Good morning and thank you so much for your questions and comments. I have received more than 300 so far! I read every submission and pass many of them along to the appropriate administrators for further review. I'm sorry that I'm not able to address every question or comment directly, but some common themes emerge and inform my thinking about what we need to work on. Today I'll address five questions that are presented in italics below.
Question 1: I agree with our no smoking on campus rule, but find that as an employee I am forced to walk through clouds of smoke from people huddled on the corner at the crosswalk smoking. Not only walk through it, but stand IN it while I wait for the light to change. If we had butt cans or a designated area down the sidewalk I think people would use it... as for now they huddle at the crosswalk and dispose of their butts all over the sidewalk, road and grass. It is dirty, unsanitary and doesn't give a nice first impression of our facility. Please designate a smoking area away from the crosswalk and continue educational initiatives, but let us non-smokers have a better experience every day by not having to walk through this.
Answer: Enforcing our campuswide "no smoking/tobacco-free" policy continues to be a challenge. We have given our security staff the authority to enforce the policy on our campus, but the sidewalks on the perimeter of campus are under the jurisdiction of the City of Jackson and we have no authority to compel people to stop smoking there. This has resulted in the problem of smokers congregating near the crosswalk on State Street that impacts our employees and students as they walk to and from the stadium parking lots. I've received a number of comments about this and I'm sorry if you are exposed to second-hand smoke. This is not acceptable. Members of our ad hoc smoking policy committee have had initial discussions with the Jackson City Council about a local ordinance that would extend our smoking policy enforcement authority beyond the sidewalk. I'm hopeful this can be passed soon to bring some relief to our staff. I will keep you updated on our progress on this important issue.
Question 2: We now have street signs up, which is a good thing! However, I've run into numerous people around campus who cannot seem to find the dental school, Classroom Wing, waiting rooms in the hospital, and so on. I know you've addressed a signage initiative, so could we have an update on that?
Answer: A number of new signs have been deployed at key locations throughout campus to help direct patients and visitors. I am told that additional signs will be placed as needs are identified and as construction affects the existing routes. Maps that depict the major detours are available on the umc.edu home page and in the maps section of ummchealth.com. It's important to realize, however, that even with the best system of signs and directions in place, visitors are still going to lose their way, especially during this period of major construction. So I want to thank all of you for literally going out of your way to help direct people who seem lost. Southern hospitality is alive and well.
Question 3: After reading this week's column on construction, I was reminded of something that needs to be addressed. The breezeway between the School of Nursing and the hospital could use a makeover. The cover leaks and people have to walk through water because of the puddles on the sidewalk. I know that this is probably not a priority, but I'm sure a lot of employees would like to see this area looking better.
Answer: You are absolutely correct that the area between the original medical school entrance and the original School of Nursing building is in need of a makeover. This has been on our to-do list for some time. The canopies that extend between the buildings have patches on top of patches, but they still leak and they just look bad. A project to make improvements to the canopies is currently under consideration. Aside from money, which is always a concern, the major hurdle in getting this project completed is obtaining approval from the state Department of Archives and History. This is a historic area of campus and the DAH will need to okay any construction drawings to ensure the design preserves the historic character of the original facility. I'm hoping we will be able to move forward on this project soon.
Question 4: I wrote about potholes last week. The one on Woodrow Wilson near the turn onto North State Street was repaired. The two larger ones there where we turn off State onto Stadium Drive go unrepaired as of this morning. There is also another one on Stadium Circle. These potholes not only present a problem of maneuvering, but the driver also has to watch out for those pedestrians who string out in the right car lane. Thank you for all that you do.
Answer: Staying one step ahead of the potholes is a never-ending pursuit. This can be even more chalIenging with the amount of construction we're now seeing on campus. I think our Physical Facilities staff does a great job when the potholes are on our roads. We have far less control when they are not on our property. While the general parking and overflow parking areas at the stadium fall to us to maintain, the internal stadium roads are the responsibility of Jackson State University. Most of the streets surrounding the stadium are under the purview of the City of Jackson. We have been assured by JSU that stadium streets needing repairs will be addressed after the new fiscal year begins July 1. In the meantime, our Physical Facilities personnel have been filling the worst holes with limestone as a stopgap measure until the major repairs can be made.
Question 5: I work at University Physicians at Grants Ferry and I would love to be a part of some of the festivities that happen at the campus. We feel left out down here as if we are all not as one. Is there any way possible that this can change and let us be a part of some of the festivities?
Answer: What you are describing are some of the "growing pains" that come from being an ever-expanding organization. We have locations all around Jackson as well as in neighboring communities, in Lexington and Grenada, and in Tupelo, Hattiesburg and Gulfport where we have Children's of Mississippi clinics. With people so spread out, it's sometimes hard to feel like we are "one UMMC" with a common identity and sense of purpose. We try to counteract this separation through strong leadership and through communications (like VC Notes!). I'm also making it a personal priority to visit every UMMC location. At special times of the year, like Hospital Week that just passed, celebratory activities on the main campus in Jackson may not be accessible to staff at outlying locations. That's why we should take advantage of activities like UMMC Appreciation Night at the Mississippi Braves, which was part of the lineup for the week. If all else fails, I encourage you to consider initiating festivities at your own work site. We all deserve a break from our daily routine from time to time, to celebrate time-honored traditions or just to have a laugh or two with co-workers.
Thank you for all of your questions and comments and for all you are doing to help us achieve A Healthier Mississippi.