Friday, January 29, 2016

Things on my mind

Published in VC's Notes on January 29, 2016

On My Mind

Good morning!

I have no particular theme for my comments today but I wanted to share with you some things that have been front and center on my mind lately.


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I'm sure most of you have heard about last Monday's carjacking, abduction and shooting that began at an apartment complex near the Medical Center.  As some media have reported, the victim is part of our campus community.  I'm so thankful this member of our UMMC family is reportedly recovering well and we will do everything in our power to aid in that process.   

As soon as we learned of this incident, we moved quickly to get all of our key players and the Jackson Police Department to the table to discuss an appropriate response.  In particular, I have asked our campus police and administrators to revisit our policies and procedures around enhancing security, not only on our campus, but in the areas immediately adjacent.  Although we do not have jurisdiction off our campus, a visible presence on the perimeter of the Medical Center is an important deterrent to crime in adjacent areas.  We also rely on our strong working relationship with the JPD and the full engagement of the business owners and residents in the Fondren and Belhaven communities near our campus.

By most standards, our campus and the immediate surroundings are safe.  Among our peer group of academic medical centers in the Southeast, we regularly rank at or near the top in terms of security.  But it only takes an incident like the one this week to shake our confidence.  The personal safety of our employees, students and visitors is extremely important.  There's no time like the present to make sure we are doing everything we can to keep everyone safe.


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During his recent talk here, Mayo Clinic President and CEO John Noseworthy spoke of his concerns about his clinical staff suffering exhaustion and burnout.   The stress of meeting expectations for productivity, the growing requirements to measure seemingly every aspect of patient care, and the feeling of powerlessness we can have in the face of change - all of these and more are taking a toll on work-life balance and are having a negative effect on clinician morale.  

Dr. Noseworthy's comments are echoed in recent articles in JAMA and other media that describe what appears to be the problem of increasing burnout.

I share these concerns.  I've heard from enough of you, including through VC Notes responses, that this is something we need to better understand and get on top of in a proactive, rather than primarily a reactive, way.  We do have data that touch on this issue from the Faculty Forward surveys that we have now administered on three occasions, and we will delve into this more deeply in future surveys.

Of course, this is a national trend being driven by dramatic shifts in our health-care system and the forces that shape it.  Through the American Medical Association, the Association of American Medical Colleges and other advocacy groups, as well as our own contacts with policymakers, the media and opinion leaders, we are making our voices heard on these issues, but any improvements will likely be slow and incremental.  In the meantime, I will be asking the appropriate leaders to take a deep dive into this issue and advance meaningful recommendations to address it.

I'll talk about this subject in greater depth in a subsequent VC Notes.  Until then, I think it's wise to follow Dr. Noseworthy's practical advice:  “Take care of the person next to you.”


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The legislative session is now shifting into high gear downtown, and we have had a number of positive meetings with legislators and other state officials.  There's no question that our state's leadership understands the important role of the Medical Center and values the work you do. 

Our top legislative priorities this year, in addition to level funding for our educational programs, are support for the development of a Clinical Trials Unit and the continuation of funding for expanding and updating the Children's Hospital.  Both of these projects promise huge benefits to the people of Mississippi as well as strongly positive economic impacts on our state.

We are participating in the recently announced 1.5 percent reduction in state funding for the second half of the current fiscal year.  This amounts to approximately $2.8 million that we would otherwise spend on education.  While this is not good by anybody's definition, it is manageable.  

In our day-to-day work, the most impactful thing we can to enhance our financial performance is to address the behaviors that needlessly add to patient length of stay.  Reducing our overall length of stay by just a fraction of a single day would dramatically increase our capacity and improve our bottom line.  I know we will all work toward this and am confident in our success.


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On a lighter note - and I'm sure you're ready for one by now! - I was proud that UMMC was voted as The Best Place to Work by the readers of the Jackson Free Press.  We probably have an edge in the voting since we're one of the largest, if not the largest, employers in Mississippi.  But the fact that some of our staff feel enough pride in working here to take the time to vote absolutely warms my heart.  And I couldn't agree with you more.

Thank you, thank you for everything you do to make us look good, and to make A Healthier Mississippi.



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