EDITORIAL: UMMC moves ahead

The University of Mississippi Medical Center’s new leadership team brought its high-energy vision for academic growth and service expansion statewide to Tupelo in a series of meetings Monday. It included a bold plan that would increase the medical school’s enrollment and the number of doctors entering practice in our state, a critical need now and ahead as health reforms increase insured-patient access to care.
Vice Chancellor for Health Affairs and School of Medicine Dean Dr. James E. “Jimmy” Keeton in February succeeded Dr. Dan Jones, who became chancellor of the university a year ago. Dr. LouAnn Woodward is the new associate vice chancellor for health affairs, and will play a pivotal role in growing UMMC.
Keeton and Woodward, both native Mississippians, have long experience in faculty and administrative positions.
The centerpiece of near- and long-term planning is growing the medical school student body from 135 students per class to 160, then retaining more of the newly graduated physicians for residency programs and ultimately practice in Mississippi. The in-state retention is 65 percent this year. All students are Mississippians.
UMMC, of course, has five other schools: nursing, dentistry, graduate studies, pharmacy, and health related professions, and the division of graduate medical education – almost 500 residents in specialties. The total enrollment is 2,512 – and climbing.
Keeton said developing deeper collaboration with North Mississippi Medical Center in Tupelo is a key element in long-term plans. Keeton said adding to residency programs, offered in Tupelo, shared physician services, and strengthening referrals from Tupelo to UMMC are major goals.
Keeton said Mississippi’s economy can be strengthened by retaining referrals for specialized treatment and the most complex surgical procedures in state rather than sending patients to academic medical centers in Memphis and Birmingham. UMMC, he noted, has a $1.3 billion budget, 8,600 employees, and generates 2 percent of Mississippi’s economy.
UMMC’s goals for research funding may offer the greatest promise, beyond medical education, for Mississippi’s long-term welfare. A new obesity research center is on track to open in 2011, focusing on our state’s obesity epidemic and its underlying causes. Additional strengthening of the center’s widely known cardio-vascular research, expansion and eventual national accreditation of its cancer research center, and a “mind center” are part of the goal of reaching $100 million per year in funded research. That would place the center 50th among the nation’s 133 health science universities.
We also believe Keeton and his colleagues see opportunity for expanded service in the changes mandated by the 2010 federal health care reforms, a refreshing optimism on an issue where gloom-and-doom prevail.

NEMS Daily Journal