The Journey Continues
Yesterday I began my fourth year in the role of vice chancellor for health affairs and dean of the medical school. Good gracious, the time has flown by!
On this personal anniversary for me, the overwhelming feeling I have is one of gratitude. I’m deeply grateful for this opportunity and I especially appreciate the hard work, the passion for excellence, and the dedication of our faculty, staff and students.
Occasionally, people ask me what it’s like to do this job. It’s an amazing journey. There are exhilarating moments when you feel like you are on top of a mountain looking out over a beautiful valley – the way I felt at our groundbreaking in December for our Children’s expansion. And there are difficult and even painful times when all you can do is forge ahead through the mud and the muck, such as the budget emergency last spring that resulted in a layoff of valued employees.
Fortunately, the good moments have far outnumbered the bad, and this journey has been so rewarding, a credit to all of you and the support of many friends across the state.
The how I do this is because of all of you. The passion and commitment you bring to your work is, at times, overwhelming in its magnitude. You give me strength. When the challenges seem to be too big or too much, you inspire me and give me the courage to continue to lead the fight.
The why I do this is because of the many needs in Mississippi. As one of our students so eloquently said in a presentation, “Mississippi is hard to love. Love her anyway.” I love this state. I know there is no other organization that can have the positive impact for all Mississippians that we can.
A strong and healthy UMMC has implications for the whole state. We are an economic force in Mississippi, with a direct financial impact on our state approaching $3 billion annually. More than that, we’re a force for good – fostering better health, research into new treatments and cures for what ails our citizens, and growth of a workforce of exceptionally trained health professionals.
The rough patch we hit last spring was a low point, and I’m the last person to want to revisit such a painful time. But that context makes what you did accomplish last year all the more striking. Among the highlights, we:
- Raised nearly two-thirds of our $100 million private philanthropy goal to help pay for the new Children’s of Mississippi expansion;
- Commissioned a $76 million home for the School of Medicine and the $50 million Translational Research Center;
- Opened the John D. Bower School of Population Health, only the third school of its kind in the country and the first new health professions school at UMMC in 16 years;
- Received recognition and funding as one of two national Telehealth Centers of Excellence, charged with developing best practices for programs in other states;
- Won Legislative passage of the Health Care Collaboration Act, which increases our operational flexibility to work with other health care providers in an increasingly volatile health care environment; and
- Continued to grow and diversify our tertiary services, with several "firsts" particularly in transplant and congenital heart surgery, among others.
Those achievements, any one of which might be the lead highlight in any single year, were accomplished while we went about our “day job” that produced 971 new health professionals for Mississippi (a record); accrued nearly $70 million in sponsored research funding and 306 research grant applications (a record); and provided compassionate and expert care during more than a million visits from patients – many of them underserved and with complex medical needs – in our hospitals, clinics and ERs.
We receive state appropriated funds to do this work, which are allocated to our education mission. But few people realize that our state appropriation represents only one-tenth of our budget; the rest we bring in ourselves. And this crucial investment by taxpayers directly provides a nearly 20-fold return that benefits every corner of our state.
As you know better than anyone, we are forging ahead. We’re working hard every day to become more efficient in the use of our resources, to enhance our systems promoting clinical quality and patient safety, to foster relationships with other providers so we can become more focused on our patients’ total health and not just their health care, and to build our capacity to conduct clinical research. And that barely scratches the surface.
I hope more and more people will come to recognize UMMC as one of the state’s most important assets, one that year after year produces economic and societal benefits for our citizens, as we continue the journey toward a healthier and more prosperous Mississippi.