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Chancellor’s Inaugural Address Applauds ‘Noble Mission,’ Outlines Work Ahead

UTHSC Chancellor Peter Buckley delivers his Inaugural Address Tuesday, February 22.
UTHSC Chancellor Peter Buckley delivers his Inaugural Address Tuesday, February 22.

Twenty days into his tenure as the 11th chancellor of the University of Tennessee Health Science Center, Peter Buckley, MD, Tuesday gave his Inaugural Address, noting that UTHSC has many strengths, including impressive leadership at all levels, momentum in research, a strong statewide academic and clinical presence, and a supportive environment for its faculty, staff, and students.

“I came here because of the people, because of the place, the momentum, the mission, and the values,” Chancellor Buckley said, during his noontime address via Zoom.

All of those strengths also offer opportunities for the future, the chancellor said, as we move into “the brave new world” with COVID-19 as an endemic instead of a pandemic.

The virus has focused attention on the health sciences as never before, and UTHSC is poised as the trusted leader for the future of health care in Tennessee, he said.

As Tennessee’s only public, statewide, academic health science system, UTHSC’s mission to improve the health of the citizens of Tennessee through integrated, collaborative, and inclusive education, research, scientific discovery, clinical care, and public service, is “the right stuff,” the chancellor said.

“This does not happen just in Memphis, but this happens across the state,” he said, with the university’s more 100 clinical academic and training sites, and its partnerships with major hospitals across the state in Knoxville, Nashville, Chattanooga, and Memphis, where UTHSC faculty, residents, and trainees provide care.

“Memphis is our home. Tennessee is our campus,” Chancellor Buckley said. This is the message he intends to promote personally, across the university, and  statewide, he said.

However, he said, despite this “powerful footprint,” there is work to be done that will take increased collaboration across campuses, with business and community partners, and with alumni and friends.

“In spite of our statewide mission to improve the health of Tennessee, we have not moved the needle enough,” he said, citing the state’s high levels of childhood obesity, diabetes, smoking, and individuals living in poverty.

“It’s challenging with six colleges and campuses across the state,” he said. “We need to support each other.” He added that UTHSC must seek opportunities to collaborate with other institutions in the UT System, with the medical device and business community, and with other academic and research institutions, particularly locally with the University of Memphis, where collaboration is already well established.

Dr. Buckley also addressed the power of philanthropic giving in helping the university   grow its reach and mission “Philanthropy is about giving to something that has meaning, that has good, and that has a great future, and I think that is something we share,” he said.

“The best is yet to come,” he continued. “There is an opportunity to raise more funding, increase and grow our scholarships, and build the best and bring in the best, and focus on our research.”

Chancellor Buckley, who describes himself as a servant leader, acknowledged the campus is in the “getting to know me” stage with its new chancellor. He outlined his personal core values of confidentiality, respect, hard work, trust, professionalism, a team mentality, and a can-do attitude.

He pledged to embark on listening tours with campuses across the state, community leaders, employees, students, elected officials, and alumni to get to know UTHSC and its needs and opportunities better.

“I am very glad to be with each and every one of you and feel privileged to share the opportunity to serve each and every one of you,” he said.

Chancellor Buckley’s entire Inaugural Address is available on the Messages from the Chancellor webpage.