Although we are now past the academic-year calendar turn and the 4th of July holiday, there is still plenty of summer left. We are fortunate to live somewhere surrounded by so much open space with plenty of running and biking trails throughout the community and lakes and rivers nearby for recreation. Add in the weekend festivals and farmer’s markets, and I am regularly reminded just how lovely a place this area can be in summer. I was so glad to see some of you at the Iowa City Farmer’s Market, the Arts Festival, and the Friday Night Concert Series downtown. I hope that you have had a chance to take advantage of local options or are planning to take time soon to be with family and friends. It can be hard to recognize our own need for rest and relaxation, particularly when it seems like our involvement is essential to a task or when things seem to be slipping out of control. But proper rest is not only good for our physical health, including our ability to resist infection, but it has been shown to boost our mental health, memory, and concentration.
The slower pace also leaves us time to plan ahead. The search for new leadership for the college and UI Heath Care is moving along. And this puts us in a position to revisit our values, our vision, and our academic practice. We approached implementing the new compensation model with this in mind and we will bring a similar openness to change and equity as we examine other systems in our department, for example, the promotions process. I am grateful for the leadership of Dr. Christie Thomas in that regard and appreciate his creativity and skepticism as we critically review our current process. The Strategic Engagement Action Committee members have decided on some general areas our department should focus on and we will work with them to narrow that into actionable and tangible items for all of us in the department. I am really looking forward to seeing this work evolve over the next year. I was also inspired by Dr. Gerry Clancy’s late May Grand Rounds on trauma and mental health and where we go from here. “Get rid of the stupid stuff,” he reported was a recommendation made by the American Medical Association as one of five steps for physician well-being. I am excited by a renewed focus on reducing the number of compliances and trainings, best practice alerts, and mass emails, and I hope we can work together on this topic. We will keep you posted. We are also still processing the response to the recent call for membership of the department’s expansion of DEI activity. At first glance, I am very impressed by the sheer number of volunteers. Thank you also for submitting great ideas. We will close that call soon and share the results later this summer.
The spirit of community and teamwork has always been what has made this department special. We are many smart people individually and we can be effective and accomplish big things on our own, but it is when we lean on each other and open ourselves up to others’ input that we go farther and faster. A few years ago, we saw an opportunity to grow our clinical hematology and oncology services in a new direction when UI Health Care acquired an existing private practice in the Quad Cities, just about an hour to our east. At the time, the foundation was built on just two local clinicians and now faculty members, Drs. Mario Sy and Shobha Chitneni. In the years since the practice has grown with the addition of another oncologist—residency and hem/onc fellowship alum Dr. Jad El Masri—as well as nurse practitioners and an expansion of infusion services. Residents of the Mississippi River valley get access to the same world-class cancer care, including access to clinical trials, that they can get in Iowa City, just closer to home. As we look to communities that can benefit from access to UI Health Care and how we can establish new services in them, the model we have established in the Quad Cities should point the way.
Finally, today is the last day of someone I know that I am not alone in saying I will miss a great deal. Stacie Vik has been a reliable figure in the department for many years and was a valuable aide to Dr. Dale Abel when he was Chair. I quickly learned just how essential she was after moving in to this office, as she fielded my ballooning calendar invitations and helped prioritize the requirements of the role. There was no one more essential to making my transition successful and smooth than Stacie, and I will always be grateful for her assistance and for her friendship. I wish her all the best in Madison and know that her new colleagues will soon realize just how lucky they are. As lucky as we were.