Continually reviewing and renewing

Earlier this week, we participated in an annual year-end tradition in which faculty members are invited to meet with the Dean of the Carver College of Medicine and Vice President of Medical Affairs to discuss the information contained in our department’s annual report to the college. Over the course of an hour, Dean Brooks Jackson and Executive Dean Pat Winokur used the comprehensive summary of our successes, challenges, and opportunities as a jumping-off point for discussion and to take questions about Internal Medicine’s role in the college, university, and UI Health Care. It can be clarifying to hear our institutional leadership’s perspective on our progress and what aspects of our mission we need to prioritize. Not quite an outsider’s point of view, but certainly from a different vantage point than many of this message’s readers. That perspective is not only colored by an overall vision for our health care system’s strategies but what they have seen other peer institutions succeed at or struggle with. If you were unable to attend, I’m happy to offer a brief recap of some of what was discussed including a little bit of breaking news.

Dean Jackson began by highlighting what, despite enormous headwinds for our department, have been resounding successes. Our clinical expansion in many areas and, perhaps most newsworthy, in the growth of our “long COVID” clinic. A multidisciplinary publication in Frontiers of Physiology showing our ability to identify the impact of COVID-19 on the lungs with 2D chest X-rays instead of the typical 3D CT scan emerged from work done in part by our faculty in that clinic. Increased diagnosis of long COVID should lead us more rapidly to understanding its pathogenesis and to more satisfactory treatments. One of the study’s contributors, Dr. Alejandro Comellas, discussed the work for a recent article in the UI student newspaper.

Scholarship and research in our department also drew praise from Dean Jackson, as he noted the department’s ability to maintain stable levels of grant funding this year among our faculty, despite some recent departures and a more rigorous review process at the federal level. This is due in part to our creativity in identifying new sources of funding, but particularly a dramatically more robust clinical trial portfolio. This increase has been led by several divisions, in particular, our Division of Hematology, Oncology, and Blood & Marrow Transplantation, which tasked an experienced team that cuts across disease-specific groups to handle complicated parts of the regulatory process. Jackson also praised the international acclaim of our scientists, calling out Dr. Michael Welsh’s receipt of the Shaw Prize in Life Sciences and Dr. Frank Faraci’s new grant from the prestigious Leducq Foundation.

In education, our commitment to medical student education is evident with a high percentage of our faculty contributing in a variety of ways to our MD curriculum but also in the kind of feedback we receive after their rotations with us. Dean Jackson also praised our nationally renowned residency program, noting our graduates’ near-perfect board pass rate as evidence of our education leadership’s skills in organizing board review sessions. This story from 2018 shows how each division treats board preparation as an “all hands, on deck” moment. And, of course, most recently, Wednesday’s Fellowship Match Day revealed both the strengths of our many fellowships at recruiting top talent from across the country, but also from within our own residency program. We are proud of all our graduating residents and are excited to watch them enter the next phase of their training. We are also proud that 8 of the 13 graduates matched right here at UI Health Care, ensuring that we will continue to benefit from the investment we have already made in their education. Congratulations!

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