Service Learning, Hope Lodge, Help for Children
I want to touch on a number of topics today but before I begin, let me express my concerns for our sister institutions facing hurricanes, floods and earthquakes. These natural disasters test hospitals and academic medical centers like nothing else. My hope is that they can return to some semblance of normalcy as soon as possible, but from what I am hearing, that will take some time.
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Kudos to Dean Kim Hoover and her students in the School of Nursing for reaching $1 million in the value of community benefit donated in community service and service learning projects since 2014, according to data-tracking website GiveGab. SON students have taken part in more than 42,000 hours of service to organizations like Mississippi Blood Services, Jackson Public Schools, the March of Dimes, the Children’s Miracle Network and the Mississippi Diabetes Association.
Of course, our students have always participated in community service, but it’s only recently that we've had an effective way to track it and know to what extent we are serving the community through student volunteer activities. Driven by changes in the curriculum and the interests of our students, service learning and community service have blossomed across the campus in all schools during the last few years. Many thanks and congratulations to our nursing students for leading the way in UMMC’s connection to the community. And thanks to Tammy Dempsey and Dr. Ralph Didlake in Academic Affairs for their support of these efforts.
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On Tuesday I had the pleasure of attending the groundbreaking ceremony for the new Gertrude C. Ford Hope Lodge that will rise at the intersection of North State Street and Old Canton Road, the former site of Schimmel’s restaurant. The Hope Lodge will provide overnight accommodations for cancer patients in a sensitive, supportive environment, filling a long-standing void in Mississippi. It’s an important partnership among the American Cancer Society, the Gertrude C. Ford Foundation, Trustmark, the BlueCross BlueShield of Mississippi Foundation, St. Dominic’s Hospital and others, with the support of many other corporate and individual donors. UMMC is providing the land for the facility.
I’m happy for Dr. Ralph Vance, retired professor of hematology/oncology, who has been working on this project for more than a dozen years, and I’m proud of Dr. Jack Ruckdeschel, director of the UMMC Cancer Institute, who represented UMMC at the groundbreaking and announced a $10,000 personal gift from him and his wife, Angie, to help fund a guest room in the lodge. This is a huge step in what we can offer our cancer patients beyond advanced, compassionate treatment and after-care. We’re proud to be a part of it.
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Yesterday we announced a $10.5 million grant from the federal Health Resources and Services Administration for a project that holds great promise for improving child health in Mississippi. The project, which will be implemented in partnership with Mississippi State University’s Social Science Research Center and other participants, will dramatically increase and improve health and developmental screening for preschoolers. Less than one-fifth of Mississippi children ages 6 and younger are screened for developmental and behavioral disorders - the lowest rate in the nation and about half the national average of 30.8 percent. The goal of the project is to reach at least 60 percent of the state’s children with these services. Experts agree that interventions in these early years of life can profoundly improve a child’s chances for a healthy and productive future. Congratulations to Dr. Susan Buttross, Dr. Bob Annett, Dr. David Elkin, Dr. Barbara Saunders and Dr. Dustin Sarver of our Center for Advancement of Youth and to Dr. Rick Barr and Dr. Mary Taylor for their leadership of all the good work occurring in the Department of Pediatrics and Children’s of Mississippi. And a big thank you to Sen. Thad Cochran for his support of this project that holds so much potential to provide a brighter future for Mississippi’s children.
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Finally, I want to put in a plug for the visit next week of Dr. David Acosta, the chief diversity and inclusion officer of the Association of American Medical Colleges. Dr. Acosta will give a talk at noon Wednesday, Sept. 27, in R-153 on bridging the culture divide at academic medical centers through a single-minded commitment to inclusion excellence. Diversity and inclusion are among the foundation values of our Medical Center and insights from national leaders like David not only keep this topic at the forefront of our experience but bring us new strategies to help us continue to progress.
Valuing and celebrating our differences – instead of letting them keep us apart – is an important way that UMMC plays a leadership role in our communities and in our state. These values are aspirational, meaning we have to work at them every day, as an organization and as individuals. It’s all part of our journey toward A Healthier Mississippi.