from Dr. Byington
May 2017: Health Science Center Executive Update
As the spring semester winds down and we prepare for commencement ceremonies across the state, I would like to send heartfelt congratulations to the more than 650 health science center students who will graduate. Your hard work and dedication have paid off, and I know you are all amply prepared for the realities of today’s evolving health care landscape. You are Aggies, after all: You have been instilled with the core values necessary to tackle—and conquer—the toughest challenges. We all wish you the very best in your future endeavors!
To our remarkable faculty and staff, thank you for the many ways in which you have helped prepare the class of 2017 to enter the professional world, continue their education or pursue other learning opportunities.
I would also like to take this time to reflect on a few recent issues of interest and look ahead at many opportunities to come.
85th Legislative Session:
With just under one month left in the 85th Texas Legislature, decisions on the 2018–19 state budget, including appropriations for the health science center and all of higher education, are in the hands of the Senate Bill 1 (S.B. 1) Conference Committee. The Conference Committee is made up of five members from both the House and Senate who will work to reconcile the differences between the two chambers’ versions of S.B. 1: Sens. Jane Nelson (R-Flower Mound), Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa (D-McAllen), Joan Huffman (R-Houston), Lois Kolkhorst (R-Brenham), Charles Schwertner, MD (R-Georgetown), and Reps. John Zerwas, MD (R-Richmond), Oscar Longoria (D-Mission), Sarah Davis (R-West University Place), Trent Ashby (R-Lufkin) and Larry Gonzales (R-Round Rock).
The overall funding difference between the House and Senate versions is less than $1 billion out of a $218 billion two-year budget. In the higher education portion, the difference is $464 million, with the House providing the higher amount ($20,697.6 billion). The health science center receives budget cuts in both the House and Senate versions. The Senate version also eliminates all special items, including funding that supports the College of Medicine; College of Pharmacy; the College of Nursing Forensic Health Care Education, Research and Intervention Program; health education centers in Corpus Christi and McAllen, and community-based programs like Healthy South Texas. We have already begun the budget process and will adjust that to accommodate the final outcome of the session, which ends on May 29.
College of Nursing ranks among best in state:
The College of Nursing recently received recognition naming the college as one of the top nursing schools in the state. The college was ranked the #1 nursing program in Texas by RegisteredNursing.org, which evaluates Texas nursing programs based on how well they support students to licensure and beyond, by analyzing current and historical NCLEX-RN pass rates. Since the college was established in 2008, graduates have consistently exceeded the state and national first-time NCLEX-RN pass rates, with a 99 percent pass rate in 2016. This well-deserved recognition highlights the college’s dedication to graduate the best nurses and nurse educators in Texas to help address the critical shortage of nurses throughout the state.
Tropical and Infectious Disease Conference:
I recently had the honor of presenting at the Coastal Bend Health Education Center’s annual Tropical and Infectious Disease Conference. About 120 health care professionals were in attendance to learn the latest advances in identifying, treating and preventing the spread of infectious diseases impacting South Texas. An initiative of Healthy South Texas, the conference counted toward health professionals’ continuing education requirements. The event highlights the value of the Coastal Bend Health Education Center and Healthy South Texas, two important initiatives of the Texas A&M Health System, which—through community outreach and education—seek to improve the health and well-being of Texans for years to come. With the Zika virus making its way into our state, Healthy South Texas’ outreach on the prevention of mosquitoes and protection against Zika-induced birth defects is especially crucial.
Center for Population Health and Aging opens doors:
Each May, we celebrate the value and contributions of older Americans during Older Americans Month. This year, the theme is “Age Out Loud.” What better way to celebrate the awareness month—and give a voice to the nation’s aging—than through the opening of Texas A&M’s newly created Center for Population Health and Aging, led by the School of Public Health. With over 30 faculty affiliations from nine different Texas A&M colleges, as well as community partners, the center coordinates research and community programs for understanding and promoting optimal aging. I’m excited to watch as new center initiatives unfold with an overarching goal of understanding and addressing the needs of our older Americans.
Dean Wolinsky opines on benefit of College of Dentistry expansion:
In a recent letter to the editor, College of Dentistry Dean Lawrence Wolinsky responded to Dallas Morning News coverage on the use of eminent domain to acquire property to construct the College of Dentistry’s new clinical education building. In the letter, Dr. Wolinsky eloquently highlights the serious public needs that can be accomplished with the college’s expansion, including a 40 percent increase in patient visits and a 25 percent increase in enrollment. With the additional clinical education building, the college is poised to address the unmet health needs of many of the community’s underserved adults and children, while simultaneously responding to the state’s critical need for dental health care providers. If you have not yet, please take a moment to read Dr. Wolinsky’s published letter.
College of Pharmacy receives recognitions:
The College of Pharmacy is now a member of the National Institute for Pharmaceutical Technology and Education (NIPTE), a prestigious, not-for-profit organization dedicated to fundamental research and education in pharmaceutical product development and manufacturing. As one of 17 member organizations, and one of only two pharmacy programs in Texas participating, Texas A&M will contribute to NIPTE’s various scientific and educational programs.
At the recent Texas Society of Health-System Pharmacists (TSHP) Annual Seminar, second-year College of Pharmacy students Kevin Tran and Lois Kim placed first in the student poster competition for their poster titled “Patient Oriented Communication Development Through Practical Applications and Specific Question Protocols.” Third-year student Olivia Collado received honorable mention in the practitioner education category with a work product titled “When Texas pharmacists gain provider status, which reimbursement model should be implemented?” Congratulations to the college on these exciting honors.
College of Medicine celebrates 40th anniversary:
2017 marks the 40th anniversary of welcoming students to the Texas A&M College of Medicine. From the beginning, the college has followed the land grant service tradition of Texas A&M University, while remaining responsive to the rapidly evolving health care landscape. Please join me in celebrating the last 40 years and looking ahead to the future—as we continue to find unique ways to improve the health of Texans. We will culminate our celebrations with a gala planned for the fall. Additional details will follow as the event draws near.
Expansion of space at Houston Methodist Hospital:
With curriculum review now complete, this fall the inaugural class of five students will begin our innovative engineering medical school track— EnMed—at Houston Methodist. A partnership between Houston Methodist, the College of Medicine’s MD program and the College of Engineering, EnMed is an integrated educational and research medical school with a focus on innovation and entrepreneurship. Responsive to the rapid advances in technology, this new type of medical education will prepare professionals with the clinical skills to diagnose symptoms and treat patients, along with the engineering mindset to solve problems, invent new technologies and rapidly move these innovative ideas to practice in patient care. The impact EnMed will have on medical education, patients and health care are limitless, and we couldn’t ask for a better partner or better home for this new endeavor than Houston Methodist.
Search for new leadership positions:
As I alluded to in the vision message on my first day in office, we have a real opportunity to build at Texas A&M a 21st century patient-centered and research-driven enterprise that could serve as a model to transform health care in the United States. In working to make these ideas a reality, we have search committees in place to recruit key leadership positions within the institution. Positions include:
Associate Vice President, Clinical Strategy and Chief Medical Officer: This position will provide critically important administrative leadership for the proposed Texas A&M Faculty Practice that will have an emphasis on population health management, tackling important regional issues—including primary care and mental health—as well as innovative transitional care. The Associate Vice President of Clinical Strategy and Chief Medical Officer will also continue to build and enhance our partnerships with area hospitals and health care systems.
- Associate Vice President, Research for the Health Science Center: This position will advance the research mission and vision of the institution by nurturing scholarship and sustained growth of extramural research funding. The Associate Vice President for Research will develop a research strategic plan and infrastructure to support collaborative research development among the colleges, thus enhancing Texas A&M’s overall research enterprise.
- Vice Dean, Education for the College of Medicine: This position will provide leadership for all administrative and academic matters of the College of Medicine, including new program development and approval, program quality, educational methods, accreditation and faculty development. The Vice Dean of Education will also be vital in developing and supporting new programs where the college can lead nationally, including EnMed, population health management for rural areas and military health.
- Chair, Department of Psychiatry for the College of Medicine: This position will lead significant growth in the Department of Psychiatry, including developing new clinical, educational and research programs. The chair will also work with leadership at Texas A&M to expand psychiatry’s role in addressing the mental health and well-being of its student populations, as well as the management of behavioral health needs within the community.
More information will be forthcoming as we move forward in the search process.
Again, congratulations class of 2017—I look forward to, in the very near future, calling you former students! And thank you to our faculty and staff, whose commitment and unwavering dedication to the success of our students contribute to the richness of our university. For real-time updates, please follow me on Twitter @carrie_byington and visit the Vital Record news site.
With warmest wishes,
Carrie L. Byington, MD