Friday, January 5, 2018

Closing the Book on 2017

Good morning and Happy New Year to each and every one of you!  I am excited about the promise 2018 holds for UMMC. Next week I will highlight some of our key initiatives for this year, but this week I would like to take a moment to reflect on 2017. 

Across the country, 2017 was a year of seemingly endless natural disasters – fires, floods, hurricanes – as well as a number of tragic mass shootings.  There was much debate, but little agreement, on health care reform, CHIP funding, and the future paths of Medicare and Medicaid. The country struggled mightily with the opioid crisis, and continues to do so. Closer to home, we faced the local impact of these issues as well as our own serious unexpected financial challenge last spring.

UMMC_aerial_2017It is encouraging to realize what we accomplished despite these challenges. One of the things I am proudest of is the investments we made in our most important resource – our people. We welcomed our new chief human resources officer, Paula Henderson.  She will lead an experienced HR team that will help us continue to fulfill our vision of human resources as a vital strategic asset in every dimension of the organization. 

In that vein, we made targeted compensation adjustments to staff who are the furthest from their respective market averages, and we made the commitment to conduct regular, comprehensive compensation reviews.  We continued to invest in surveys of our workforce – with strong participation – to understand areas of strength and weakness down to the unit level.  And we moved forward with plans to address provider burnout and promote a more systematic approach to supporting the wellness/well-being of all of our employees.  

It was a big year for construction and growth of our physical footprint.  We held dedications for the School of Medicine education building and the Translational Research Center, facilities that are truly transformative.  Plans were finalized for the Clinical Trials Unit buildout on the sixth floor of the adult hospital, with construction starting this spring.  I was so pleased to see the American Cancer Society break ground on our campus for a Hope Lodge, which will be a resource for cancer patients receiving cancer therapy at metro area hospitals.  We started seeing GI patients at our University Physicians Belhaven site.  And, in December, we broke ground for our Children’s of Mississippi expansion adjacent to Batson Children’s Hospital. 

We had a very good year raising private funds to support our missions of hope and healing.  We are ahead of our fundraising target for the Children’s Campaign, closing in on two-thirds of the funds needed to reach our $100 million goal.  Natalie Hutto was named chief development officer and has added two development officers to focus on support for the medical school and adult hospitals and on corporate giving.  In addition, we launched the second phase in support of the Manning Family Fund and unveiled a new and improved UMMC website.

Dr. Ralph Didlake and his team in Academic Affairs worked long and hard on the crucial fifth-year interim report required by our primary accrediting body, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools’ Commission on Colleges.  All that work paid off with a perfect – and rare – finding of 100 percent compliance at this point in our cycle.  Drs. Josh Mann and Peter Pendergrass in the Department of Preventive Medicine received the wonderful news that our preventive medicine residency program was approved by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education, and will launch this coming summer.  Dr. Bettina Beech accepted her charter class of students in the new Bower School of Population Health.  And Dr. Jimmy Stewart assumed leadership of our GME office and the role of designated institutional official for resident education programs.

In the 2017 legislative session, we saw success in the passage of the Health Care Collaboration Act, which gives the Medical Center operational flexibility we have not had before.  We enjoy strong support from our state leaders and members of the Legislature.  This support will continue to be crucial as the health care landscape shifts and health challenges in Mississippi continue.

Last year, we named medical school department chairs in internal medicine, pediatrics, family medicine, microbiology, biochemistry, and pathology. We also filled a number of senior administrative positions, including chief information officer and leaders of supply chain, revenue cycle and ambulatory operations.  Dr. Jack Ruckdeschel joined us as director of the Cancer Institute and Dr. Brian Kogon took the reins as chief of pediatric cardiothoracic surgery.  Among others, we said goodbye to a trusted colleague, Trish McDaniel, who retired after several years of admirable service as chief operating officer of the adult hospitals.

Our research programs continued their upward trajectory, with robust growth in the number of grant applications submitted, awards (306) and total sponsored research ($69.3M).  Among the recipients, Pediatrics won a $10.5 million federal grant to enhance early childhood screening for develompmental issues.  Our collaboration with the Mayo Clinic continued to develop, including in a major study of Alzheimer’s disease.

Our telehealth program continued to win accolades.  UMMC was designated as a national Telehealth Center of Excellence by the Health Resources and Services Administration, with up to $2.6 million to support the development of best practices.  We launched AirCare 4 in Greenwood to serve hospitals and residents in northwest and north central Mississippi.  We established an outreach clinic in partnership with the Mississippi Delta community of Belzoni, aided by a $1 million Department of Agriculture grant.  We grew our presence on the gulf coast with pediatric clinics in Biloxi and Gulfport, and we just entered an affiliation to work more closely with Anderson Regional Medical Center in Meridian.

We continued to advance our clinical quality efforts.  Most of our quality metrics showed improvement, and even though national scorecards lag our actual performance by several years, our Leapfrog score for the Jackson campus showed continued improvement.   We established the Office of Patient Experience to monitor and enhance our patients’ perceptions of their care and how it is delivered.  And I’m so pleased by the way our staff responded with flying colors to the surprise visit of the Joint Commission the first week of December.

If you’re counting, we admitted 24,576 patients to our adult hospitals last year, and 6,500 patients to Batson.  Our adult emergency departments saw 66,400 patients and the pediatric ED saw 49,381.  We delivered 2,250 babies (and earned distinction as a “Baby Friendly” hospital).  Our total clinic visits numbered a staggering 817,784. And we performed 26,128 surgeries in our ORs (not including short-stay, day surgery and other outpatient procedures) and were rated the 42nd busiest kidney transplant program in the country.

Of all these accomplishments, perhaps I am most proud of our community service and outreach activities.  Much of it is barely seen – all the discounted and uncompensated care we provide that is buried in the statistics of the previous paragraph.  Other times it’s more visible – at our student-led Jackson Free Clinic and at our School of Nursing-led UNACARE clinic and outreach to the public schools in Jackson and the Delta.  It’s seen in our School of Dentistry’s first Dental Mission Week last February, when more than 800 underserved Mississippians were provided free dental care.  And it’s seen in the literally thousands of volunteer community service hours logged by our students. 

This caring, serving spirit is integral to all we do, making each day special year after year, on our continuing quest for A Healthier Mississippi.



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