Published on Thursday, August 24, 2017
Media Contact: Gary Pettus
For many who work at, study in and support this academic medical center, accreditation is like the roof over their heads: They may not think too hard about it – unless it’s not there.
But when it’s there, accreditation provides cover for students who seek federal aid to help pay their way – nearly seven out of 10 do so here at the University of Mississippi Medical Center.
When it’s there, it’s a haven for those pursuing research grant awards, a protection for UMMC’s reputation among current and prospective students and faculty, and assurance that programs continue to adapt and improve.
If it’s not there, said Dr. Ralph Didlake, “the machinery of this institution would grind to a halt. You can see why we take this so seriously.”
This seriousness paid off when the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges revealed in July the results of UMMC’s Fifth-Year Interim Report: complete compliance, no recommendations. No holes in the roof.
Only about 17 percent of accredited institutions get a ‘no recommendations’ appraisal from SACSCOC, said Didlake, UMMC associate vice chancellor for academic affairs, and a leader of the report committee/writers, one of several teams that made this happen.
UMMC did so well, a SACSCOC vice president, Michael T. Hoefer, sent his “congratulations for a perfect report; you were one of only a few [institutions] that had no referrals required.”
For SACSCOC, all programs awarding baccalaureate, master’s and doctorate degrees across the entire campus are dissected. As in all such inspections, accreditation confirms that certain measures of quality are met.
Those measures include “number of full-time faculty,” “student achievement” “student complaints,” and “physical facilities; officially, there are 17 academic yardsticks in all, although, in reality, sub-categories boost the number to two dozen.
“These benchmarks validate our educational offerings; they show we adhere to the highest levels. They allow us to meet our goal: to provide health education that will improve the health of Mississippians,” said Dr. Mitzi Norris, executive director for academic effectiveness, and a key leader of the accreditation team.
“Only three other institutions, out of around 40-50, received no recommendations this time. For us, this was a massive undertaking and a big achievement for the campus, because so many people were involved.”
The Fifth-Year Interim Report is relatively new. SACSCOC accreditation is required by the Mississippi Institutions of Higher Learning, but until several years ago, it came around every 10 years only; the decennial process is still in place, and lays out a much longer list of touchstones.
For its last 10-year report, in 2011, UMMC earned a grade of 97 percent; one recommendation arose, and it was addressed “before members of the accrediting committee were on their plane back home,” Didlake said.
Work on the five-year project began soon afterward, with team members focusing on such areas as “Student Achievement,” Norris said.
“That particular standard is a way of being accountable to students: ‘How likely am I to graduate on time in this program?’ ‘What is the percentage of students who usually pass the boards?’
“For the students and their parents, it’s kind of a consumer protection measure.”
One reason UMMC did so well is clear-cut, Didlake said. “The faculty has made a deep commitment to the process. We really value meeting these standards, not only on paper, but also in reality. Accreditation adds real value to our institution.”
Speaking of addition, 600 supporting documents were tacked onto UMMC’s 314-page brief submitted to SACSCOC for the five-year review, not to mention 815 documentation links; 78 people were recognized for their contributions.
Of course, work has started already for the next report, as the next 10-year inspection looms. In the meantime, individual programs, schools, etc., have their own unique reviews to contend with. IHL has received a total of 14 accreditation results from this institution recently; that doesn’t count residency education programs.
“In reality,” Didlake said, “accreditation is going on all the time. It’s something we do every day when we come to work.”
FIFTH-YEAR INTERIM REPORT COMMITTEE/WRITERS
Dr. Ralph DidlakeDr. Mitzi NorrisIvory BoganMolly BrasfieldJamie ChristianDr. Jerry ClarkSusan ClarkTeresa ClaytonEmily ColeDr. David FowlerYvette GallowayDr. Scott GatewoodDr. Natalie GaughfDr. Mark GrayDr. Loretta Jackson-WilliamsKerry MarshallDr. Tina MartinDr. Rob McElhaneyDr. Sydney MurphyKathy PipitoneDr. Marcia RachelDr. Robin RockholdDr. Kimberly SimpsonCourtney SmithDr. Patrick SmithDr. Mary StewartBarbara Westerfield
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