is to select the best possible candidate to lead our century-old school into the future.
  • Dr. Jack Smith, School of Biomedical Informatics, is a national leader in health information technology, and his school recently received two major grants, totaling over $30 million, to support the adoption of new technologies aimed at improving communication and decision-making in the new era of health care. I am confident that Dean Smith will be a critical player in unique areas of education and research, and we will focus on integrating and translating the work of his students and faculty across the university.
  • Dr. Roberta Ness, School of Public Health, has transformed her school with a 40 percent increase in enrollment, dramatic growth in research awards, and the recruitment of exceptional faculty from prestigious universities. In just two years as dean, she has successfully raised awareness of public health in Texas. With $12.9 billion of funding for prevention and public health initiatives included in the healthcare reform package, Dean Ness’ leadership will be especially critical to this university and to communities across the state moving forward.
  • Dr. George Stancel, Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences, has, in collaboration with MD Anderson, created a phenomenal environment for graduate students. He has some of the highest ranked programs in the nation, including Cell Biology, which is among the top five according to the National Research Council alongside MIT, Harvard, Stanford, and Hopkins. Dean Stancel has served his school impeccably for many years and built a great legacy during his tenure. The search for his successor is ongoing and is serving as an important opportunity for us to strengthen our relationship with MD Anderson.

In addition to the deans, we have strong leadership in place throughout the university, and I have great faith in the skills and expertise of this team. I am also extremely grateful for the strong relationships with our hospital partners—Dan Wolterman, Craig Cordola, and Susie Distefano with Memorial Hermann and David Lopez with the Harris County Hospital District—who are so vital to the clinical work that supports all areas of our mission. We are also fortunate to have a wonderful and supportive development board and advisory councils advocating for our schools throughout the Houston community.

We will depend on this team, and all of you, as we move into one of the most challenging periods in our university’s history. State funding as a percentage of our budget has consistently declined over the last 20 years, and that trend is likely to continue. More and more, we must rely on the revenues generated by our many clinical endeavors to fund the education and research so vital to our mission. And we all must learn how to be more efficient and to “do more with less.” I know many offices are short-handed—I am certainly not the only employee doing more than one job.

The reality is that health care as a practice and as an industry is changing profoundly, and we must be leaders in this new era. As I mentioned before, this university has never been stronger—the talent and infrastructure found in our schools is unmatched. We now have a tremendous opportunity to develop new standards for education, collaborative models for research that accelerate discovery, and innovative solutions for the delivery of care. There is no place in this medical center, or in this city, better equipped to address these challenges and develop real solutions to the most pressing health-related problems of our time. We all must work together to realize this potential.

On Thursday, April 14 at noon, we will host a town hall meeting to discuss several items of interest: an update on the legislative session; internal and external strategies for addressing funding issues; collaboration, integration, and partnership with clinical affiliates; and challenges to funding education and research. The meeting will take place in MSB 3.001 and also will be available via a live broadcast at each of the other schools and LBJ. Please feel free to submit questions anonymously in advance via this form.

Again, let me say how humbled and honored I am by this opportunity, and that I look forward to working with all of you in the coming year. With your help, I am certain that we will continue to see our university grow and together will create spectacular outcomes for our schools and community.

Have a wonderful weekend,


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