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December 17, 2004

Holiday Message from Dr. Deckers

The UConn Health Center, its schools and hospital have demonstrated conclusively to many that we are an exceptionally dynamic institution capable of changing in response to very demanding internal and external realities now operative in health care, biomedical research and education, and in the delivery of high quality clinical care. Many didn’t think we were capable of the broad, systemic changes, but our turnaround and current solvency and broad respect is a direct result of changes fashioned through the hard creative work of everyone in this workforce.

Our mission, for the most part, has remained constant. We are committed to the discovery of new biomedical knowledge, to the teaching of that knowledge to the next generation of physicians, dentists and biomedical scientists, and to the delivery of high quality clinical care, especially to disadvantaged populations and to people who might be advantaged by the strong connection of legitimate science and education with clinical care. Any university, and especially its graduate schools in medical, dental medicine and biomedical sciences, should be committed to enhancing their students’ educational experience and must constantly seek to increase the excellence of its research faculty. Teaching, research and the delivery of the highest quality clinical care are faculty and staff dependent and we must constantly work to secure the resources to achieve these societal goods.

We work in an environment of restricted resources – a constraint that is a near universal reality in American academic health centers. Immediate solutions to resource constraints are not easy to achieve. They require, quite simply, substantial philanthropic gain and reallocation of existing resources. There are no other options. They also demand new focus and difficult choices. We must recruit additional faculty and staff but they need to be targeted to areas of pre-existing strength or need, especially need that is directly related to fulfilling the strategic plan that we have recently developed with our Board of Directors. Relevant, mission-directed new faculty of exceptional excellence are critical not only because they generate new knowledge and teach that knowledge but because additional grant support provides vital resources for the overall academic program and is an economic driver within the State of Connecticut.

It is most appropriate to repeat that whatever new faculty positions are secured at UCHC over the short and long term will need to be carefully targeted to specific areas of programmatic and academic need, research strength, strategic focus and connection to our mission of public health service to the State. Faculty of excellence require legitimate support for their research programs and a top priority, through UConn 21st Century, will be the revamping of existing laboratories and the creation of a state-of-the-science new research building.

We have heard loud and clear that administrative functions in all domains at the Health Center need significant improvements. Our climate must be one characterized by responsiveness and efficiency. Redundancy and roadblocks must be eliminated. As we expand our academic and clinical enterprise, and demand true excellence of these domains, we must create a climate where dedicated staff feel valued and are enthusiastic about doing their best work. We also must establish mechanisms to promote effective internal oversight, compliance with all state and federal regulations, and full accountability. I feel particularly confident that the Juran Institute engagement, now operative both at Storrs and at the Health Center, will result in considerable process improvement and allow effective management of change. We will recruit personnel more efficiently, effectively and quickly. We will be more responsive to maintenance needs and we will reduce the time required for grant close out. On the clinical side, we will improve patient call responses and billing operations within John Dempsey Hospital and UMG while significantly enhancing quality and safety everywhere. In short, we are talking about a new way of doing business across the entity. We are talking about change.

Change is always difficult. Machiavelli may have characterized it best. “There is no more delicate matter to take in hand, nor more dangerous to conduct, nor more doubtful of success, than to step up as a leader in the introduction of change. For he who innovates will have for his enemies all those who are well off under the existing order of things, and only lukewarm supporters in those who might be better off under the new.”

That said, change is necessary. We must service all of our clients better - the clients being our students, patients, faculty and staff - if we are to stay ahead of the curve and continue to earn the respect we have achieved during the last 3-4 years in the unpredictable health care environment that I referenced in my opening paragraph. So, at the end of 2004, I thank everyone for their past contributions and, in many cases, sacrifices. I challenge you to look upon 2005 as a phenomenal opportunity to participate in numerous constructive engagements with the Health Center which, I am confident, will make us much better and much more competitive then we currently are.

My sincere best wishes to each and every one of you for a Happy, Healthy and Successful New Year.

Be peaceful!

Peter J. Deckers, M.D.
Executive Vice President for Health Affairs
Dean, UConn School of Medicine
Murray-Heilig Chair and Professor in Surgery
UConn School of Medicine