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Published in CenterView on September 10, 2012

Medical Center retires UMHC name, promotes mission-driven brand

By Gary Pettus

In launching a new branding initiative this month, the University of Mississippi Medical Center is making an old name for itself.

To promote a unified identity as an academic medical center, UMMC is retiring the separate “University of Mississippi Health Care (UMHC)” brand that was created five years ago to shape a new image for one of the center’s three missions: patient, or clinical, care.

Now that the perception of patient care has improved, the institution is enfolding all of its missions –which include education and research – under the “University of Mississippi Medical Center” umbrella.

“There really isn’t a name change: We’re getting back to who we really are,” said Dr. James Keeton, vice chancellor for health affairs. “We’re not just a hospital, we’re not just a medical school, we’re not just a place where we mainly do research.

“We’re an academic medical center. And we’re the only one in Mississippi.”

In a corresponding move, UMMC is changing the brand structure of the Children’s Hospital by crafting a new brand, “Children’s Healthcare of Mississippi,” which embraces Batson Children’s Hospital, all pediatric clinics, the Children’s Heart Center, the Children’s Cancer Center and all pediatric service lines.

“As the state’s only children’s hospital, we want the people of Mississippi to have a sense of ownership for our facility,” said Guy Giesecke, CEO of Batson Children’s Hospital. “We believe the name ‘Children’s Health Care of Mississippi’ will provide that connection.”

UMMC’s rebranding effort, which only will be promoted internally to employees, is titled “We Are UMMC,” a slogan that will be displayed throughout the Medical Center.

Logos and internet URLs will be updated during a transition that is expected to last several months. The words “Education,” “Research,” and “Healthcare” are part of the new logo, which features slight changes to the font and colors.

As with all brand changes, this one is meant to help patients or consumers better understand an organization’s services.

“We are promoting UMMC as a unique place for patients,” said Rondah Marks, UMMC chief marketing officer. “But we’ve been missing the mentioning of research and education on the same conversation plane as health care.

“It’s important that those three dots connect. So consumers will now fully appreciate what they will gain from being a part of an academic medical center.”

Although it opened in 1955 as the University of Mississippi Medical Center, the institution has been known by several different names over the years, Keeton said.

“Those include ‘University Hospital,’ ‘the U,’ ‘UMC,’ as well as ‘UMMC,’” he said. “It had, for a long time, an image as a charity hospital.”

Many patients were liable to turn to “the U” only under dire circumstances.

“Market research showed that people thought you came here if you were dying,” Marks said.
With UMMC’s commitment to improving patient care and services, perceptions began to change under the leadership of Dr. Dan Jones, now chancellor of the University of Mississippi. In 2007, UMMC tried to boost that cultural change by isolating a UMHC brand.

In the Sept. 10, 2007 issue of the publication This Week at UMC, Dr. Will Ferniany, then CEO of University Hospitals, explained, “We want our fellow Mississippians to know that what’s happened at the Medical Center is new and different, and that we’re not the same Medical Center we were five years ago.”

In focus groups, people had professed misperceptions about patient care, Ferniany wrote. Among them: The Medical Center’s faculty physicians did not see patients, and the system was too large to navigate.

“Dr. Ferniany realized that, in order to back up what we were selling, we had to change the way we met the needs of our patients, and we did,” Marks said. “When he left, the spirit of the cultural change remained.

“Now the UMHC brand has accomplished what it was intended to do. Research shows that people now associate us with top-notch medical care. They know that is who we are, and they like us.”

By comparison, the rebranding of Batson Children’s Hospital is much broader.

“‘Batson Children’s Hospital’ is not going away,” Marks said. “It’s too important to us as a brand.

“‘Children’s Healthcare of Mississippi’ explains who we are in total. Batson is an anchor to all that the system provides to Mississippi.”

For more information about brand transition, including a video featuring UMMC employees, visit www.umc.edu/WeAreUMMC.