Making a List
As we get ready to turn the page on another year, I've been looking back at some of the things we accomplished together in 2016. I'll share the items on my list with you today. Keep in mind that this is not all inclusive - just some of the highlights that stood out for me.
We've had some financial challenges this year, with expenses that have caused us to tighten our belt and delay some plans. Yet we've still been able to make needed infrastructure improvements and achieve some of our important goals.
At the top of the list, we kicked off the Children's of Mississippi capital campaign. We're still in the early phase of soliciting major gifts, but I'm optimistic that we will reach our goal of $100 million. We have also reached agreement with architects on the basic components. If all goes as planned, I expect a groundbreaking in mid-2017!
We won approval from our board to add a seventh school on the UMMC campus, the John D. Bower School of Population Health. As the name suggests, the school has been underwritten by a $5 million gift from the foundation of our former faculty member and a pioneer in population health, Dr. John Bower. This new school, under the leadership of Dean Bettina Beech, promises to bring a greater focus on prevention and the development of healthy communities to our work.
We celebrated a $10 million gift from the Gertrude C. Ford Foundation to The MIND Center to support its work on Alzheimer's disease and other neurocognitive disorders. Both The MIND Center and the School of Population Health will occupy space in the new Translational Research Center when that building is completed.
In November we occupied our third and largest parking facility, Garage C. Although we're still working out a few minor kinks, I've been hearing positive reports from faculty and staff about the new deck since the opening.
Our other campus construction projects continue to move toward completion. The School of Medicine is progressing nicely and we have begun counting down the days to occupancy in early summer. The Translational Research Center, mentioned above, should be occupied by August 2017. The project to straighten Alumni Drive will come to a close in January.
We received several noteworthy grants and contracts, some the result of years of preliminary work. The National Institutes of Health awarded us $19.9 million to build our capacity to do clinical and translational research in obesity, under the direction of Dr. Jim Wilson. The NIH also awarded $1.9 million to researchers in pediatrics for a multicenter study on how environmental factors from conception through early childhood influence the health of children and adolescents. The ECHO study, as it's called, is led by Dr. Robert Annett and Dr. Rick Barr.
The services we provide to the state during emergencies continued to expand in 2016. We received a $2 million grant from the Department of Homeland Security to improve emergency communications with first responders in rural areas, the so-called “First Hands” program, under the direction of Dr. Damon Darsey. And through the efforts of our elected federal and state leaders, $33 million will be coming to Mississippi to enhance emergency and disaster-response communications. These plans include the development of a public safety communications center on our campus and the enhancement of our Mississippi MED-COM and telemergency communications, with support to UMMC totaling $14 million.
Finally, under the category of emergency services, we deployed our third air ambulance to serve north Mississippi from the Golden Triangle Airport near Columbus.
I have been so pleased with the progress of our clinical quality efforts during the last year. From Leadership Rounds to departmental quality meetings to our scorecards on the Clinical Intranet, our quality program has taken root under the leadership of Dr. Michael Henderson and his team. We are seeing real improvement in our scores in a number of areas. While we still have much work to do, we are clearly on the right path, and your engagement in these efforts is vital to our continued success.
Patient volumes continued to be strong and I feel the measures we put in place to manage our capacity have helped. Nowhere has volume been stronger than in our transplant program. Through the end of November, our teams had already broken annual records for heart, kidney and liver transplants. In one four-day stretch, we transplanted 10 kidneys and one liver - simply incredible.
Two projects that will help answer our need for more clinical space took shape last year. We received $7.5 million in bond funding from the Mississippi Legislature to finish part of the sixth floor of University Hospital as an inpatient clinical trials unit. We also received board approval to acquire facilities on North State Street to relocate our GI outpatient services, which will happen in the first quarter of 2017.
Our relationship with the Mayo Clinic continued to advance in 2016. Collaboration with our Cancer Institute should continue to expand when our new CI director, Dr. John Ruckdeschel, arrives next month. Our project involving the real-time exchange of health record data with the state Division of Medicaid, which began earlier this year, is approaching one million patient records exchanged. Kudos to Dr. John Showalter, chief health information officer, and his team.
We completed a thorough assessment of our IT security and began taking steps to strengthen the security of our information systems with, for example, the Good Works email app and, just this week, the installation of software to encrypt removable media.
During 2016, we hired a number of senior leaders. The group includes School of Dentistry Dean David Felton, Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer Juanyce Taylor, Chief Information/Medical Information Officer Paul Veregge, Chief Information Security Officer Randall Arvay, CEO of the Adult Hospitals Liz Younblood, CEO of the Lexington and Grenada Hospitals Don Hutson, Jackson Heart Study Director Adolfo Correa and Chief Development Officer Travis Bradburn.
Finally, we worked with the Mississippi State Department of Finance and Administration and the board of the State Employees Health Plan to make our nationally recognized telehealth program available to members of the plan beginning in early 2017. This is an exciting development that promises to bring our services to even more of our state's citizens.
I'm especially proud of this list because the things I've noted - and many more I could add - represent progress that is above and beyond the work each of you does every day caring for patients, working with students, conducting research or providing support to these mission activities. These are achievements that are making us better, and taking us farther along the path to A Healthier Mississippi.