Elvys (pronounced Elvis) Ferrufino, a 4th-year dental student on rotation at the UTHSC College of Dentistry’s teaching clinic in the Dodson Avenue Community Health Center in Chattanooga, proudly shook hands with UT System President Randy Boyd and UT Health Science Center Chancellor Peter Buckley last Tuesday afternoon, as they visited the clinic that serves the underserved in that city and region.
President Boyd and Chancellor Buckley were on the second day of a three-day trip across the state designed to increase public awareness of UTHSC’s statewide reach, thank its partners and stakeholders, and strengthen relationships across the UTHSC system.
Dubbed the “Everywhere You Look, UTHSC” tour, the two leaders started early Halloween morning in Memphis and by noon that Wednesday had visited partner hospitals in five cities, plus several of UTHSC’s clinical and academic sites.
Their message was that UTHSC may have its home campus in Memphis, but through its outstanding partnerships is making a difference in the health of people across Tennessee.
The Dodson clinic is one of several dental clinics opened across the state by the College of Dentistry in recent years, with three more coming soon. Staffed by 3rd– and 4th-year students on two-week rotations and supervised by dental faculty, the clinics aim to meet the needs of Tennesseans without access to dental care. They also embody UTHSC’s mission to train the next generation of health care providers for Tennessee and to care for the citizens from one end of the state to the other.
“One of the things this tour is designed to do is to bring awareness of UTHSC across the state. Too often, people think UT Health Science Center is just in Memphis.”UT System President Randy Boyd
UTHSC with its six colleges – Dentistry, Graduate Health Sciences, Health Professions, Nursing, Medicine, and Pharmacy – has four major clinical campuses and 888 clinical and education sites across the state.
“We want to let the rest of the state know that we care about the state of Tennessee,” President Boyd said. “We want to make an impact on the state by helping transform the health of people across the state. If anyone can make an impact, it is the Health Science Center. Not only do we have the ability, we have the desire.”
Chancellor Buckley said UTHSC is the major provider of health care professionals across the state. “As the state’s only public academic health care institution, our mission must be resoundly focused on Tennessee,” he said. That focus includes addressing the social determinants of health, increasing the health care workforce in rural Tennessee by recruiting and retaining health care professionals for the state, and addressing the illnesses, such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease, that most-affect Tennesseans and place the state at near-bottom rankings in major health metrics.
Because UTHSC does not have an academic medical center, fulfilling that mission hinges on UTHSC’s partnerships with major hospitals in Memphis, Jackson, Nashville, Chattanooga, and Knoxville. The tour included stops at many of them. Each venue had excellent attendance and a lively exchange of ideas.
Among stops in Memphis that Monday, were St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and the Memphis VA Medical Center, where UTHSC faculty, residents, and fellows provide care and perform research, and students and residents receive clinical training.
Also Monday, the tour stopped at West Tennessee Healthcare-Jackson Madison County General Hospital in Jackson, where UTHSC has a well-established family medicine residency program, and at the nearby UT Family Medicine Center.
“We exist in partnership. We can’t do what we do without our partners.”UTHSC Chancellor Peter Buckley
“This partnership is really important to the state of Tennessee,” President Boyd said at the hospital gathering. As Ford Motor Company’s Blue Oval City comes to West Tennessee, health care needs are expected to grow. “We need partners in West Tennessee,” he said.
“The thing we would like to share, for West Tennessee,” said James Ross, president and CEO of West Tennessee Healthcare, “We have been taking care of this community for 70-plus years and we recognize the value of being connected, we recognize the value of this partnership.” He indicated a desire to expand the partnership and establish more residency training and rotations.
Additionally, the tour visited Le Bonheur Children’s Outpatient Center in Jackson, where members of UT Le Bonheur Pediatric Specialists, an affiliated physician practice with UTHSC, provide care for the children of the region.
On Tuesday, the tour stopped In Nashville to meet with leaders of the Ascension Saint Thomas System, where UTHSC’s Nashville campus is located. Chancellor Buckley emphasized the value of that partnership and pledged to strengthen collaboration, integration, and connection. “We’re here to affirm the value of each of the campuses across the state, particularly in GME (Graduate Medical Education), we need to coalesce more,” he said.
The tour also visited UTHSC College of Pharmacy’s Nashville campus, where the leaders had the opportunity to meet with students and faculty.
At Erlanger Health System in Chattanooga, Chancellor Buckley praised James Haynes, MD, the new dean of the UTHSC College of Medicine there. “The work we do together is important,” the chancellor said. “The work we do together will help Tennessee. We look forward to expanding the partnership and growing it.”
On Wednesday morning, the tour wrapped up at the University of Tennessee Medical Center in Knoxville, home to UTHSC’s Knoxville campus. “You espouse quality care, and you also live it,” Chancellor Buckley said. “The real opportunity for all of us is to not just connect, but to be vibrant and synergistic, so we can meet our mission across the state. “
Throughout the tour, Chancellor Buckley spoke of UTHSC’s developing new strategic plan with its mission and vision focused on improving health for all Tennesseans.
“We are thankful for the outstanding work by our UTHSC family all across the state and were honored to share that story on our tour,” Chancellor Buckley said. “We look forward to continuing to support and expand that work for the benefit of the health of all those who call Tennessee home.”