Progress Worth Waiting For
I can't believe September is almost over. Time may fly when you're having fun, but it really rockets by when you're working hard, and I know everyone is working very hard.
It shows. We are making progress on many fronts. Yes, the pace of change is slow, sometimes glacial, but there is almost daily evidence of success that is the product of months and often years of your hard work.
Within the last few weeks, for example, we've received funding for three large projects - two from the National Institutes of Health - including the largest award in the Medical Center's history to support our efforts to understand and cope with the epidemic of obesity. There's a story behind each of these awards that speaks to frustration, setbacks, perseverance and ultimately triumph.
Here are a few more good things that fit the same mold.
On Monday we celebrated the naming of our newest school, henceforward to be known as the John D. Bower School of Population Health. This is the perfect marriage of the man and the mission, since Dr. Bower was truly one of the first physicians in the state practicing with an eye toward the health of a population - in his case, patients with chronic kidney disease.
Dr. Bower was a pioneer in the use of dialysis, establishing the first unit at the Medical Center in 1966. As I said at the naming ceremony, my early experience with Dr. Bower was as a medical student, resident and young faculty member in emergency medicine, when Dr. Bower was division chief of nephrology. He could be a little intimidating, and was a staunch advocate for his patients. If one of his renal patients showed up in the ED, he wanted to know, even if the reason for the emergency visit had nothing to do with the patient's kidney disease. I remember being especially impressed by a memo he sent to the ED staff in 1996, so much so that I have saved it all these years. In it, he spelled out the notification process to use if we encountered one of his patients, making it clear that if we couldn't reach the fellow or attending on call, we were to call him, at any time of the day or night, and he provided two phone numbers. “I am on permanent third call,” he wrote. That made a statement to me about the level of his commitment to his patients.
The Bower School of Population Health is going to help change the way we think about health and health-care delivery in Mississippi. In time, I'm confident these new approaches will help move the numbers on the health status of our citizens. (If you want to know more about the school, I highly recommend this short video.) We have been working toward the idea of a School of Population Health for several years. I'm grateful to the Bower Foundation, its CEO Anne Travis, and especially to Dr. Bower for making it possible.
Some relief for our current space crunch is on the way. At its meeting last week, the board of the State Institutions of Higher Learning approved our purchase of a medical office building on North State Street currently owned by Baptist Medical Center. The “Rad” building, as it's commonly referred to (short for radiology), is a 30,000-square-foot structure just beyond Millsaps College. We also will be leasing a floor in the adjacent Watkins Building, also owned by Baptist. These spaces will become the new home of our adult digestive diseases outpatient services, including clinic space and an endoscopy lab, which is currently located on the fourth floor of University Hospital. The GI clinic will move to Watkins early next year and the lab will move to the Rad building (I promise we'll come up with a better name!) in the late spring.
Acquisition of these spaces is just one of several initiatives that are in the pipeline to secure additional capacity for our growing clinical services. It's also one of a series of dominoes that will eventually allow us to expand our operating room capacity in University Hospital. Bringing these opportunities online is the very definition of a “long, drawn out process,” but it does ensure that our decisions are thoroughly researched and vetted.
Our efforts to ensure a safe and secure campus environment reached an important milestone recently. UMMC police and our emergency management staff conducted the first live “active shooter response” exercise on our campus. All of our law enforcement officers undergo this type of training at the police academy, but they can benefit from periodic refresher drills, especially in the actual setting where they work. A great deal of preparation went into this first exercise and we are now positioned to hold additional drills at least twice a year. I'm told the exercise, conducted on a Saturday in late August in the SHRP building, revealed some areas of needed improvement and also validated that the training we provide our officers matches up well with actual experience. Kudos to our campus security and safety officials - Police Chief Michael Stamps, Manager of Emergency Services Jason Smith and Chief Administrative Officer Jonathan Wilson - along with all of our police, security, and communications staff who are working hard to keep us safe.
I am aware of all the work you are doing in every part of the organization, much of it unseen, but not unappreciated, moving us closer toward A Healthier Mississippi.