VC Notes Archive Office of the Vice Chancellor
Friday, June 23, 2017

Farewell (and good riddance) to 2016-17

Good morning!

I am not the kind of person who is prone to “wish my life away.” Rather I try to make a conscious and deliberate effort to find joy in each day, even the days that are challenging. Many years in the ER leave a person with no doubt of two sobering facts: 1) no matter what kind of bad day you may think you are having, most of us really do lead charmed lives and 2) life is fleeting and can end in any given nanosecond of bad luck, bad judgment, or for no apparent reason at all.

However, this has been a tough year and I will be a little bit glad to put it in the rearview mirror.   

On a personal note, I lost my mother. Thank you again to all of you who offered kind words and support during the last few years when she was very ill with cancer, when she died, and on my first Mother's Day without her. I have been deeply touched. “Thank you” is not enough to express my appreciation for Louis Puneky, Chris Anderson, Tim McCowan, Tim Ragland and the many others who cared for her so compassionately and expertly. Even though I would have wanted more quality time with her, I am thankful we had time to say goodbye. For all of you who have suffered personal loss this year, and especially those who suffered unexpected loss, I pray this upcoming year brings peace and restoration.

On a professional level, this has been a very challenging year for all of us. When an unexpected significant funding blow strikes mid-year, as it did this year, it is a real stress on the institution. Beyond that specific episode, academic medicine is filled with uncertainties at every turn - payment (or lack thereof ) for health care services, NIH funding challenges, rising tuition rates, ever-shifting regulatory requirements, and on and on. There are many efforts underway to respond to and manage the known challenges and to look around the corner and plan for unknown future threats. I spend much of my day thinking about and working on these threats we face.

Even so, our work goes on. Indeed, it's impressive to consider what we HAVE accomplished DESPITE the challenges of the academic and fiscal year we are closing out. I want to share with you a non-inclusive list of some of those accomplishments. Many of you could add to this list, which is in no particular order. But I think it is important to take a moment and focus on  what we've achieved and realize that your hard work is indeed moving the Medical Center forward, even under unexpected and very difficult circumstances.

For our workforce, we:

  • Administered the first organization-wide Employee Engagement and Patient Safety Survey; held focus groups and established six working groups to respond to issues identified by the survey
  • Established a Provider Burnout Task Force to develop plans to promote clinical provider well-being
  • Administered and developed improvement plans around the Faculty Forward survey
  • Held the first professional development program for mid-career women faculty, a response to a need identified in the faculty engagement survey
  • Introduced a closed Facebook site, People of the U, to enhance communication among UMMC employees; the site now has 1,185 followers
  • Expanded our employee wellness offerings, including the first UMMC Farmer's Market held only yesterday
  • Hired 80 new faculty in all schools and a half-dozen senior administrators

In the academic mission, we:

  • Established a Student Counseling and Wellness Center staffed by in-house psychiatry faculty
  • Established the John D. Bower School of Population Health with a $5 million gift from the Bower Foundation and will enroll the first students this fall
  • Maintained all schools and programs in good accreditation standing
  • Accommodated an increasing number of students in most programs; student enrollment is at an all-time high
  • Initiated the Bachelor of Science in Histotechnology program
  • Established an addictions training collaboration with Pine Grove Behavioral Health and Addiction Services in Hattiesburg
  • Established the Community Outreach Dental Externship, placing School of Dentistry students in rural communities
  • Transitioned the Dental Hygiene Program from SHRP to the School of Dentistry

gamma_knifeIn clinical care, we:

  • Improved our Leapfrog clinical quality score
  • Expanded the AirCare medical helicopter program by adding a fourth aircraft
  • Installed and operationalized the gamma knife at the Cancer Institute
  • Established a dermatology clinic in Louisville
  • Established an adult palliative care program in conjunction with the existing program for children
  • Opened new pediatric specialty clinics in Biloxi and Hattiesburg
  • Implemented a rooming-in option for new mothers/babies
  • Set record numbers of kidney and liver transplants for the 2016 calendar year and were listed as the 42nd most active kidney transplant program in the nation
  • Established a relationship with a home health agency to transition NICU babies to home care
  • Established the Office of Patient Experience
  • Introduced the UNACARE School of Nursing mobile clinic to serve the Midtown Jackson area, supported with a grant from Regions
  • Recruited additional physicians to the UMMC Grenada medical staff

In research and innovation, we:

  • Reactivated the UMMC Research Foundation
  • Secured a $19 million NIH award for translational obesity research
  • Secured a $1.9 million NIH grant to study the impact of environmental factors on children's health
  • Received a $2 million U.S. Homeland Security grant to train firefighters in EMS techniques
  • Received a $1.1 million NIH grant to support innovative health science and technology outreach education in high schools
  • Received a $7.5 million NIH COBRE grant for a Center of Excellence in perinatal research
  • Received accreditation from the Association for the Accreditation of Human Research Protection Programs
  • Were cited in an academic journal article for having nearly double the research productivity of better funded institutions such as Harvard and Johns Hopkins
  • Made major strides in the Mayo Clinic relationship with co-branded biobanking, joint investment in clinical trials software and collaborative Alzheimer's research, among others

In physical facilities, we:

  • Purchased/leased North State Street properties to relocate and expand adult GI services in the Belhaven neighborhood
  • Completed the Alumni Drive and East University Drive improvement projects
  • Completed and opened Garage C
  • Managed final phases of construction of the School of Medicine education building and the Translational Research Center
  • Developed an updated campus master plan

In outreach and community engagement, we:

  • Hosted the first Dental Mission Week that provided care to more than 800 underserved Mississippians
  • Were named a lead agency for implementation of a $33 million federal grant to improve emergency communications infrastructure and technology and to establish a training center for first responders
  • Finalized an agreement to extend the electronic health record to the state Department of Health via Epic Community Connect
  • Launched a new external e-magazine, CONSULT
  • Launched a statewide promotional campaign in support of Children's of Mississippi
  • Consolidated the two UMMC websites (academic and patient care) into a new single website that will debut July 5
  • Helped secure passage of the Health Care Collaboration Act (HB 926) and established a task force to develop procedures related to new clinical procurement flexibility
  • Established an after-hours outreach clinic in partnership with Belzoni, aided by a $1 million Department of Agriculture grant
  • Established a Psychiatry Outreach Program for the homeless a the Jackson Free Clinic
  • Exceeded the half-way point of the $100 million Children's of Mississippi fundraising campaign in Year One
  • Received the Governor's Award of Distinction for school-based wellness clinics operated by the School of Nursing and other partnership activities with Jackson Public Schools
  • Finalized the Up-in-Farms farm-to-table initiative in association with Jeff Good and David Watkins at UMMC's farmer's market property
  • Received a $10 million gift from the Gertrude C. Ford Foundation for The MIND Center
  • Introduced an innovative program for the respectful and dignified preservation of the remains of the 5,000-plus former asylum patients on the campus
  • Entered a long-term ground lease for the construction on campus of the American Cancer Society's Hope Lodge

I know that I have just scratched the surface in capturing the good work you have done. Without question, near the top of this list is our financial turnaround. Through great discipline and sacrifice, you reduced an unanticipated $40 million operating loss by $30 million in just four months. When unexpected financial difficulties hit, you stepped up. People worked harder and longer and did without resources felt to be important. Even with the regret we all feel over the loss of valued colleagues, I am proud of this performance in the face of adversity. 

I challenged our leaders, while navigating through the events of this last spring, to preserve academic integrity, protect the patient bedside, and maintain the areas of important strategic growth. We will never find our way out of our challenges only by cutting. We must also invest and continue to grow.

As this year comes to a close, I ask that each of you take a moment and think about your own area and the good work that has been accomplished in a tough year. Then let's all take a deep breath and look to the future. We have another challenging year ahead of us. But we are investing and we are continuing to grow and I am confident, with your help, we will have an equally impressive list of accomplishments to review in June 2018. 

I am grateful to each and every one of you for your hard work and dedication to the Medical Center, especially this year. I'm not one to wear rose-colored glasses; I see and live our challenges every day. But I also see the passion and commitment to the work and to the patients and students we serve. Year in and year out, that is the constant that sustains us, on our journey toward A Healthier Mississippi.  

Follow me on Twitter @LAWoodwardMD