Q: Not trying to sound rude, but I thought this weekly column was to answer questions from employees regarding issues around campus. It seems this is the same information we employees read in the weekly eCV newsletters. Often I will read a question from another and think 'Yes, I was wondering about that also.' However, the last two weeks or so have not had anything to do with employees' questions. Just a thought.
A: I'm so glad you asked this question so I can be a little clearer about what my intent is for VC Notes. On most Fridays, I'd like to provide a short essay about the life of the Medical Center and some of the important things going on that I want to be sure you know about. I apologize if sometimes what I say is a repeat of information that has appeared elsewhere, but for the most part I think what I've had to say is pretty exclusive to this forum. About every four weeks or so I want to respond to some of your questions and comments. I cannot respond to all or even most of them. But I do appreciate receiving them, I read every one, and in many cases I pass along the constructive criticism to others who are better positioned to deal with the issue than I am.
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Q: Since Mississippi has become a diverse state, what is UMMC doing to accommodate the needs of the Hispanic patients we have? Are we going to start hiring more employees that speak Spanish?
A: We're doing a lot, but we can always do more, as the Hispanic population continues to grow in our state. In the broadest sense, all of our employees and students should be able to demonstrate cultural competency in their work, and we have curricula in place to help support this. We would also hope to enroll qualified Hispanic students in our health professions programs in rough proportion to Hispanic representation in the state's population.
According to our Office of Patient Affairs, more than 600 Hispanic patients receive medical services and require interpretive services each month at UMMC. Three in-house Spanish interpreters are available to provide both interpretive (spoken) and translation (written) services for our Hispanic patients. Our internal interpretive team also offers various patient teaching materials in Spanish, and has translated dozens of general rules, guidelines, regulations and consent forms into Spanish. The office has established an internal competency test to allow our bilingual physicians, nurses and support staff to become competent in Spanish medical terminology for their patients. And we will soon hire a bilingual patient advocate to continue to bridge cultural and communication needs for Hispanic patients.
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Q: Many of us walk between UMMC and the VA multiple times per day for patient care, educational conferences, parking, etc. With all of this construction between the dental school, pavilion and the VA, there is no longer a walkway and we are having to walk along South University Drive. What exactly is the construction project and when will they complete this? They have blocked off the only sidewalk between the two campuses, making traveling by foot very difficult.
A: Currently there are two projects ongoing east of the Pavilion and School of Dentistry: Parking Garage C and the replacement of East University Drive. The project that has pedestrian access blocked is the replacement of East University Drive. In addition to the replacement of the road, this project includes installation of several utilities, including water, electrical and storm drainage, which require deep excavations. Due to the nature of this project there is continual heavy construction traffic down the length of the road. Unfortunately there is no safe way for pedestrians to cross the project site. The temporary solution, which we know is less than ideal, is for pedestrians to walk around the construction site to the south. We have installed a temporary sidewalk as an alternative to the blocked route. The project is currently scheduled to finish in the spring of 2016. We understand that this is a major inconvenience and will do our best to reopen the route as soon as progress will allow.
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Q: I would like to hear your thoughts on how important the research departments are to UMMC. I think people would be surprised at the amount of money they bring into UMMC. These people come from all over the world and work tirelessly to improve health and find cures. I enjoy reading your newsletter. Thanks.
A: If we did not have our excellent research programs, then quite simply we would not be an academic health science center, since research is an integral part of the definition. We have a long history of success in basic science and clinical research. What I am currently excited about are the many initiatives in progress under the leadership of Dr. Richard Summers, associate vice chancellor for research. I don't have the space here to list all the major efforts underway - many in collaboration with the Mayo Clinic - but we are positioning ourselves to make significant progress in clinical and translational research that will provide direct benefits to patients in the future. As you suggest, research does contribute substantially to our financial success, to the tune of $82 million in FY 2014. Almost all of our faculty and many of our staff members contribute to our research mission, and I appreciate all of their efforts.
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Q: I just wanted to compliment the groundskeeping staff on campus. In the past few months, I've seen some beautiful landscaping that is new, and it brings a bit of joy to my day. I'm so glad to have these areas of beauty on campus!
A: Duly noted and I completely agree. Physical Facilities has always done an amazing job with our grounds, but the improvements they've made over the last few months - all while coping with record heat, drought and construction activity - are truly spectacular. Thanks for making UMMC look sharp!
And thanks to all of you for your questions and comments, and for your daily efforts that keep us on the path to A Healthier Mississippi.