November 19, 2015
It was great to see so many familiar and new faces at my first Town Hall meeting last week, where I provided my “first impressions” after being at UTHealth for a little over a month. To me, the people who learn and work here are our school’s highest priority. As dean my most important role is to understand, support, and garner resources for our people and programs.
Some new initiatives that I detailed included strengthening our adviser program for students, meeting on a regular basis with “rank and file” faculty and staff — not just leadership, pursuing new collaborations with Rice University and other UT institutions, as well as re-energizing the school’s pilot grant program to jumpstart new ideas and collaborations in research.
The questions from the audience were very polite and ranged from, ‘Can we provide lay medical lectures to staff?’ to ‘Why are the East and West coasts the centers for quality, clinical research and outcomes?’ I think the concept of providing health and medical information to our internal audiences is a great idea and am exploring ways to provide such a series. I agree that we need to be a part of the national discussion on quality, and I am impressed that every clinical department has a vice chair for quality. Yes, we have challenges, but the environment is ripe for opportunity.
I was able to present a similar overview of our school at the Development Office staff meeting this week. I am delighted by the recent growth of our development office. This dedicated and experienced team is working hard on our behalf and producing great results for all of UTHealth. Philanthropy is critical to our future and the ability to realize the potential of this great medical school. We each have compelling stories to tell about the clinical care we deliver, or the students we teach, or the research we do. I hope that donors (big and small) in our community will come to view our medical school as one of Houston’s premier civic assets.
I’ve attended several development events recently. This past weekend, I had the pleasure of attending the Children’s Memorial Hermann Gala, which honored our Maternal Fetal Medicine colleagues in the Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology, and Reproductive Sciences. This week I attended the 50th Anniversary Celebration for Tony’s Restaurant, an event that benefitted Memorial Hermann Life Flight. Two of our most generous donors were honored at the Houston National Philanthropy Day Awards luncheon today — Ginni Mithoff, with the Outstanding Volunteer Fundraiser Award and The Cullen Trust for Healthcare, with the Outstanding Philanthropic Foundation Award. We are so grateful to the friends of this university and all that they do and accomplish on our behalf.
Mental health was the topic of a great event with the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences Wednesday evening. The event was led by Dr. Jair Soares, Chair of the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, and Drew Kanaly, Chair of the Advisory Council, and showcased our Department’s innovative research programs, new treatments, and patient services. We were so pleased that the event coincided with the board meeting of Mental Health America of Greater Houston, a mental health advocacy and education group led by Susan Fordice, whom I had the pleasure to meet. I was also introduced to Advisory Council members as well as state government officials. I am very impressed by the remarkable academic and clinical growth of our Department of Psychiatry under Dr. Soares’ leadership. I am inspired by their vision to become the strongest academic psychiatric institute in the nation, to revolutionize care, and conquer mental illness.
Congratulations to our academic psychiatric hospital, Harris County Psychiatric Center, on being named a Top Performer on Key Quality Measures for 2015 by the Joint Commission. This is a metric-driven accomplishment and honor. To achieve this award, hospitals must rank 95 percent or better on all publicly reported quality measures for an entire year.
I counted many more “firsts” this week — my first department faculty meeting (Department of Pediatrics); my first clinical chairs meeting; my first basic science chairs meeting; my first open house for the Office of Admissions and Student Affairs organized by our new director Dr. Dana McDowelle; my first meeting with Dr. Ronald DePinho, president of MD Anderson Cancer Center; and my first class at UT. For some years now, I’ve heard great things about Dr. Jon Tyson and Dr. Kathleen Kennedy’s Clinical Research Curriculum — and decided to become a student.
Have a great weekend,