VC Notes Archive Office of the Vice Chancellor
Friday, June 28, 2019

Five Questions

Good morning!

It’s the last Friday of the month so today I will answer your questions. 


Before I begin, I want to briefly touch on the “topping-out” ceremony many of us attended late yesterday afternoon at the construction site of the Children’s expansion.  With many members of our campus community and friends watching, the top-most steel beam bearing the multi-colored, Sharpie-inscribed hopes, dreams and autographs of current and former patients and staff was hoisted to the highest point of the structure.  It was another awe-inspiring moment in a journey toward the completion of this magnificent gift to the children of Mississippi just a little over a year from now.  My thanks to all those of you – too many to name – who put in an enormous amount of work preparing for yesterday’s celebration.

I also want to acknowledge the retirees we will recognize at a ceremony later this morning.  We'll say farewell to 57 faculty and staff members who have shared this journey with us for most or all of their careers.  The contributions they have made are monumental and we will miss them but we wish them all the very best in this next chapter of their lives. 

Now, let’s get to your questions.  As you know, I’m not able to respond to all of your questions and comments in this column, but I read all of them.  For the many that don’t make it into print, I pass them along to senior administrators for review and possible action.  Here are the five for this month.

Q:  When is the campus Wellness Center going to be open?  I heard about it almost a year ago and I haven't heard anything since.  I know there is the new Fondren Fitness that is going to be across the street, but that's not really an option for hospital staff.  There's not enough parking which eliminates convenience and I would think having one on campus would encourage employees to actually go and get healthy.  I hope we're still getting a campus center!

A:  When an on-campus wellness center was last discussed, we were exploring the possibility of opening the center on a floor of University Hospital.  However, once we got into the planning and design process, we determined that the cost associated with building a facility we would be proud of that could later be converted for inpatient use to help alleviate our capacity issues was simply not the best use of our limited resources.  Other options are under active consideration and I will let you know as soon as we have a definitive plan.

Q:  Can the AWARDS nomination link be moved to the Intranet home page? I really feel that it is not used nearly as often as it could be, and part of that is that very few people even know it exists. I checked it just now, and it was last updated six weeks ago. UMMC has a tendency to highlight the negatives, which I understand because it shows us areas we need to improve, but it also drags down morale. I think it's just as important to focus on what individual employees are doing well. Having something like that more front-and-center would make people more likely to use and read it and also a little happier to work here.

A:  First and foremost, I agree that we are blessed to have wonderful employees who, day in and day out, perform at a high level.  Yes, we tend to focus on the “gaps” where our performance is not what it could be.  But that shouldn’t keep us from celebrating truly outstanding performance when we encounter it.  The “True Blue” icon recently placed on the main Intranet home page links to the newly updated awards page that includes nomination forms for the True Blue awards that recognize the “above and beyond” performance of any UMMC employee, the Good Catch award recognizing team members that spoke up and/or took action before a patient harm event could occur, and the Daisy Awards that recognize nursing excellence.  The page also includes a link to the Virtual Employee Suggestion Box.  So the visibility of these awards has been enhanced.  I’m told that the completely redesigned Intranet home page that will be unveiled in August will be a much more effective communication tool for internal use and will better highlight our most important initiatives.

Q:  All of the construction and growth is fantastic, but please consider re-investing in the existing infrastructure instead of all the NEW projects. Our computers are 10 years old, many staff are in office spaces that haven't been updated since original hospital construction, and the chairs in my department are older than I am.  I understand we don't have money for raises, but the working conditions and environment are abysmal. Saying "we appreciate you" by giving us up-to-date equipment would be a small step in improving morale.

A:  There’s good news on that front.  Even with a tight budget, we were able to allocate $2 million in the current fiscal year to do a “refresh” of our oldest desktop workstations throughout the organization.  Those new computers have been purchased and I’m told that DIS will begin the replacement process early in the new fiscal year that begins Monday.  We will continue with the refresh process and purchase additional computers as resources permit.  Regarding updates to our physical plant, there are many examples during the last few years where we have completely renovated some of the oldest spaces on campus either for patient care or for offices (2 West, 3 West, Pharmacy, to name a few).  We recently completed a comprehensive space audit of the main campus and a plan to refresh all of the old and underutilized spaces is being developed for implementation in a planned, staged approach over time.  Also, a significant investment is made in the each year in our infrastructure (including heating and air-conditioning, power systems, roofs, elevator upgrades, streets and sidewalks) to keep and maintain suitable environmental conditions for patients, staff and students.

Q:  I was reading The Murmur and saw that Urban Zen came and offered classes for pain, anxiety, nausea, insomnia and other things for the students. I am wondering when something like that will be offered for employees. There are so many amazing things offered to the students but not so much for the employees. This was an after-hours event so I don't understand why we weren't invited.

A:  We checked with staff in our Everyday Wellness program and they explained that Urban Zen contacted the Student Counseling and Wellness Center about working specifically with our students.  Most of our wellness offerings are open to all, but sometimes specific populations are targeted for activities, and I think that’s OK.  Students and employees have different needs that may be better addressed in peer-to-peer settings.  Everyday Wellness staff recently completed a series on compassion that they plan to continue at different times throughout the year.  They will also begin offering weekly yoga classes for employees in late July and plan to offer meditation classes toward the end of the year.

Q:  Recently I contacted Dermatology and asked to schedule an appointment with a different provider than the one I'd previously seen. I was told that the original provider would have to agree to "release" me and only then could I be seen by the provider I requested. What in the world? What happened to patient choice and autonomy? If I wish to see a different provider within the UMMC network should that not be my choice and not left to the whims of a provider? Is this standard practice at UMMC?

A:  We checked with the department and I suspect there might have been a misunderstanding or miscommunication.  Departmental staff affirmed that the ultimate choice of which provider is seen is the patient’s.  Because of the potential for mistakenly booking an established patient with a provider unfamiliar with their care, and the confusion that can result, some effort is taken to make sure all members of the team are aware when a patient may be transitioning to another provider.  But these communications should be internal and essentially invisible to the patient.  Of course, the vast majority of the time, both the patient and the provider prefer to keep the established patient/provider relationship in place for continuity-of-care purposes, but it’s understood this isn’t always the patient’s preference.  In response to your inquiry, the department will follow up with scheduling and operations staff to ensure the wrong message isn’t being sent to patients about their ability to select the care provider of their choice.   

Thank you again for all of your questions.  Your views are important and your engagement is vital in our quest to achieve A Healthier Mississippi.

Follow me on Twitter