August 17, 2009
Dear Alumni, Students, Parents, and Friends,
It’s hot in Houston this summer, but we haven’t let the heat slow us down. Your Medical School continues to gain momentum as we celebrate milestones and traditions.
The highlight of March was undoubtedly Match Day, when more than 200 of our seniors participated in that defining moment, learning where they will pursue their residency training. Internal medicine, surgery, anesthesiology, and pediatrics were among the top picks for residencies for this year’s graduates. The day was characterized by smiles and pride – from our students, their families, and our faculty.
May 28 marked the Medical School’s 36th commencement, which was a great celebration as we watched 188 students take their first steps as doctors. Our own Dr. Henry Strobel was the featured commencement speaker, and it was UT Health Science Center President Larry Kaiser’s first commencement with us. Former Health Science Center President James Willerson, now president and medical director of the Texas Heart Institute, also was there and led the singing of The Eyes of Texas with his hook ‘em horns sign. It is always touching to see our first dean, Dr. Cheves Smythe, lead the stage party as chief marshal of the ceremony, representing the evolution of the vision and philosophy of our teaching program. It was a beautiful sendoff for our graduates, and I know they will continue to make us proud as alumni.
As we say farewell to the Class of 2009, we are welcoming our incoming class, the Class of 2013. This class of 230 students is comprised of 141 male and 89 female students, with 47 underrepresented minorities. Our goal is to have a class that looks like our community, and we are making extra efforts at outreach and recruitment to achieve this. The last week has been busy and fun, as we have shared our traditions of White Coat ceremony and Student Retreat with our new recruits.
I am pleased to tell you we have hired some new outstanding chairs for our departments, joining our accomplished leadership team. Since becoming dean nearly two years ago, we have filled eight chair vacancies. Recently we have welcomed a new chair of the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Dr. Jair Soares; a new chair of the Department of Physical and Rehabilitation Medicine, Dr. Gerard Francisco; and a new chair of the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, Dr. Walter Lowe. I expect these leaders to continue to strategically grow their departments, building upon the strong foundations set by their predecessors.
In addition to our new chairs, we have added nearly 100 new faculty positions over the last year. These new faculty are helping to grow our missions of education, research, and patient care as we continue to strive for excellence. Some of these faculty are pursuing research in our new Medical School Expansion building, which is nearly filled to capacity.
We are continuing to improve and strategically grow our clinical practice, UT Physicians. We have expanded the number of clinics residing at our Bellaire location and have opened clinics in the Memorial Hermann Medical Plaza. Our physicians are dedicated to their patients, and we want to make sure our community is aware of our clinical services. To this end, we are working on marketing our UT Physicians and will soon unveil an updated Web site to better serve patients.
We also have debuted a personalized patient care service called Patient Navigator. If you are in the Houston area, I personally invite you to participate in this 24/7 program, which will help guide you, and your loved ones, through the medical process – from setting appointments to escorting you there. To access this special service, just call 832.325.7696.
In this age of health care reform, the Medical School aims to be a leader in the good practices that will result in improved efficiencies and cost savings. With this in mind, we have asked Dr. Guy Clifton to re-join our Medical School in a special role to help facilitate this process. You may remember Dr. Clifton served as our chair of the Department of Neurosurgery and has spent the last few years in Washington, D.C., where he served as a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Health Policy Fellow. I encourage you to read his book, Flatlined – Resuscitating American Medicine, for a thoughtful analysis of this complex, and timely, topic. Dr. Clifton says the future of health care will require a collaborative effort of physicians, hospitals, and payors committed to efficiency, improving quality, and lowering costs. Our Medical School is poised to become one of the institutions to facilitate and lead a program to prepare academic medical centers for the new world of medicine.
With more than 900 residents enrolled in our training program and about the same number of Medical School students, we have a healthy base for future alumni. We aim to involve our students and residents early in their relationship with the Medical School so that they will become active and engaged alumni. You are our best ambassadors, and we rely upon your dedication to this school.
Giuseppe Colasurdo, M.D., Dean
H. Wayne Hightower Distinguished Professor in the Medical Sciences
David R. Park Professorship in Pediatric Medicine