The UMMC Name Game
Good morning and welcome to March! Even though February is a short month, my goodness it still seemed to fly by.
You might be surprised at some of the things I think about – large topics and small – when I’m driving to work or catching up on email.
Recently, for example, in the “small” category, I’ve been noticing an uptick in the use of the term “UHHS,” which stands for University Hospitals and Health System. I see references to UHHS in meeting appointments and in correspondence and even in org charts. That surprised me, since I was under the impression we officially discontinued using that term a few years back.
I asked a couple of colleagues – who are knowledgeable about UMMC’s many official names and nicknames – about the origins of UHHS.
One source said it was coined about 12 years ago as a promotional term to identify the clinical enterprise. However, UHHS fell out of use when we shifted to “UMHC,” standing for University of Mississippi Health Care, as a brand to identify our clinical services to consumers.
The term “University Physicians,” or UP, was adopted about the same time to describe our multispecialty group medical practice, which had independent legal status from UMMC at the time.
Even before then, the term “University Hospitals and Clinics” was regularly used to describe our clinical offerings.
In 2013, the group practice was integrated into UMMC as a single legal entity. After the merger, we dropped UMHC in preference to a singular identity: UMMC. But we still retained University Physicians as a marketing term, not a legal name.
Following all this? Golly, these would make for some great questions in our own version of “UMMC Jeopardy!”
To find clarity, sometimes it’s helpful to go back to the beginning. But not always.
In the enabling legislation that established the University of Mississippi Medical Center in the early 1950s, it’s not clear the name UMMC was even a thing at the time. The four-year University of Mississippi School of Medicine was created as a department of UM in 1950. “University Hospital” was the term used to describe the teaching hospital that would be the site of clinical education and care for the medical school faculty, students and trainees, beginning in 1955.
Even when the University of Mississippi Medical Center became recognized as our official name, probably to accommodate the School of Nursing’s arrival in Jackson in 1956, almost immediately it was shortened to “University Medical Center” or, more simply, “UMC.” There are lots of theories why.
This handy term became so entrenched that UMC, not UMMC, became the basis for the official logo that appeared on signs and was even painted on the campus water tower. In fact, our official postal “indicia” – that little symbol the U.S. Postal Service requires us to place on UMMC bulk mail – still identifies us as University Medical Center. Changing it may literally require an act of Congress.
Despite a much greater emphasis on and consistency in the use of UMMC as our official name in recent years, “UMC” is still the name many people know us by. (Including sometimes me, I confess.)
Thanks to UMMC Marketing and others, we have much better control over our brand in recent years. (You can find Marketing’s usage guidelines on the UMMC Intranet under “Brand Central.”) Even the news media finally gave in and put the second “M” back in our initials.
Although this name business may seem like a small matter, not having consistency in the use of our identity can seem chaotic, to us and to others. In the months ahead, we’ll publish our approved names and brand architecture in an updated, online style guide that is widely accessible and easily referenced.
When it comes right down to it, our name is pretty important. We want to use it wisely and well, in our journey to A Healthier Mississippi.