Vice Chancellor pushes creative strategies at spring faculty meeting
By Tom Fortner
Unfortunately, money matters. But preoccupation with how the Medical Center’s activities are financed shouldn’t detract from the focus on quality programs in education, research and health care.
That was but one of the takeaway messages at the spring faculty meeting April 18. UMMC educators packed the conference center at the Norman C. Nelson Student Union to hear a pep talk from senior leaders and to give a last salute to a dozen colleagues headed toward retirement.
Chancellor Dan Jones opened the meeting with a nod to the first among equals among the honorees, Dr. Helen Turner, who is stepping down after 28 years as a faculty member and 11 years as associate vice chancellor for academic affairs.
“She has had a large influence on this place,” Jones said. “We have strong academic programs…and Helen has had hand her in these for many years. We are a much stronger and better place because of her presence.”
In praising Turner, Jones took the opportunity to focus on the Medical Center’s remarkable run of success with accrediting bodies. The Schools of Dentistry, Medicine, Pharmacy and Nursing, the adult hospitals, and the laboratory animal program have all received glowing reports from accrediting bodies, topped off by the Medical Center’s stellar review by the Southern Association of Schools and Colleges last year.
While other Medical Center challenges and achievements can seem to grab most of the attention, the accreditation experiences are a sign that UMMC’s main work is getting done, and done well.
These are “not just getting-by accreditation reports but incredibly strong accreditation reports,” Jones said. “Largely it’s the faculty that is responsible for that.”
Jones spent a few minutes discussing how the environment has changed in the 20 years he’s been in the university setting.
“Money matters a lot more than it used to.” In years past, he said, we were far more concerned about what we were going to do than how we were going to pay for it. Now those priorities have flip-flopped.
All that means is that UMMC and its parent in Oxford have to be more deliberate and selective about what they take on, especially compared to peers that are better financed.
“Our strategies will have to be smarter and sometimes harder for us to be successful,” Jones said.
Added Keeton: “We have to be creative. We cannot just sit here and say because we are an academic medical center, everything will be wonderful.
“We cannot be everything, but we need to focus on the things that people in Mississippi need,” he said.
In closing, Keeton asked the faculty to let him worry about where the money will come from so that they can concentrate on doing the work that they love – teaching, doing research and taking care of patients.
And no matter what that work might be, he said, do it with quality and “pride in who we are.”