Year One is Done (But Who's Counting?)
It's hard to believe, because sometimes it seems like only yesterday, but Tuesday was my one-year anniversary as vice chancellor for health affairs and dean of the School of Medicine. I'll say more about that shortly.
This is also the 53rd issue of VC Notes, which I began on March 6, 2015. I decided to try writing this weekly, interactive column as a way to communicate directly with you. I had no idea it would be so warmly embraced. To date, I've received more than 800 of your comments and questions through the VC Notes response feature, along with many other encouraging comments and emails. Thank you.
Your questions have enlightened me as to what your concerns are. Some of these issues have solutions, a few don't because they are beyond our control, and some just take a long time to achieve a change. I've certainly “heard” your concerns about things like crosswalk safety, security presence, housekeeping and transportation services, and we have seen gradual improvements in those areas, with more on the way.
Because I do receive a lot of questions, and value each one, I've decided to increase the frequency of my Q&A columns to once per month. Look for them on the last Friday of every month.
Now back to my first year on the job. And what a year it has been! I've had lots of jobs in my life - ER doc, waitress, cashier in a grocery store, even a specimen receiving clerk at the Mississippi State University vet school. (Only someone who grew up on a farm could stomach that job.) None of them was as hard, as rewarding, as inspiring, and as humbling as the one I have now.
Hard, because the stakes are so high. Rewarding, because there IS an opportunity to make a difference. Inspiring, because of all the wonderful, passionate people I work with, the history of this place, and its future possibilities. And humbling, because I realize every day what a gift it is to be the leader of this amazing force for good in our state.
As I reflect back on one year in this job, what have I learned?
I've learned that I have been extraordinarily blessed with superb mentors. Because of their generosity, I was as ready for this job as anyone could have been. Despite that preparation, I'm still adjusting to this role and I encounter small surprises every week.
I've learned that managing the hours in a day is the most difficult challenge. Making time to learn all I need to know and yet spend time with others who need to interact with me is very, very difficult. There is never enough time to do all the things I should do and want to do. I work hard on courage and stamina.
I've learned that there are days when I think the job description of the vice chancellor should be just one word - cheerleader. And there's a lot to cheer about.
And I've never forgotten what I learned as an emergency medicine resident - the impact that the mood or demeanor of one person in authority can have on others. I strive to be someone who can always be counted on to create a sense of calm in the environment along with a sense of optimism and good will for the future regardless of what the current challenge might be.
Lord knows, we have plenty of challenges. But we are making good progress in many areas - in our relationships with the Mayo Clinic and Methodist Rehabilitation Center, in our development of the University Wellness Centers, in our plans for the physical expansion of children's services, and in our adoption of new business software and processes, to name a few.
Most fundamentally, we have developed a meaningful pathway to improved quality across the clinical enterprise. This is a goal we all believe in and want, and one we all must play a part in achieving. Indeed, each of us needs to feel empowered to speak up when we see things that concern us, or that don't look quite right. If we accomplish nothing else in the year ahead, I would want it to be continued progress toward this culture of empowerment and participation of every member of every team at UMMC.
Thank you all for a very good year, and a very good first year for me. I'm so grateful for what you mean to our patients, our students, and our world - every single day - on our journey toward A Healthier Mississippi.