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College of Medicine dean cites accomplishments

by Cindy Abole
Public Relations

Etta Pisano, M.D., dean of the College of Medicine and vice president for medical affairs, met with faculty and staff on Sept. 10 at the Drug Discovery Building to share the college's accomplishments during the past year and perspectives for the future.

Pisano expressed that she still possessed as much, if not more, optimism and excitement about MUSC's future going into her third year at MUSC as she did when she first arrived at the institution. "I haven't changed my mind about MUSC as a great place where people genuinely care about the institution and our service to our students, our patients, and the state of South Carolina. People have genuine joy, love and loyalty for MUSC, and that's pretty incredible."

She began her talk by mentioning new buildings, the Drug Discovery Building and Bioengineering Building, which opened last fall, and the MUSC Health East Cooper facility, which opened in July. Each facility, she said, is a concrete symbol of the excellent work, discovery and patient care conducted by faculty, students and staff.

Funds flow
The dean expressed her enthusiasm about the universitywide funds flow. She said it is a model that leads to better, more-informed decision making and ensures a more complete understanding of campuswide expenses and revenues.

"Funds flow is in the best interest of our college and the entire institution," Pisano said. The model provides more accountability and transparency. Pisano thanked MUSC Provost Mark Sothmann, Ph.D., and Vice President for Finance Lisa Montgomery for leading the funds-flow process. The dean held a talk devoted to funds flow and College of Medicine finances on Sept. 17.

Recruitment accomplishments
Pisano celebrated new department chairs recruited within the past fiscal year:

  • Lucian Del Priore, M.D., Ph.D., chair of ophthalmology (October 2011, joins MUSC from Columbia University)
  • Donna Johnson, M.D., chair of obstetrics & gynecology (July, MUSC faculty member since 1996)
  • Don Rockey, M.D., chair of medicine (September, joins MUSC from UT-Southwestern)
  • Bruce Ovbiagele, M.D., co-chair of neurosciences (September, joins MUSC from UC-San Diego)

Clinical accomplishments
College of Medicine, Medical University Hospital Authority, and MUSC Physicians leaders have worked together to establish the MUSC Health Strategic Plan (Mission 2015), now in its implementation phase. The mission is for MUSC to be nationally recognized as a premier academic medical center (top 25 ranking) by 2015.

"This is really the first time that this organization has crossed the boundaries between all three entities to create one clinical vision. This process involved the work and dedication of hundreds of people," said Pisano.

The dean cited accomplishments including MUSC's national ranking in six medical specialties in U.S. News & World Report: cardiology and heart surgery; gastroenterology; ear, nose and throat; nephrology; pediatric cardiology and heart surgery, and pediatric gastroenterology. High performers included: cancer, diabetes, endocrinology, geriatrics, gynecology, neurology and neurosurgery, orthopedics, pulmonology, rheumatology and urology.

Additionally, MUSC ranks No. 1 in South Carolina among competing hospitals. MUSC beat out the Greenville Hospital System, Spartanburg Regional Hospital, Bon Secours St. Francis, Roper Hospital and Palmetto Health Richland.

She cited implementation of the Epic ambulatory electronic medical record as another important accomplishment. "We now have an ambulatory outpatient electronic medical record system, which we can be proud of. This will help us not only provide better patient care, but implement efficient practices in clinical care," said Pisano.

Pisano mentioned that MUSC Health has seen substantial growth in primary care. Patient volume increased by 13 percent in the past year and increased primary care physicians by 66 staffers (not including OB-GYN). MUSC also opened three new sites: Dorchester Road, North Charleston; MUSC Specialty Care, North Charleston; and MUSC Health East Cooper. "Building primary care services is a priority in MUSC's Health Strategic Plan and will be something we will emphasize in the next few years," she said.

The dean mentioned the hires of Peter Zwerner, M.D., as chief medical officer, and Jeffrey D'Agostino, as chief operations manager, to help lead MUSC Physicians. On July 9, MUSC Health East Cooper officially opened. Clinical specialties include neurosciences, orthopedics, urology, imaging and lab services, family medicine, and surgical specialties including oncology, GI and plastic surgery.

Pisano also discussed plans to continue the extension of clinical services across the state.

Educational mission, accomplishments
MUSC was named among the top 10 most popular medical schools in the U.S. for a second year by U.S. News & World Report. The college has implemented a board prep program to assist its students. During the past year, COM students' board pass rate increased by 4 percent, which is greater than the national average. For the class of 2017, about 3,500 students applied for 160 medical school slots. The mean GPA of students admitted in this class is 3.72, with an MCAT mean of 30. "This is a phenomenal class, and I attribute this to our wonderful faculty, staff, and admissions committee," Pisano said.

The college's match assistance program has helped 97 percent of students match for residency education —the highest in five years. "We are proud that about 30 percent of students stay at MUSC or in South Carolina for their residency training," said Pisano.

During the summer, about 70 first-year medical students conducted research in labs across campus – a record number of participants.

Research accomplishments
The college is continuing implementation of its Research Strategic Plan. A new Department of Public Health Sciences and a new Center for Genomic Medicine are being established in response to the strategic plan. "We're increasing our investment in infrastructure to support scientists. We have created a biorepository committee to assess needs and make recommendations for additional support of our scientific and clinical community," said Pisano.

Bridge funding program
A bridge funding program was started in reaction to flattened National Institutes of Health (NIH) funding. With support from the dean's office, college departments, and the provost's office, 13 faculty received bridge funding totaling $780,000. These 13 faculty members have since received more than $7.9 million (a 10:1 return) in extramural funding. Faculty members are encouraged to seek assistance from this program as appropriate.

Ongoing activities
Following the discussion of accomplishments, Pisano talked about ongoing activities and initiatives across each mission of the college. With respect to the clinical mission, Pisano emphasized the importance of working with MUHA to help increase the hospital's margin and planning for a new Women's and Children's Hospital.

Implementation of the clinical strategic plan continues to include enterprisewide Epic, a focus on improving patient access, growth of primary care, and statewide affiliation and outreach efforts.

With respect to education, the upcoming Liaison Committee on Medical Education reaccreditation site visit, scheduled for January 2013, is of the utmost importance and a great deal of planning has gone into this important initiative. A new Academy of Medical Educators has been created to honor and provide training for faculty educators.

Implementation of the research strategic plan continues. Upcoming renewal efforts for both the Hollings Cancer Center and SCTR are critical for the continued growth and success of the MUSC research enterprise.

One of the most important administrative activities under way is the creation of a sustainable model for supporting basic science departments. Renovations are planned for several college facilities, including the Walton Building and the Clinical Sciences Building. The faculty affairs team is implementing roundtables, which will be open to members of the college faculty.

Pisano remarked that she continues to strive to provide open and frequent communication with faculty, staff, and students that she committed to since arriving at MUSC.

"The decisions that I make are best made if I hear from a wide variety of people," she said. Pisano has reopened her dean's breakfast meetings, which are open to all faculty members.

She also hosts regular receptions for students. Pisano spoke of using topic-driven (clinical, research, education and administration) online discussion forums to encourage additional communication and feedback from all members of the college.


Friday, Nov. 2, 2012

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