Friday, November 6, 2015

Govt Relations

Published in VC's Notes on November 06, 2015

In D.C. and Downtown, Telling Our Story

Good morning!

Another election has come and gone.  And as with every election, there were winners and losers, but at least each of us had the chance to have our say.

The election reminded me that UMMC is a very “public facing” institution that is dependent upon, and subject to, governmental engagement and oversight on many levels.  We are a quasi-state agency that receives funding appropriated by the state legislature.  Much of our business activity is subject to state law, the policies of our college board, or both. Our health-care system is highly regulated by the federal government and receives a substantial amount of its funding from government insurers, namely Medicare and Medicaid.  Our research enterprise is also highly regulated and receives the bulk of its funding from federal sources, most notably the National Institutes of Health.

What all this means is that our ability to carry out our missions is very much dependent upon others - elected leaders, agency officials, political appointees - who have the power to influence, positively or negatively, our funding and the way we conduct business.  

What does all this mean for us?  It means we have to spend a lot of time and effort telling our story.  All of those people who have influence over us need to understand the work that you are doing every day to care for our patients, develop new insights into health and disease, and educate Mississippi's future generations of health-care providers.  

That story-telling job principally falls to me, but I have help.  We have a small but experienced group of professionals in our Office of Government Relations who work with me to stay attuned to developments on the state and federal levels and to foster understanding and support. 

Our team is led by Dr. Claude Brunson, my senior advisor for external affairs, and includes Tara Mounger, who is focused primarily on state relations, Kristy Simms and Rachel Jones Gressett, who manage federal relations, and Wesley Clay, who specializes in economic development.

We are fortunate to have a very engaged and supportive group of public servants at the state and federal levels who understand the vital importance of UMMC to Mississippi and have our best interests at heart.  I'm truly grateful for their leadership and genuine concern for the Medical Center.

Our state legislature and leadership have been generous in providing funds in support of our education mission, including bond funding for our new School of Medicine building.  Our Congressional delegation in Washington, D.C., has been equally supportive in ways large and small, particularly in regard to our telehealth program, our emergency communications capability and our efforts to combat Alzheimer's disease.  The NIH, of course, is a meritocracy; you have to earn your support with great ideas for investigation.  Even in that highly competitive arena, our faculty make a strong showing.

I appreciate that many in our UMMC community are part of telling our story.  In fact, you are the very best ambassadors on our behalf.  I would only ask that when you are formally visiting our state and federal officials that you please coordinate with our government relations staff so that we can take full advantage of your visit and be sure that we are speaking with one voice on behalf of UMMC.  You can reach any member of our government relations team through the Vice Chancellor's office.

UMMC has a wonderful story - written by you every day - and nothing makes me prouder than to share it with whomever is within the sound of my voice.  It's one more way we'll get to A Healthier Mississippi.



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