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Vitter champions inter-campus teamwork in inaugural meeting with faculty

Published on Monday, April 11, 2016

By: Gary Pettus at 601-815-9266 or gpettus@umc.edu.

Published in News Stories on April 11, 2016

Applauding the Medical Center as “a gem of an institution” and “the future of Mississippi,” Dr. Jeffrey Vitter met with faculty members collectively for the first time as chancellor on Thursday. 

Addressing the Spring Faculty Meeting, Vitter, who became Chancellor January 1, emphasized his commitment to boosting cooperation and collaboration between the Jackson and Oxford campuses.

Noting that the University of Mississippi was declared in February one of the top doctoral research universities in the country, Vitter added: “Perhaps the main reason we got that designation is we are starting to talk, think and act as one university.” The recognition from the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education is a first for the university.

Vitter attributed the “momentum” enjoyed by the institution to, among others, his predecessors, Dan Jones and Robert Khayat, along with interim chancellor Dr. Morris Stocks, as well as Dr. LouAnn Woodward, vice chancellor for health affairs and dean of the School of Medicine, who led the faculty meeting.

Prior to the meeting, Vitter mingles with faculty, including Dr. Stephen Kemp, professor of medicine and pediatrics.
Prior to the meeting, Vitter mingles with faculty, including Dr. Stephen Kemp, professor of medicine and pediatrics.

Vitter, a New Orleans native who previously served as provost and executive vice chancellor at the University of Kansas in Lawrence, said, “What really excites me as a Southerner is the opportunity to come back to this area.”

One of his immediate plans is to bring together, by June, leadership teams from both campuses to discuss an “overall vision” for the university.

“I'm really energized by the great leadership here and the potential,” he said.

During an audience participation period, Vitter said Mississippi should “affirm the principle that we are the Hospitality State,” in response to a question about the need for diversity and a “welcoming” climate.

For her part, Woodward took on the Medical Center's concerns, as well as its accomplishments.

“Quality improvement in clinical care is our No. 1 priority,” she said.

Overall quality is one of the “factors for success,” she said, as are expense management; increasing patient volumes; reducing the length of patients' stays; and improving accuracy in reporting the Medical Center's Case Mix Index, a measure of how sick our patients are - which ties into the amount of resources a hospital receives.


Woodward also raised the specter of cyberattacks that could compromise patient information. “I want all of you to stress out with me a little bit about this,” she said, adding that the Medical Center is improving cyber security.

The Medical Center is also coming to grips with another concern - “the very stressful environment” medical providers face. Dr. Joshua Mann, professor and chair of the Department of Preventive Medicine, and Dr. Alan Jones, professor and chair of the Department of Emergency Medicine, are heading a task force on this issue, Woodward said. 

Regarding recent achievements, Woodward pointed out that the Medical Center:

  • Is participating in the first real-time patient data exchange in the country
  • Added a third AirCare helicopter, on April 1 in Columbus
  • Has seen an increase in year-to-date clinical revenue (February to February)
  • Is making progress in the $100 million fund-raising goal for the Children's of Mississippi expansion project: “We're more than a quarter of the way there.”