Thinking About What UMMC Could Be, and Other Topics
Today I’ll touch on a number of topics of recent interest.
The Mississippi Legislature is in full swing and we have almost a completely new cast of top state elected officials in place. Even though Gov. Tate Reeves, Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann, Attorney General Lynn Fitch and others are new in their roles, we have been working with them for quite some time. They are very familiar with UMMC and they recognize the Medical Center’s importance to our state. We wish them all well and look forward to working with them in the years ahead. It’s important that all of us, including state elected officials, support the interests of Mississippi in order for us to grow and prosper.
Gov. Phil Bryant has transitioned from his position and we wish him the very best as he leaves office. He will always be remembered and celebrated as the man who led the charge to build a new medical school building at UMMC, but he has helped us in countless other ways and I am grateful for his leadership and his continued support.
As several of us meet with legislative leaders during the next few weeks, we have a number of immediate needs we’d appreciate their help addressing. But I’m also encouraging them to take a longer view and ask what they want UMMC to look like in, say, 20 years. Do they want us to continue on the course we’ve been on, with periods of modest growth punctuated by the occasional difficult year? That’s the path we’ve been on for the last decade or so. Two or three steps forward, one step back. Or should they think of UMMC as one of our state’s most important strategic assets that has the capability to be much more than it is now? I consider the University of Alabama at Birmingham an example of an academic medical center whose full potential has been unleashed, so that UAB has grown to about twice the size of UMMC and consistently produces sustainable financial margins. In comparing UMMC to UAB, how do we differ? What has been put in place in Birmingham that has allowed UAB to prosper? Can the growth and development that UAB has achieved be duplicated at UMMC? It may turn out that our state’s leaders are content with the status quo, which is certainly not bad. In fact, we are darn good! But I think it’s time to ask the questions, at the start of a new decade, can we be more, and what would it take to make it so?
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I am reminded of how valuable UMMC is to the state of Mississippi by an economic impact study we recently commissioned. Although the final product is still being refined, the results show that UMMC has direct and indirect impacts on the state economy of $2.9 billion each year, roughly double our annual budget and about a half billion dollars more than the impact recorded in a similar study conducted eight years ago. Our state appropriation – the amount taxpayers contribute to UMMC’s education programs – is projected to be $172 million this year, about one-tenth of our budget. That means every $1 in state support provided to UMMC leverages about $17 in economic impact. Leaving aside for a moment all of the amazing work you do in education, research and patient care, I think that’s a pretty good return on the state’s investment in UMMC. I’ll have more to say about the results of this study in a future VC Notes column.
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We were pleased to have our governing board, the trustees of the state Institutions of Higher Learning, on campus Wednesday. Joined by Commissioner Al Rankins and other members of the IHL staff, the trustees had their regular monthly Health Affairs Committee meeting in the student union. They also toured campus facilities to get a sense of some of our immediate needs. A couple of our buildings flood when we have excessive rainfall like we’ve experienced lately, so this week provided an opportune time to demonstrate that problem! Because UMMC is unlike any other state university, we take advantage of every opportunity we have to help the trustees gain a better understanding of what goes on here and we appreciate that they recognize our uniqueness.
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I was pleased when I heard about plans by our Office of Well-being and our Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Medicine to designate 2020 as the “Year of Happiness.” As described in an article in eCV, this will be a year of activities and guided reflection that are scientifically proven to enhance a sense of personal happiness and well-being. Indeed, one of the events is scheduled for next Tuesday. In my mind, there could not be a more perfect time to undertake this initiative – the start of a new decade – and I commend these faculty and staff members for dreaming up this big idea. I hope you will take advantage of these opportunities.
Now, if we could just figure out how to make all this rain go away, we’d really be set. But rain or shine, I know that we will keep marching on, toward A Healthier Mississippi.