Improving culture topic of Dean’s Town Hall
Dean Giuseppe Colasurdo answers questions from the audience at the Feb. 25 town hall meeting.
Focusing on the culture of the Medical School, Dean Giuseppe Colasurdo held his second town hall meeting Monday, Feb. 25.
Dean Colasurdo said he has discovered the incredible environment and culture of the Medical School, which hinges on good communication at all levels.
“We have a great foundation, but we need to be engaged, working together,” he said.
High faculty and staff turnover rates have shown a need to set clear expectations and to improve communications, he said.
“A faculty survey from the AAMC shows we don’t do a good job in career development, which is a communication issue if faculty don’t know the promotion process,” he said. “Leaders must communicate to their people.”
Dean Colasurdo acknowledged that a change in culture takes time and resources. “We must have resources to retain people and grow to support people and research. A fair compensation plan is for everyone, not just the faculty,” he said.
He noted that the strength of the research enterprise, which is approaching $200 million in expenditures for the UTHSC, and pockets of outstanding departments must now make an effort toward stronger internal collaborations.
“Our programs must be collaborative. There is a renewed effort to bring all of the six schools together in new partnerships,” Dr. Colasurdo said.
Dean Colasurdo spent much of the meeting answering questions — the first one about what has changed within UT Physicians to cause such improvement. “The strongest message there is accountability,” he said. “Departments are accountable for their clinics, and we must have an accountability-driven incentive plan that is very transparent, fair, and credible. If you deliver your best, it will be rewarded.”
He also addressed plans for the Medical School’s new research expansion space, which includes four investigators on the fourth floor, with two additional recruits in progress; the Department of Integrative Biology and Pharmacology on the third floor, with new chair Dr. John Hancock coming on board July 1; the second floor will focus on infectious disease; and Dr. Narayana (neuroimaging) with a strong stem cell research group will be on the first floor.
“If we have enough resources, we will fill the facility by the end of the year,” he said.
Expounding on the concept of scholarly concentrations, Dean Colasurdo said this structure will help to transition students into an academic world by giving them early, individualized exposure in specific specialties. We hope to have students in these colleges supported through scholarships.
Looking to the future of the Medical School, Dean Colasurdo emphasized maintaining relations with our partners, Memorial Hermann, the Harris County Hospital District, and the state. “With flat state funding, we have to have a strong financial performance of our group practice plan,” he added.
He also spoke of increased marketing efforts of both the school and UT Physicians through redesigned Web sites and a referral directory.
“If you have an outstanding experience with UT Physicians, share that. We need to keep our medical business in the system and to share good news,” he said.
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Clinical preceptor program graduates first student
Dr. Stephen Fletcher presents the first preceptor certificate to fourth-year student Sean Meiner as Dr. Margaret McNeese and Dean Giuseppe Colasurdo congratulate him.
For most medical students, the stress of classes, rotations, and studying for exams is enough work during a tough four years of their life.
The addition of a hands-on research project while shadowing a practicing physician can provide extra challenges and benefits for participating students.
“When I was a student, I was married and had kids and needed money,” explained Dr. Stephen Fletcher, associate professor of pediatric neurosurgery. “So, I sought out a neurosurgeon who needed a student to do physicals and other work in the office, and by the end of medical school, I was performing many procedures comparable to an intern. The experience stimulated my interest in neurosurgery.”
The Division of Pediatric Neurosurgery has debuted such a hands-on clinical preceptor program, and Sean Meiner, a fourth-year student, is the first to participate and successfully complete this program, which has involved four years of research and clinical work. He said he worked an average of 10 hours a week during his first two years of Medical School, and 60 hours of week during the summers.
“We are taking our summer program one step further,” Fletcher said. “Currently our department, with the help of Memorial Hermann Hospital, funds five students during the summer to pair with mentors for research projects. We hope that eventually we’ll have three to five clinical preceptor students who will spend their full four years with us spending time both shadowing us in the clinics and doing clinical research.”
Meiner has been working on two clinical research projects with Fletcher, one is reviewing the outcomes of using hypertonic saline to treat pediatric patients with severe head injuries instead of Mannitol. Meiner is working on developing a survey of these patients and collecting data on their pulmonary, renal, cardiac, and gastrointestinal functions.
“The major advantage to hypertonic saline is that you can take the osmotic effect higher and there is no rebound hypertension – you can maintain patients longer on the hypertonic saline without having to take them to a drug-induced coma,” Meiner said.
Meiner presented the results of this research at a national meeting.
“Having students present their work at national meetings is a great accomplishment, and through our group effort, we have had five papers presented at our national meeting,” Fletcher said.
Meiner’s other research project is funded by the Christopher Reeve Foundation, which pays his stipend.
“It’s fantastic to have funded research, but I’d do it for free,” Meiner said enthusiastically.
The Christopher Reeve grant is funding a study to look at the nonoperative management of patients with Chiari malformation, which is the descent of the cerebellar tonsils.
“It is usually an incidental finding,” Meiner explained. “The back part of the skull is shallow, and in some people the cerebellum is pushing through and can block the flow of cerebrospinal fluid, causing symptoms such as headaches and dizziness.”
Working on clinical research projects takes extra effort, but Meiner said has helped prepare him to become not only a better medical student but also a better physician.
“I was definitely more comfortable entering the clinical phase, the third year, of medical school,” he said. “When you see someone practicing medicine the way you think medicine should be practiced – that’s of great value, and I can’t learn that in a book. I was able to see patients through the initial visit, surgery, and then follow up – following the course of disease while studying the basic science brought me to a new level of understanding.”
The program is mutually beneficial to the division, which is getting extra help in the clinical and research arenas.
“We have a strong neuroscience program here, a well-defined specialty, and we are only strengthening that through this program by bringing students, like Sean, who are passionate about learning, into the mix,” Fletcher said. “Two more students are on board to pick up the banner Sean started.”
Meiner said he will continue to help with the preceptor program, as he will be with the Medical School for the next seven years as a neurosurgery resident.
“Sean is an exceptional individual – there is no one I’m prouder of and am excited that he will be the first neurosurgery resident,” said Dr. Margaret McNeese, associate dean for admissions and student affairs.
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Kirkendall Lecturer to speak on hospitalist movement
Dr. Robert M. Wachter, professor and associate chairman of the Department of Medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, will present the Walter M. Kirkendall, M.D., Endowed Lecture Series March 25.
Wachter, chief of the division of Hospital Medicine as well as chief of the Medical Service at UCSF Medical Center, will present, “The Hospitalist Movement in 2008: Key Issue for the Second Decade” at noon in MSB 2.103.
Wachter is generally considered the academic leader of the hospitalist movement, having coined the term “hospitalist” in a 1996 New England Journal of Medicine article. He served as the first elected president of the Society of Hospital Medicine and edits the field’s main textbook.
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