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Published in CenterView on April 30, 2014
Dr. James E. Keeton
Dr. James E. Keeton

From the Vice Chancellor: A whole lot of YOU

Greetings to all of you and I hope you’ve been enjoying this beautiful spring weather!  I don’t know about you, but after the bitter winter we had, the thought of a sweltering Mississippi summer sounds pretty good right about now.

I wanted to take a moment to update you on a few topics of interest.

The state Legislature recently completed their 2014 session and we feel grateful not only for what we received but that the Legislators and the Governor understand how important your work is to the people of Mississippi.  The headline for us is the approval of the final block of funding that will enable us to construct a new medical school building.  We also received new funding for our programs in Alzheimer’s research and child abuse detection and prevention.  All in all, a pretty good year.

You may have noticed the new signs on campus that make it clear that smoking is not permitted anywhere on UMMC property.  We’ve also added two employees who are doing a wonderful job of encouraging violators to put out the smokes.  We are coupling this enforcement with increased effort to help our employees, visitors and patients stop smoking in partnership with our own ACT Center (act2quit.org).  I ask that you please do all you can to help support these efforts.  A commitment to the health of our state is inconsistent with permitting smoking on our campus.

Construction work on a new parking garage, a research building and the medical school building will gear up this summer. This activity will displace many parking spaces in the heart of campus, and there won’t be any relief until the garage is completed about 12 months after its construction begins.  I apologize for the considerable disruption this will cause, but it’s the price of progress.  We’ll be communicating changes to you as they develop.

Most of you have heard by now about the discovery of as many as 2,000 graves on the northeast corner of the campus.  The vast majority of these graves hold the remains of people who were residents of the mental asylum that was located on this property from 1855 to 1935.  This discovery was a surprise to many of us, and it has already impacted projects we had planned for that area.  We are looking at all of our options, including relocating the graves in some fashion, depending on a source of funding.  Whatever we ultimately do, the remains of the individuals buried there will be afforded the utmost respect and dignity, something they most likely did not enjoy in life.

Our number one challenge continues to be adapting to health-care reform and all the change that it is bringing.  We are challenged to provide higher quality of care to our patients, at a lower cost, and with a level of service that compares favorably with the finest institutions in the country.  This not one of those “would be nice to do” things.  It’s a must do thing.  The good news is, I’m encouraged every day as I see the progress you are making toward these goals. 

I’m coming up on my five-year anniversary as vice chancellor.  It’s been a fast, wonderful ride.  As I look back on what has been accomplished over this period, the list is surprisingly long and impressive.  Everything from the Epic implementation to the recruitment of almost 30 senior institutional leaders.  It’s a record to be proud of, and I’m keenly aware of who’s responsible for it:  a little bit of me, and a whole lot of you.

Thank you.
Keeton Sig
James E. Keeton M.D.
UMMC Vice Chancellor for Health Affairs