Category Archives: Medical Education

Revolutionizing Heart and Vascular Care

At UNC Health Care, we are always looking for new and innovative ways to serve our patients. One way we do that is through partnerships and collaboration. I am proud to say that, through our partnership with UNC REX Healthcare, we recently opened the doors of the new, state-of-the-art North Carolina Heart & Vascular Hospital on the Raleigh campus of UNC REX.

North Carolina has the 12th highest incidence of heart and vascular disease in the country. We lose about 18,000 people annually from heart disease. At the same time, the population continues to grow, increasing the demand for quality health care providers.

The 114-bed hospital is staffed by leading physicians in Wake County, and is now the hub for a premier heart and vascular program in the Southeast. Since we are an academic medical center, we also bring in medical students from the School of Medicine who are training in interventional cardiology and vascular surgery. This not only helps advance the teaching mission of the medical school, it also provides a closer connection to the research and advanced treatments provided by the Medical Center in Chapel Hill.

Since all of UNC REX’s heart and vascular services moved into this new facility, there are plans to improve and repurpose vacated space on its main campus to improve patient care. For example, part of this space will be converted into a behavioral health zone for patients being treated in the hospital’s emergency department – fulfilling a critical need in Wake County.

For more information on North Carolina Heart & Vascular, click here.

UNC School of Medicine Recognized by AAMC

The Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) recently delivered its annual report, and the UNC School of Medicine ranked highly. The report said that at UNC, we are:

  • Providing graduates that meet priority needs
  • Delivering a diverse physician workforce
  • Advancing medical discoveries
  • Producing very satisfied graduates
  • Meeting community needs
  • Offering an affordable education

The report is evidence that the school continues to strive toward our mission, but also shows us where there are opportunities for improvement. For example, our school was ranked in the 17th percentile for Hispanic graduates, but in the 94th percentile for African-American graduates. We must continue working to recruit, train and graduate a more diverse workforce, as well as maintain and improve upon our success in all other areas.

To view the AAMC’s full report, click here: UNC AAMC Rankings.

The State Of Things: My View on Health Care in America

I recently was interviewed by Frank Stasio on WUNC’s “The State of Things.” We discussed the health care challenges our country faces, including gaps in mental health and preventive care, among others. I also discussed some of the myths about health care in our country and explained how UNC Health Care is working with others to provide high-quality affordable care and to train the next generation of physicians.

Listen to the full interview here.

School of Medicine ranks highly

U.S. News & World Report announced this week that the UNC School of Medicine ranked 1st in Primary Care. The improved health of our country and state will depend on innovation in the delivery of primary care, and I am very pleased that our program is leading among all medical schools.

The School also ranked 22nd in Research overall and several specialty areas were named in the top 20: Family Medicine (2nd), Rural Medicine (5th), Audiology (3rd), Occupational Therapy (10th), AIDS (9th), Physical Therapy (9th) and Speech-Language Pathology (11th).

As we work to be the nation’s leading public school of medicine, these rankings speak volumes for the dedication of our faculty, staff, students and alumni. Thank you all for your dedication to excellence in medical education, research and clinical service. These rankings place our School among the top institutions in the country, and demonstrate our commitment to our mission and vision. You can read more about the rankings and how other programs performed at UNC here.

Leading at the School of Medicine

At the UNC School of Medicine, we constantly strive to be the nation’s leading public school of medicine. We believe that partnership and collaboration are the key to advancing our mission, and our most recent partnership with Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina (BCBSNC) demonstrates our commitment to lead.

Approximately one million North Carolinians are either active or retired military. Many organizations across our state and country work to support these men and women, and now, the School is proud to be a part of this effort. In partnership with BCBSNC, the School is starting a new two-year physician assistant master’s degree program for military medics. This program provides an unprecedented opportunity for these veterans to put their hard-earned skills to work once they return home. BCBSNC pledged $1.2 million over the next four years to help establish the program. We expect to enroll our first class in 2015.

In North Carolina, almost one million people live in areas that do not have adequate access to primary care physicians and services. And, as our state continues to grow in size, access to physicians and quality medical services will be more limited – particularly in rural areas. We anticipate that this program will help increase the number of medical professionals who choose to deliver care in our state. We also hope that other institutions across our state and country will follow our example implement similar programs to support these men and women as they enter the next chapter of service to our country.

New infographic from the AAMC

The Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) recently released a new infographic that demonstrates how the country’s medical schools and teaching hospitals work to improve patient care. The graphic can be downloaded and viewed here.

The graphic demonstrates how vital medical schools and teaching hospitals are to our country’s health care system. For instance, the nation’s nearly 400 major teaching hospitals train 80,000 residents in primary care and specialty areas each year. Nearly half of all external research funded by the National Institutes of Health is conducted at medical schools. And, AAMC teaching hospitals provide nearly 40 percent of hospital charity care.

UNC Health Care’s status as a teaching hospital allows us to better train the next generation of doctors and better serve the patients we see each day. We are proud to be a part of a nationwide effort to improve care and better train medical students.

Training medical school graduates outside of Chapel Hill

I was pleased to see the Raleigh News & Observer’s recent coverage of the UNC Family Medicine’s medical training program at Prospect Hill Community Health Center in Caswell County. In the story, Dr. Evan Ashkin points out that the average physician to patient ratio in North Carolina is low – nine physicians per 10,000 patients. This ratio becomes even more skewed in rural and economically vulnerable areas.

The UNC School of Medicine and UNC Health Care are working together to mitigate the health care challenges in the rural areas of our state. One of the ways we do this is by providing residents with opportunities to train in underserved areas across North Carolina – like Prospect Hill.

North Carolina is expected to grow by four million people in the next 18 years, and our state’s health care challenges will grow along with it. Coupled with this growth is an aging physician population. Within 20 years, our state will have 25 percent fewer primary care physicians than we need – particularly in rural areas.

By encouraging residents to train in locations like Prospect Hill, the School hopes to better serve patients in communities that need more physicians and increased access to care. This is an important part of our mission, and I look forward to continuing this commitment to the people of North Carolina.

Leadership Changes in the Med School

Because of several unrelated developments, we have the opportunity to reload the senior ranks of the UNC School of Medicine.

I welcome this — and see it as a chance for us to prepare ourselves and the institution for the next phase of our work together.

Last month, Etta Pisano left UNC to go to the Medical University of South Carolina, where she will become dean of the College of Medicine, July 1. We celebrate her accomplishments and all that she has given us. We wish her the best in this new endeavor.

This means we need to fill her position here — Vice Dean for Academic Affairs of the med school. Separately, she has also served as director of the NC TraCS Institute, which manages our NIH-CTSA grant. So we need to identify the right person to do that as well.

This spring we also launched searches for two other senior positions — Executive Associate Dean for Faculty Affairs and Faculty Development, which Gene Orringer has ably done for almost fifteen years, and Executive Associate Dean for Research, which Bill Marzluff has ably done for fifteen years. We are very grateful for their service and accomplishments, and they will continue to contribute as leaders among the faculty.

We posted these positions and yesterday the posting closed. I am in the process of interviewing people.

I am really grateful that a number of talented people have stepped forward and offered themselves for these important roles. That is not easy to do — and I thank them.

I am seeking wide input on these decisions — believing that we have a unique opportunity to position the School for success.

We want to continue our path of excellence and leadership — our aspiration is to be the leading public medical school and leading public academic medical center in America.

We want people who work well together as a team — but who each are strong and talented in their respective areas, not timid or quiet.

We want a diverse team of people — we have made progress in recent years in diversifying the School and the UNC Health Care System, but we have much more we can and ought to do in this area.

We have lots of challenges — but also lots of opportunities. I believe these new leadership decisions are major opportunities.

Stay tuned.

Challenges, successes shared with UNC faculty

Fall has most assuredly arrived in Chapel Hill. The leaves are especially colorful this year, the morning air has been crisp more than once, and, as dean of the UNC School of Medicine I had the honor of delivering my fall address to the faculty.

This year provided ample reason for reflection. We have faced many challenges, many of them stemming from the financial crisis that was felt by individuals and institutions around the world. But I was also able to cite a long list of accomplishments for which the faculty deserve much of the credit. Among those I mentioned:

¢ We graduated and matched a wonderful class of medical students, and we filled all of our own residency positions with outstanding doctors

¢ We again ranked second overall for primary care on the U.S. News & World Report Best Medical Schools list; and we were twentieth overall and sixth among public schools of medicine for research

¢ UNC Hospitals was included among the U.S. News & World Report Best Hospitals, and ranked among the top 5 percent in H-CAPS scores

¢ We received the third highest score among all hospitals for patient satisfaction with nursing

¢ We opened two world-class facilities: the Genetic Medicine Building, the most sophisticated science building ever constructed at UNC, and the long-awaited North Carolina Cancer Hospital, which welcomed its first patients in August

¢ UNC faculty received more than $350 million in research grants in 2009; our funding from the NIH has increased 15 percent since 2007

¢ As of October, the medical faculty have received 150 awards totaling almost $50 million from the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act (the Stimulus bill)

However, the loss of jobs across the state has had a significant impact on UNC Health Care because of the growth in uninsured North Carolinians. Unemployment across the country weighs heavily as citizens and members of Congress consider health reform. The economy and health care reform were on the minds of many of the faculty at this meeting.

As I have stated in this blog many times before, health reform is an economic issue as well as a health issue. We feel that very acutely at UNC. I repeated to the faculty my belief that every American ought to be insured, and we, as a nation, need to change the way we provide health care to focus on keeping people well.

Fortunately, UNC faculty are also leading the way in creating and expanding new ways to organize and deliver quality health care services in a more efficient manner. We want UNC to be a national leader in this area.

The faculty asked questions about the challenges of our growth, including the scarcity of space. In some respects this is a good problem to have, but it is surely hard to solve, especially quickly. We also talked about our proposed new hospital in Hillsborough.

Because of the economy we have tightened our belt, but the Imaging Research Building is under construction, and we hope to open the Hillsborough hospital, if we get CON approval, in 2014.

Many of our challenges are not unique to UNC. They're faced by practically every academic medical center in the country. However, the level of excellence and the spirit of collaboration and collegiality among UNC faculty sets us apart. It is through their efforts that we answer challenges creatively, and will continue to find innovative ways to conduct research, provide patient care and educate.