This, That and the Other
Today I’ll touch on a number of topics that have been on my radar lately.
As you read this, we are in the second full day of hosting a conference of the Southern Group on Educational Affairs, medical education professionals affiliated with the Association of American Medical Colleges. Approximately 245 registrants from medical schools across the South are on our campus for – count ‘em – 103 presentations during three-plus days centered on the theme of “Shifting Paradigms in Medical Education.” There’s no question that we would not have been able to host a meeting of this size and scope without our new medical education building. Even more important has been the many months of hard work by Dr. Loretta Jackson-Williams, Dr. Jerry Clark and the entire medical education team, as well as faculty and staff from across UMMC who have helped get us ready for this event. Congratulations to our team on a wonderful meeting so far, and for making us look good in front of these distinguished guests.
On Monday, the Mississippi Commission for Volunteer Service presented our own Dr. Richard deShazo with its Volunteer Excellence Award for outstanding achievement in health advocacy. “Dr. Rick,” as he is known to thousands of Mississippians who follow his Southern Remedy radio and TV programs on MPB, has devoted countless hours to promoting good health and health literacy during 13 years on the airwaves. He was also instrumental in the development of our Community Health Advocate Program, which in less than five years has trained 2,000 people to look after the basic health needs of their neighbors. Former chair of the Department of Medicine, Billy S. Guyton Distinguished Professor of Medicine and Pediatrics, and my own personal physician, Rick has announced he will retire at the end of this academic year. He and his wife Gloria will be moving to Birmingham to be closer to their grandchildren. (He and I agree on what a gift it is for grandchildren to truly know their grandparents.) Rick will continue to have an emeritus appointment with UMMC, and his commitment to public service and the highest ideals of medical practice will continue to inspire many of us who have worked with him.
As I alluded to recently, Thursday was a day of transition at our governing board, the Mississippi Institutions of Higher Learning, as four trustees took part in their final meeting. Since that earlier salute in VC Notes, the board has announced the appointment of Dr. Alfred Rankins Jr. to the position of commissioner of higher education. Dr. Rankins is well known to us, having previously served as deputy commissioner for academic and student affairs. He left that role in 2014 to serve as president of Alcorn State University, his alma mater, where by all accounts he has done a fabulous job. I can’t help but think that his experience in running a university will serve him well in his new role, which he will begin in July. Although the current commissioner, Dr. Glenn Boyce, won’t retire until June, he was recognized yesterday with a resolution from the Mississippi State Legislature. Dr. Boyce has been in his role just about the same length of time I have been in mine, so I feel like we have been in adjacent seats on the same steep learning curve. He has been a friend to me and to UMMC, and I wish him well.
On Monday we hosted the interim superintendent and senior administrative leadership of Jackson Public Schools. This was an opportunity to share with this group – many of whom are relatively new in their roles – the long history of engagement that UMMC has had with JPS, its students and its teachers through several decades. From the Base Pair research partnership to placing nurses in JPS elementary schools to Give Kids a Smile Day to the adolescent health clinic we've established at Lanier High School, our activities have been pervasive and impactful. As we’ve begun cataloguing some of them, it’s become apparent their value is well over $1 million in terms of UMMC’s commitment of time and resources. Of course, as we all know, you just can’t put a price tag on how many student lives have been enhanced by these meaningful interactions with our faculty, staff and students. And there’s no doubt that our own lives have been enriched as well. We look forward to continued growth and success of this partnership and of others we have with our state's schools.
As I mentioned to our visitors at the SGEA conference yesterday, one of the best things – maybe THE best thing – about working at UMMC is that you never have to wonder if what you’re doing matters. It does, big time, and it’s all pointed at creating A Healthier Mississippi.