This, That and the Other
This week gave us the first glimpse of wintry weather, with temperatures dipping below freezing and some icy road conditions to the north of us. As we move into the colder months, it’s a good time to remind everyone that regardless of the severity of the weather, the Medical Center does not close. We may delay or cancel classes or adjust library operating hours, but for the vast majority of UMMC operations, it’s business as usual. Due to school closings, some of our workforce must be off to care for children, so we have to scramble to cover those gaps, particularly in the patient care areas. Others are not able to make it in simply due to the poor road conditions. Under our policy, employees are required to take personal leave for these absences. In all cases, we want you to do what is necessary to stay safe and sound.
Veterans Day 2018 has passed but I wanted to be sure to give a salute to all those among us who have served and those who continue to serve in the U.S. Armed Forces. We are blessed to have many veterans working at UMMC and their skills, discipline and commitment make us stronger. And we are grateful for your willingness to bear the burden of protecting our freedoms.
Last Monday my Executive Cabinet received a progress report from leaders of the Opioid Task Force I initiated earlier this year. Dr. Ann Kemp, professor of family medicine, is chair of the group and Dr. William Gusa, assistant professor of anesthesiology, serves as co-chair. Their update validated my sense that we need more consistency and coordination in our approach to opioid prescribing that is evidence-based, compliant with all laws and regulations, and optimally meets the needs of our patients. UMMC also needs to be in a leadership role in providing thoughtful feedback on proposed changes in licensure regulations related to opioid prescribing. Appropriate use of opioids is not limited to the clinical enterprise but actually touches all of our missions, so we need to cast a wide net. I appreciate all the work that is being done by Dr. Kemp, Dr. Gusa and the 37-member task force that is taking on this important issue. Stay tuned for further developments.
I received the sad news last weekend that Sidney Allen had passed away after a brief illness. Sidney became chairman of the board of directors of Friends of Children’s Hospital last year and was a dutiful member of the board for an astounding 22 years! I appreciated that he was the type to avoid the spotlight, preferring to quietly get things done in the background through his many relationships in the community. We are thankful for Sidney and he will be missed.
At this week’s meeting of the Institutions of Higher Learning’s Health Affairs Committee, it was music to my ears when representatives of the Matthews Cutrer & Lindsay accounting firm reported the results of their audit of our contracting processes. Conducted during the last six months, the audit was a follow-up to a similar one done in 2014, which frankly showed some deficiencies in our processes. MCL reported that all of our issues from the previous audit had been satisfactorily addressed, and they endorsed the recommendation from the prior audit that the threshold for purchases that require board approval be increased. UMMC is a large organization with thousands of contracts totaling hundreds of millions of dollars. Managing all of this is challenging under the best of circumstances. The two people most responsible for getting our contracts house in order are Stacy Baldwin, former executive director of contracts administration who now heads our Office of Integrity and Compliance, and Stacy’s successor in contracts admin, Sally O’Callaghan. I can’t thank them enough for their hard work in improving our performance in this area.
As many of you know by now, Dr. Jeffrey Vitter has announced his decision to step down as chancellor in early January and return to the Ole Miss faculty. We wish him well in his future endeavors. One thing I appreciate about Dr. Vitter is his recognition of what an asset the Medical Center is to the state of Mississippi and to Ole Miss. I wholeheartedly support the appointment of Larry Sparks, UM vice chancellor for administration and finance, as the university’s interim chancellor, which the IHL board announced yesterday. Larry is a trusted colleague who understands the Medical Center and the unique challenges and opportunities before us. His steady manner and understated leadership style inspire confidence in others. We look forward to working with him during this transition.
And in these days leading up to Thanksgiving, let me say that I am thankful for all of you and the work you are doing every day to help us create A Healthier Mississippi.