Drs. Abraham and Ford Share a Unique Vision at ‘State of UHealth and the Miller School’ Address
UHealth CEO Edward Abraham, M.D., and Miller School Dean Henri R. Ford, M.D., M.H.A., joined forces Wednesday evening to express their gratitude for the impressive accomplishments of the past year and to chart an ambitious path forward in their first “State of UHealth and the Miller School of Medicine” address.
“It’s a particularly propitious time to do this because the past year has been a really great year, very positive on all fronts for the medical center,” said Dr. Abraham, who is also executive vice president for health affairs. “We have to be a wonderful provider of care with destination programs that attract patients locally, nationally and internationally because of their innovation and excellence.”
“It has been a unique privilege and an honor for me to serve as your dean for the past year,” said Dr. Ford, who is also chief academic officer of the Miller School. “I’ve learned a lot from all of you. I promise that I will continue to work tirelessly to become an even more effective servant leader so that we can create an optimal learning environment for every single member of the Miller School family.”
Dr. Abraham described some of the challenges that limited the health system’s growth in the past, including a fragile financial position, issues with patient access and experience, and South Florida’s highly competitive marketplace. He has worked with the leadership team to develop a unique vision for the region’s only academic medical center: “UHealth is an integrated health system that transforms health care, advances medical education, expands the boundaries of discovery, and creates hope for those we serve.”
An impressive improvement in financial performance made last fiscal year “the best financial year ever for the health system.” He stressed that a positive margin is critically important to be able to invest in programs, people and facilities.
Dr. Abraham congratulated the UHealth team for improved processes in billing and collections, supply chain, and productivity that led to improved performance. Operating rooms are being used more effectively, and changes in case mix reflecting increasing complexity of patients treated are a priority on the journey to becoming a truly preeminent academic health center.
“What an academic medical center should be doing is taking care of highly complex patients,” Dr. Abraham said. He discussed the introduction of 5 to Thrive, an initiative “directed at improving our infrastructure and operations to be able to support the kind of growth and programs we need to have.”
Improvement has been seen in all five of the pillars that make up 5 to Thrive: people, service, quality, growth, and finance. Likelihood of patients to recommend UHealth hospitals has grown impressively, particularly at UHealth Tower, “a tremendous reflection of the involvement of our team there.”
The Lennar Foundation Medical Center received the 2018 Press Ganey Guardian of Excellence Award for consistently achieving the 95th percentile in patient experience – a roadmap for excellence that Dr. Abraham wants to reproduce at other ambulatory clinical sites.
“Transforming patient access and experience has been a major priority over the past year,” he said. The performance of the call center has improved dramatically, with many fewer calls abandoned even as the number of calls has gone up. Similarly, the number of unique new patients seen by UHealth clinics has consistently shown month-to-month increases.
“We have been working to increase appointment availability, to make sure a patient is seen by the right provider at the right time in the right location.” A highly functional app where patients can make appointments, pay bills and access their health record is in the works.
UHealth has increased physician satisfaction through the use of scribes. A new physician compensation plan is addressing gender inequities and discrepancies between productivity and compensation.
“We can’t go fast enough,” Dr. Abraham said. “All of us are accelerating our journey toward becoming an absolutely preeminent academic medical center.
“We want to improve our regional and national profile and our market position. We want to be the provider of choice, have more nationally ranked programs, and be the best overall hospital in Miami.”
The health system is taking increasingly sophisticated ambulatory care out to patients, through the new multispecialty clinic at SoLe Mia in North Miami and two planned facilities in Doral, one downtown and one next to the new Jackson West hospital.
Dr. Ford shared his excitement about joining the Miller School just over a year ago. “I saw this unique opportunity to leverage the strength and complementary expertise that exists among all the schools of the University of Miami and its affiliated hospitals to try to solve some of the complex medical problems that we face today so that we can improve the health of humanity and in the process solidify the excellence and preeminence of the Miller School among elite research medical schools.”
His senior cabinet came up with a strategic plan committing to:
- Promote a culture that creates and supports outstanding learners, educators, clinicians and scientists.
- Recruit and retain learners, educators, clinicians and scientists who will lead scientific and social change.
- Design education, research and clinical programs to support the next generation of physicians and interdisciplinary team-based scientists.
- Create the optimal environment for learners, educators, clinicians and scientists to maximize their potential and become successful in their respective disciplines.
The right environment “is a crucial component because if you are thriving, if you are successful, that means that the Miller School will be prospering and UHealth will be flourishing,” Dr. Ford said. “It’s that interdependency that we must always remember – if it’s good for the Miller School inevitably it must be good for UHealth and vice versa.”
After hearing some disillusionment on a listening tour, Dr. Ford surveyed the faculty to learn more about what improvements are needed. Along with the Faculty Council, he established C-Change action teams on institutional factors, gender equity, diversity and inclusion, research faculty, and mentoring. The teams presented many recommendations, and the dean is now meeting with the team leaders to prioritize short-term and long-term actions to improve the learning environment and faculty vitality.
Actions are also being planned to strengthen the area of diversity and inclusion, including by conducting a comprehensive assessment of diversity efforts, enhancing the recruitment and retention of underrepresented minority students, and establishing a culture of accountability for diversity practices.
“It is important that when there is a search, we come up with a diverse slate of candidates for that position,” Dr. Ford said. “Diversity is really needed for excellence all around.”
Dr. Ford also talked about the Miller School’s research pillars of cancer, neuroscience, HIV/AIDS and emerging pathogens, and inflammation, metabolism and immunotherapies. He shared many examples of grants awarded and studies published in prestigious journals during what he called “a banner year for our research program.”
A research advisory council will help “identify specific areas where the Miller School can be truly preeminent and influence the future of medicine. We are also focusing on shoring up the infrastructure.”
Dr. Ford has established the dean’s distinguished lecture series and an interdisciplinary research seminar series. He also talked about new endowed chairs and faculty awards, and the difference faculty are making locally and on the global scene.
“And because of your commitment to educational excellence, the LCME granted us full accreditation for eight years,” he said. “That’s really on the strength of your dedication to excellence.
“But we’re not going to sit on our laurels,” Dr. Ford added. He convened an education visioning session to reflect on the school’s purpose. “What is our raison d’être?”
The team that gathered for the session determined the school’s “why”: “We need to create graduates who will be equipped to not only practice medicine, but who will be empowered to transform lives and inspired to serve our global community.”
In the coming year the Miller School will “create a culture that empowers and inspires,” the dean said. The medical center will pursue world-class clinicians, researchers and educators; recruit junior faculty with high aspirations; develop mentoring programs; reduce gender inequities; secure funding for a new medical education and research building; and launch a new curriculum.
“The Miller School, along with the University of Miami, UHealth and Jackson, is committed to excellence in education, research and care,” Dr. Ford said. “As the dean, I am here to make sure we deliver on that promise.”
Watch the “State of UHealth and the Miller School of Medicine” address here.