VC Notes Archive Office of the Vice Chancellor
Friday, December 29, 2017

Five Questions

Good morning!

I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas holiday.  As the years go by, I cherish these opportunities to be with family and friends.  Amid all the holiday festivities, for whatever tradition you celebrate, I hope you found a little quiet time to recharge your batteries.

happy_new_year_2018.jpgIt’s the last Friday of the month, so today I’ll answer some of your questions.  Just as a reminder, I read all your questions and comments and appreciate all of them.  I’m not able to answer all of them in VC Notes but I pass many of them along for review by others.

And now, on to the last five questions of 2017!

Q:  First off, thank you for being accessible and willing to address our concerns. I know this question may be a little too late, but what are the determining factors for holiday time off?  I'm asking because I see this year for Christmas we are off on Friday and Monday. Why not Monday and Tuesday?

A:  I’ll start by saying that setting a holiday schedule can be an inexact science, especially when Christmas and New Year’s coincide with the weekend.  These decisions have traditionally been made by Human Resources, in consultation with Payroll.  Every attempt is made to align with the official holidays designated by state government, even though UMMC typically makes its decision earlier than the state.  I’m sure many of our employees would have preferred to take Tuesday off instead of Friday, to have that extra day after Christmas, as other state employees did this year.  On the other hand, I expect some employees enjoy having three consecutive “short” weeks, including the week of New Year’s.    

Q:  I would like to know, during these very lean times that have included laying people off, how much is spent on all the groundbreaking ceremonies, roof-capping ceremonies, etc. Doesn't administration think this money could be spent in a more fiscally responsible manner?

A: Most of our groundbreaking ceremonies, even though they are big productions requiring lots of planning, involve minimal costs.  The recent exception was for the Children’s of Mississippi groundbreaking, where costs included a tent with decorations, live music and a catered lunch.  The main difference with this project is that it is accompanied by a fund-raising component with a very large goal of $100 million.  Many of our donors and volunteers attended the event, and we wanted it to be extra meaningful for them, as well as for our Children’s staff, who have been very patient during the long lead-up to this expansion project.  Even for this “nicer than usual” event, much of what made it special resulted from the extra effort on the part of our own advancement staff.  The expenses we did incur, which were paid with donated funds, were relatively modest.   

Q:  A close relative of mine was diagnosed with a rare type of cancer earlier this year. She decided to donate her body to be studied; it was her dream to help someone learn about this terrible cancer. She signed paperwork with UMMC for body donation and had all of her "ducks in a row" so that her family would not have to worry about anything when she passed. When she died in early December, the family called to let UMMC know the body was ready.  UMMC told the family they decided they didn't need her body. Could you imagine how that made the family feel, especially after she just passed?  I'm not sure where the problem lies, but something went terribly wrong. Even if it was a communication error, there must be a better way to deliver that information to a family. This caused the family to have to figure out what to do with her body, which stayed in her home for hours because she was "no longer needed." The family was able to find another research hospital to accept her body donation. In my writing this, I hope to help keep someone else from going through the same nightmare in the future.

A:  Please accept my condolences on the loss of your loved one and I’m sorry there was last-minute confusion about her plan to donate her body through our anatomical donor program.  Individuals who make the decision to donate their bodies after death for use in our educational programs perform an invaluable service to future generations of health care professionals.  Unfortunately, final acceptance into our body donor program can only be determined after death, based on a number of factors including whether the program has a sufficient number of bodies on hand to meet our needs.  In recent years, I’m told, donors have been very generous to our program so it’s not unusual that we would decline a body based on an adequate current supply as well as physical limits on our ability to store additional bodies.  When donors pre-register, the possibility that their body might not be accepted at death is carefully explained and they are urged to have alternate arrangements in place.  I expect that in some cases this imperative may not be fully communicated to surviving family members.  This may be complicated by the fact that many years can go by between donor registration and ultimate death.  In any case, I’m glad your loved one was able to fulfill her desire to aid future generations through body donation.

Q:  As a patient, the parking at the Pavilion is beginning to get out of hand. They should have more spaces for patients who have appointments.

A:  You are correct that the start of construction on the Children’s project and the loss of associated surface parking lots has impacted Pavilion parking.  In planning for this impact, our facilities and construction staffs established free valet parking for Pavilion patients.  But fewer than expected have taken advantage of this service, which has at times created a traffic backup on East University Drive.  To address this problem, the ground level of Garage C, normally reserved for employee parking, has been cordoned off for patient overflow from the Pavilion.  Unfortunately, this is just one of many inconveniences we will be dealing with over the next 2½ years as the Children’s expansion rises out of the ground.  We will be responding to these challenges as best we can but in the meantime ask for your patience.    

Q:  In Employee Student Health, there is a sign on the door that states no children allowed (unless they are pediatric hospital patients being serviced by the lab).  Some employees who come in to have services done to remain within compliance with UMMC rules are being told they can't bring their child back with them so they have to come another day. Or they can leave them in the hallway while they do what is needed. This is such a disservice to the employees, especially if they come up here on their off day. That is a waste of time, gas and effort. I don't believe that they would like for their 2- or 3-year-old child to sit at a table outside the clinic until they are called back to be seen by a nurse. It's never a run in and run out situation. I understand the waiting area is small but the employees and students shouldn't be punished because of this.

A:  The policy you reference preventing children from entering the clinic is for their safety.  Our main concern is the risk of exposure to infectious diseases.  The clinic staff attend to sick students daily, who often have acute viral illnesses.  They also attend to employees who have had exposures to various infectious pathogens, including TB, chickenpox, pertussis, RSV, influenza and various other viral illnesses.  In our very small waiting room, the possibility of airborne and contact pathogen transmission is quite high.  One day we may have the facilities to accommodate waiting children – either through an attended “clean room” or on-site child care – but until then we do not want to put our employees’ children at risk by having them in the clinic.

Again, thank you for all your questions and comments.  Hearing what’s on your mind is one of the best and most important parts of my job.  I wish all of you a Happy New Year and A Healthier Mississippi. 



Follow me on Twitter @LAWoodwardMD