VC Notes Archive Office of the Vice Chancellor
Friday, February 14, 2020

Healthy Hearts and Minds, and Other Topics

Good morning and Happy Valentine's Day!

It’s been a very busy February so far. Let’s catch up on a few topics of recent interest.

VC_Feb_14_Dental.jpgAs many of you know, the American Heart Association presents its Go Red for Women campaign every February during the national celebration of American Heart Month.  Go Red for Women is an awareness blitz for the association’s national movement to end heart disease and stroke among women.  The Medical Center has long been invested in spreading that message.

One of our heart patients, Mark Saxon, whose wife, Debbie, is the former UMMC budget director, appeared in a video shown at the Mississippi AHA’s recent Heart Ball.  Mark shared the story of his “widowmaker” heart attack and lifesaving care provided by Dr. Kellan Ashley, associate professor of cardiology, and the ED and cardiac teams.  Mark’s story is personal; his son, Dr. John Saxon, was then a cardiology resident at UMMC and performed the EKG that revealed his dad’s dire condition.

We’re so grateful for our relationship with the AHA and its support of our researchers and mission.  And don’t forget, good heart health is related to and supports brain health, according to a timely reminder from the leader of our MIND Center.


Speaking of our mission, each spring, School of Dentistry faculty, students and staff – aided by other campus volunteers – open their arms to underserved and underinsured adults and children during Dental Mission Week and Give Kids a Smile Day.

Those served all last week included hundreds of veterans and Jackson School District elementary-schoolers.  Many little teeth were cleaned as part of Give Kids a Smile Day, and some veterans received much-needed dentures that made a profound difference in their quality of life. 

Not only is Dental Mission Week a wonderful and high-impact community service – the brainchild of SOD Dean David Felton – it’s a great experience for our students.  I’m thrilled that state Sen. Hillman Frazier, a big supporter of Give Kids a Smile Day, was once again with us to cheer on the children. 


This month, we’ve announced not one, but two major leadership appointments at the Medical Center.  Britt Crewse, who has served as chief operating officer since his arrival here in November 2018, is our new chief executive officer for the Adult Hospitals.  In his new role, Britt oversees operations at University Hospital, the Wallace Conerly Hospital for Critical Care and the Winfred L. Wiser Hospital for Women and Infants.

Dodie McElmurray is our new chief executive officer for UMMC Grenada and UMMC Holmes County.  Dodie is a familiar face to many from her previous roles at UMMC, ultimately serving as administrator of clinical support services from 2006-14.  A Belzoni native, Dodie has returned to her roots and passion for making a difference in the Delta region where she grew up.

These two experienced executives are already making a difference in their respective leadership roles.


I was struck by findings of a recent survey that accessibility and affordability of health care have replaced infrastructure repair and public school funding as the top priorities among Mississippi voters.  The results were reported last month in the annual “State of the State” survey conducted by Millsaps College and Chism Strategies.

According to a Millsaps news release, “70 percent of voters are worried about being able to afford the cost of medical coverage for themselves and their families.”  I guess that shouldn’t really be a surprise.  Health insurance has been on a roller coaster ride for the last decade, and that shows no signs of stopping.  While it’s true that health care costs continue to rise in the aggregate, recent increases have been driven largely by the dramatic rise in drug prices.

I’m proud that UMMC’s costs of inpatient care rank in the bottom quartile of academic medical centers nationally.  We are also using telehealth in many innovative ways to make health care more accessible, particularly in rural areas. 


All in all, it’s been a full February – and it’s only half over. Today is a day to celebrate love for family and friends, but also, my love for the Medical Center family.  You are the “heart” of our health care, research and education mission as we strive, every day, to create A Healthier Mississippi.

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