Today I'll answer questions you've submitted during the last few weeks. Before I begin, I want you to know that I read all your questions and comments and pass many along for further consideration and possible action by senior administrators. I'm not able to respond to all of your comments, but I select the ones that have the broadest application.
Now, on to your questions.
Q: The weekly UMMC hospital email used to have a section called "The Bulletin Board." It was an opportunity for employees to sell or buy items from each other. Why was this done away with? It was used by everyone from lowest employee to highest doctor. Thank you for your reply.
A: I checked with our Public Affairs staff, who produce “CenterView,” “eCV” and their predecessor, “This Week at UMMC.” When “This Week” was phased out, the bulletin board feature was discontinued. However, given its wide appeal and the intangible benefit it provides to employees, Public Affairs is considering a new and improved bulletin board for our campus community. Stay tuned.
Q: I recently read a Clarion-Ledger story about elevated lead levels in the Jackson water supply. Can you comment on the safety of the drinking water on the UMMC campus, and/or the steps that UMMC takes to ensure that safety?
A: The UMMC main campus has its own water supply - separate from Jackson's - that comes from four ground wells on our campus. This is especially important during extreme weather when the Jackson water system is impacted, as happened during Hurricane Katrina. Our water is tested for bacterial contamination from multiple campus locations on a monthly basis and is periodically tested for other contaminants such as lead and copper. Other Medical Center facilities not on the main campus, including the Medical Mall and the Medical Towers, rely on Jackson's water supply, but they are included in our testing program. Keep in mind that the trace amounts of lead that have been found in the drinking water of a small number of homes is not believed to be from the Jackson water supply, but from corrosion caused by the interaction of chemicals used to treat the water with older piping that has lead components. (I'm told that campus water pipes do not contain lead.) In any case, we will expand our specific testing for lead for all UMMC facilities that receive Jackson water while this inquiry is under way. From whatever source, lead in the drinking water is a serious public health issue, especially with regard to pregnant women and children 5 and under.
Q: I found your description of the new executive leadership committees extremely informative. I am wondering if it would be possible to also inform us of the specific individuals who sit on the committees. Without this information, the committees still seem (to me) removed from the organizational staff and a bit of lack of transparency still feels like it exists. Thank you for consideration of this matter.
A: Thanks for following up and I'm sorry for not making it clear in the Feb. 5 VC Notes that the membership of all committees is included in the other document I referenced that lists all official UMMC committees. This document can be accessed on the Intranet under the Administration tab or click here. The committee rosters are updated at the beginning of each new academic year.
Q: I saw that the IHL is now allowing guns to be carried on public university campuses in public spaces. How does this apply to UMMC and to the Medical Mall? Is there going to be a posting somewhere of what spaces are considered gun-free and where people can be legally carrying guns?
A: The board of the Mississippi Institutions of Higher Learning, the IHL, did adopt a revised policy regarding firearms on public university campuses at its Feb. 18th meeting. The previous IHL policy prohibited firearms on campus except those carried by duly authorized law enforcement officers. The revision takes into account the “enhanced carry” law passed by the state legislature in 2015. It authorizes holders of enhanced carry permits to possess weapons in public areas, with university leaders determining which parts of campus are deemed non-public. Senior leaders at UMMC are in the process of making these designations, and we will share that information widely when it is complete. Please note that under the revised IHL policy, employees and students are prohibited from possessing weapons on campus, even if they hold enhanced carry status. Although the mall is operated by the Jackson Medical Mall Foundation, which sets its own policies regarding weapons possession consistent with state law, our implementation of the new campus policy will include areas of the mall under our management. As we go through this process of assessment and implementation, we will be looking to enhance the security of our campus wherever possible.
Q: I have a suggestion for the cafeteria. I wish there was a special line or food options for people who only have 30 minutes to eat lunch every day. It is very frustrating to get to the cafeteria only to see long lines everywhere, and trying to rush past people in suits/regular clothes taking their time because they have longer than 30 minutes to eat. By the time you do make it through all the lines and get back to your unit, you only have about 20 minutes to eat. In the old cafeteria there was a line strictly for employees separate from everyone else. There should be a food service and checkout line not only for just employees but for employees who only have 30 minutes to eat.
A: I put this question to Jeff David, director of food and nutritional services. He responds: “I feel the lines move quickly considering the volume of customers during peak meal periods. The new cafeteria is designed as a 'scatter bar' and is set up for speed. You can step up to six different counters and make your selection instead of the traditional cafeteria formation of one line. This is the best design possible for the limited physical space. There are grab 'n' go options available such as sandwiches, salads, fruit, Chick-fil-A, etc., that require no waiting. With the new cash registers installed, times cashing out are much improved. We are attentive to our customers' need to get back to their duties, so we strive to make our processes as efficient as possible.”
Q: Should we change our slogan from A. "The State's Only Academic Medical Center"
to something like B. "The State's Best Academic and Research Medical Center?”
What will happen if Mississippi ever gets another academic medical center? We'll be fresh out of bragging rights. And statement A. doesn't really say anything about UMMC, only that Mississippi only has one.
A: What an interesting question! Actually, UMMC does not have an official slogan, though we often tout that we are the state's only academic medical center by way of explaining what that means. Not everybody knows that academic medical centers have three distinct missions - education, research and patient care - that intertwine and support each other, with the whole exceeding the sum of the parts. While there are more than 5,000 hospitals in the United States, fewer than 150 are part of academic medical centers. Mississippi has many fine hospitals, and some include educational programs. But none encompass both education and research on the scale of UMMC. Though there are many metrics that indicate excellence, “best” is a subjective term that I would rather have others use to describe us, instead of applying it to ourselves.
I enjoy reading all of your questions and comments and can say to you, without hesitation, that you are THE BEST, and it's your commitment and caring spirit that will help us reach A Healthier Mississippi.