|Dean's town hall focuses on space planning, research
Etta Pisano, M.D., College of Medicine (COM) dean and vice president
for medical affairs, hosted the first in a series of COM town hall
meetings with faculty, employees and students on Dec. 6.
Dr. Etta Pisano
Since her arrival in July, Pisano has communicated regularly with COM
members to share and discuss ideas, concerns and issues pertaining to
the College of Medicine. Below is an excerpt of questions and answers
from the meeting. Pisano’s next town hall meeting is 8 - 9 a.m.,
Thursday, Jan. 6, Room 302, Basic Science Building.
What are COM’s
plans for academic and clinical space?
Two consultant reports were submitted to the college regarding space
planning. The consultants were the current and immediate past national
chairs of the Group on Institutional Planning of the American
Association of Medical Colleges (AAMC). The reports, addressing
academic and clinical space, were submitted in October and were shared
with members of the COM for review and comments. Both consultants were
invited back to answer specific questions by COM chairs, center
directors, faculty and staff.
The academic space plan recommended creation of a space committee to
advise the dean with respect to allocation of space within the college.
This committee would be managed by a “space dean,” would determine
specific space needs, and would make recommendations to the dean for
assigning and reassigning space in COM. The dean would make the final
decisions regarding space allocation. I’m very inclined to implement a
policy like this because it allows an organization to reallocate space
dependent upon need.
Up until now, the COM’s academic space was managed through the Office
of the Provost using a somewhat data-driven process. To keep the
process as transparent and data-driven as possible, we need someone in
the COM who can collect the data and help manage how we’ll distribute
space. The dean’s office has posted a position, associate dean for
planning, implementation and assessment, so we can begin the process of
responsibly managing our academic space. It would be this person’s job
to conduct an assessment of what space currently exists and how it is
allocated and utilized, help with the transition to the new management
plan, and create new policy. This process won’t happen overnight but
could occur during the course of a few months.
At some point, someone’s going to need to take the heat for a change in
the policy. I’m willing to take the heat because it’s better for the
organization to have a data-driven and transparent process versus a
process that is difficult to understand and isn’t able to accommodate
the needs of the college. I’m very enthused about this plan but also
realize we still need more conversations about it before something’s
reductions in NIH funding and other issues factor into the college’s
formula for allocating space?
You can’t take space away from people the moment they lose one grant.
We have to be able to work with the chair of the department and the
faculty member to help them through a short-term gap. If a faculty
member has reduced funding over a longer term, we’ll have to shrink
their footprint. As many of you know, we’ve posted a position for a
senior associate dean for research —part of that person’s job will be
to oversee a bridge funding program within the COM. It’s very important
for bridge funding to exist for our scientists, especially during
funding downturns. The new research dean, along with other scientists,
will manage this process. A reduction in lab space for a particular
faculty member is the kind of thing the chair, the space committee, and
I will be able to manage. The chair, center director and/or faculty
member involved will be able to let us know whether that faculty
member’s research is likely to be funded and that will help us make
How much input
have you had in MUSC’s recruitment of the new provost?
Dr. Greenberg, myself and others are working together in this process.
The provost serves as the chief academic officer of the institution.
I’ve shared my opinion about the candidates with Dr. Greenberg. I
expect to work closely with whomever is selected to this position. As
you all may know, the financial situation of the university is
challenging; leadership will be called upon to make hard decisions in
the next six to nine months. In the last two years, the institution has
taken a total of more than 53 percent cuts in our state funding, and we
anticipate additional cuts are likely in the next year. It forces
leadership to make tough decisions about what we do. I hope to work
closely with the new provost especially in these challenging times.
What’s the next
step for research within the college and what is the status of the
research strategic plan?
I’ve interviewed candidates and announced the names of people vying for
the senior associate dean for research position. One person did
withdraw from the list. I’m in the midst of narrowing this list and
will be announcing the names of the finalists later this week. I plan
to have several individuals in leadership positions within the COM
interview the finalists. Part of the job of this new research dean will
be to help me implement the research strategic plan. Working with the
senior associate dean for research, I intend to organize operation
committees that will address the recommendations contained within the
strategic plan— topics like infrastructure, genetics, etc. I’m hoping
that the new research dean also can work with the vice provost for
research to discuss what’s working well and address other research
needs that should be considered and supported. The operation committees
will consider ideas, proposals and recommendations submitted by chairs
and center directors, and will also make their own recommendations. For
example, the chair of the Department of OB/GYN may want to hire a
geneticist, perhaps collaborating with the Hollings Cancer Center to
identify a faculty member to conduct research on ovarian cancer. That
idea will be proposed to the COM’s genetics operation committee, which
will be chaired by the new research dean, and may result in funding
from the dean’s office to assist with that recruitment. Funding for
approved proposals will be shared by the sponsoring and collaborating
departments and the COM dean’s office. This is a way to strategically
think about research so that the entire COM is involved in
collaborating in future research projects. We have to put the
infrastructure in place to get these investments done in a careful way.
It will take us most of this fiscal year and some of the next year to
develop these plans.
How do you
assess MUSC’s clinical operation?
MUSC is in pretty good shape clinically in terms of what has been built
in the last 10 years. The organization deserves kudos for having
responded to a real financial crisis 10 years ago. If we don’t continue
to grow, however, especially in the face of reduced state revenues,
we’ll be in trouble. Because of the reduction in state support, we’re
more akin to a private medical school and institution than a public
institution because there’s so little state funding. Looking at three
successful private medical schools in the Southeast—Duke, Emory and
Vanderbilt—they all have enormous clinical enterprises. MUSC needs to
continue growth of its clinical enterprise to survive and thrive.
In terms of health care reform, MUSC needs to be responsive to the
pressures that we’ll be facing. One focus is on increased volume. We’re
going to be primary care providers for many, many more people because
more people will need and have access to care, because they’ll be
linked to federal dollars. It’s coming, so we need to be ready for it.
That means developing a structure and mechanism to have a medical home
for low acuity, primary care patients. We also need to develop outreach
and have affiliated practices for specialty services (higher acuity,
more complicated patients). There’s a lot of conversation about what
will happen. For example, what does an accountable care organization
look like? How will it be structured? What are our responsibilities? We
need to work together as one health care system to implement these
types of care decisions. It’s a lot of work for all of us in the next
two to five years, but I believe we’re well positioned to do this. I’m
impressed, not only with how big our clinical enterprise has grown and
so quickly, but how well everyone works together.
How can we
change MUSC’s campus culture to be more entrepreneurial?
I’m an entrepreneur myself, and am involved in a company that I founded
several years ago. It’s been observed that the campus isn’t supportive
of faculty interested in entrepreneurial activity. The good news is
that entrepreneurialism is highlighted in the University’s Strategic
Plan. I think it’s highly likely that the COM will invest some
resources in the next few years through the CTSA/SCTR (National
Institutes of Health’s Clinical and Translational Science Award/South
Carolina Clinical and Translational Research Institute) grant to
provide services to assist faculty in their entrepreneurial activities.
The institution as a whole appears to be very interested in
entrepreneurialism as well. I look at entrepreneurialism as being part
of our duty as faculty to make sure our discoveries can help our
patients. This is not something we should be ashamed or embarrassed
about; it’s what we should do. It’s our responsibility to make this
happen. I believe the organization plans to try and place tools and
resources in place to make this a reality.
There are investors who want to help us develop our ideas into products
and serve patients. If we don’t do this we’ll bypass a potential
revenue stream for our faculty and institution. Faculty’s ideas deserve
to be developed. I think we’ll end up making an investment in this area
in the next year.
MUSC hosts the Foundation for Research Development and Office of
Industry Partnerships (OIP). The foundation is essentially our tech
transfer office where patents are filed, how intellectual property is
managed, etc. OIP is committed to bringing more clinical trials from
industry inside the walls of our institution. I have some ideas about
how we can make more of what we do user friendly, and we’re starting to
talk more about this. I’m very optimistic.
Do you see
clinical space in the medical center as fragmented?
We’re lucky to have a beautiful facility in Ashley River Tower, but we
have space inside that building that’s being used for non-clinical
purposes and can perhaps be converted to clinical purposes. Hospital
leadership is considering plans to build in nearby space to relocate
people and convert these areas for potential bed space in the coming
years. Leadership also has been looking at our physical plant and
working with consultants on how our space can better serve our
patients. This is all part of a long-term strategic plan. This is a
challenge that will not be resolved very quickly.
Friday, Dec. 17 , 2010