A Year in Rearview

It was an honor to deliver my third annual State of the Department address last week. One hour is not nearly enough time to detail all the incredible activity that occurs over a twelve-month period in our department. In every component of our tripartite mission, the department ends 2018 on stronger footing than when the year began. It is a pleasure to recount our successes, to identify the obstacles that slow us, and to propose our strategies for overcoming them. The presentation can be viewed in its entirety here, but there are a number of important parts worth repeating in this forum as well.

PatientCareFirst, by almost any metric—whether it is volume at Iowa River Landing outpatient clinics or the number of inpatient consults—we are extraordinarily busy providing care to Iowans. From FY17 to FY18, our total RVUs have increased by more than 8 percent, a number that represents thousands of collective hours over the previous year. It is critical to me that you know that leadership is aware of and grateful for how much you do for University of Iowa Health Care and for our veterans at the VA Medical Center. As our patient volumes will only increase in the coming years, we remain focused on ensuring that our resources are strategically deployed to meet these increased demands with the excellence that patients expect, while ensuring our providers are not burning out.

Research3In research, our department has seen tremendous growth in grant funding overall that mirrors the significance of our collective discoveries and publications in the most rigorous journals. Our NIH funding levels are projected to increase by 22% over last year’s, and we wait to see before the end of winter what impact that growth will have on our national rankings relative to other institutions. Notably, our total number of grant applications submitted did not increase that significantly, but the number of funded applications has doubled since FY16. This speaks to the quality of our grant submissions. We will double down on our efforts to strengthen the infrastructure and support mechanisms that we have been putting in place to support all of our faculty’s efforts to submit the most competitive grant proposals. Increasing our research funding represents an institutional priority as well. Early in the new year, there will be a college-wide research retreat that will likely set institutional priorities and support strategies to enhance our research mission. No doubt, the Department of Internal Medicine will play a major role in these efforts. I am confident and hopeful that 2019 will continue to see steady growth in our department’s research output.

EducationOur educators have also logged many hours with undergraduates, medical students, residents, and fellows. Their diligence, rigor, and creativity are part of why our residency program was nationally ranked as a leading program in the U. S. News & World Report rankings this year. This recognition reveals in part why so many of our faculty continue to accrue significant teaching awards as well. And while we are proud of this record of our excellence, which certainly helps in recruitment, it is clear that what keeps trainees at Iowa past graduation is not our ranking or a list of awards, but the full complement of dedicated professionals who are deeply invested in the personal and professional growth of each of our trainees. Thank you to our faculty,  teachers, and mentors who stayed a little late to show one more procedure or who came in on a weekend to run a board-prep workshop. It is and will always be individuals like you who help make our department world-class.

What I hope I achieved in the address was to give a sense of the broad scope of our achievements, a clear picture of what our priorities will be in the coming year, and to set a long-term vision for where we will go. In as concise a summary as possible, our strategic approach is this: We will innovate in our work, recruit and retain the best in our field, uphold rigorous standards for excellence, and maintain our ability to adapt nimbly to new ideas and challenges. I expect to be held to this roadmap throughout the year and will return it to again when I deliver next year’s address.

This is the last Views from the Chair of 2018 and about the 80th one of these posts. I am grateful to everyone who takes the time to read, respond, and to submit topics or ideas for me to cover here or for our department’s communications team to address. I encourage you in a quieter moment to explore this now-three-year-old website, which serves as a growing repository of the extraordinary achievements you all make, week in and week out. The traffic of Making the Rounds has doubled in the last two years, and the number of posts each year has approached a similar increase. That is because you see the value in sharing your work with your colleagues and our larger community. I hope you will continue to let us know about your successes so that we can spread the good news. I also hope that as 2018 nears its end that you find comfort and rejuvenation in time with loved ones and that you return to us in 2019 ready to fulfill our great promise.

About E. Dale Abel, MD, PhD

E. Dale Abel, MD PhD Francois M. Abboud Chair in Internal Medicine John B. Stokes III Chair in Diabetes Research Chair, Department of Internal Medicine Director, Fraternal Order of Eagles Diabetes Research Center Director, Division of Endocrinology and Metabolism Professor of Medicine, Biochemistry and Biomedical Engineering

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