During the summer meeting of the University of Tennessee Health Science Center’s Advisory Board Aug. 11, members learned about recent achievements across the six colleges, implementation of the university’s new strategic plan, and leadership transitions.
Phil Wenk, DDS, board chair and chief executive officer of Delta Dental of Tennessee, welcomed two new members, Corinne Gibson, a fourth-year student in the College of Medicine, the student representative, and Richard Smith, PhD, associate professor and graduate program director in the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery and Biomedical Engineering in the College of Medicine, who represents the faculty on the board.
“This year, I am serving as president of the Medical Student Executive Council and also as president of the Student Government Association Executive Council,” Gibson told the board. “I was born and raised in Memphis and my family is in Nashville now, so I have been in Tennessee for a long time and I’m happy to be here.”
Dr. Smith told the board, “I have been around for 40 years, and it is an honor to serve. I will do my best to be a representative for the faculty.”
Michael Ugwueke, MPH, DHA, FACHE, president and chief executive officer of Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare, has also returned to serve as a member of the advisory board.
Christina Rosenthal, DDS, MPH, a 2005 graduate of the UTHSC College of Dentistry, presented on the success of her nationally renowned program, Determined to be a Doctor Someday, which teaches children ages 2 to 5 and teens ages 14 to 18 from historically marginalized populations about careers in health care.
“This particular room represents the legacy of our organization. Great things happen in this room, and they should be promoted nationally, and earlier this year that’s exactly what happened when Good Morning America was hosted here and focused on the remarkable work of Dr. Christina Rosenthal,” Chancellor Peter Buckley, MD, said in introducing Dr. Rosenthal to the board. “We’re privileged to have Christina here today to give us a roadmap and give us a charge for our work going forward.”
Dr. Rosenthal discussed the purpose and initiatives of Determined to be a Doctor Someday, the support it has received, its broad impact in creating a diverse clinical workforce, challenges, and the critical role that pipeline programs play in building a diverse workforce. Dr. Wenk and board members emphasized the necessity for UTHSC to also advance pipeline programs.
Chancellor Buckley recognized transitions across UTHSC, including Anthony Ferrara, CPA, MAS, senior vice chancellor for Finance and chief financial officer and secretary for the board, who is retiring. He also thanked Terrance Cooper, PhD, Hariett S. Van Vleet professor of Microbiology and Immunology in the College of Medicine, and recognized Elizabeth Evans, physical therapy student in the College of Health Professions and the student representative, who was unable to be present, both of whom are rotating off the board.
Chancellor Buckley also recognized and thanked Scott Strome, MD, former dean of the College of Medicine and former vice chancellor for Clinical Affairs for his leadership and accomplishments. James Ragain, DDS, MS, PhD, FICD, FACD, dean of the College of Dentistry, was also lauded for his accomplishments that will set the stage for a national search for a new dean to begin shortly in anticipation of Dr. Ragain’s recently announced retirement plans for Fall 2024.
The chancellor presented new leadership, including Reginald F. Frye, PharmD, PhD, FCCP, dean of the College of Pharmacy; Brigitte Grant, vice chancellor for Advancement; Paul Wesolowski, vice chancellor for Strategic Partnerships; and G. Nicholas Verne, MD, interim executive dean and vice chancellor for Clinical Affairs for the College of Medicine, each of whom lauded UTHSC as a great organization to join. Also introduced was Raaj Kurapati, AIFA, the new executive vice chancellor and chief operating officer who begins his tenure at UTHSC September 1.
“We are incredibly grateful for Raaj Kurapati for not only joining us and bringing all the experience he had in another fantastic institution at the University of Memphis, but also bringing his statewide experience and his legislative relationships to us,” Chancellor Buckley said.
“It’s an honor to be able to join the University of Tennessee Health Science Center,” Kurapati said. “This is an extension of why I came to Memphis. This gives me an opportunity to continue to give back to this community. I am honored and humbled at the opportunity to join this wonderful institution and look forward to continuing to make an impact, as you already are, and building on that.”
Cindy Russell, PhD, RN, vice chancellor for Academic, Faculty, and Student Affairs, updated the board on the implementation of the new 2023-2028 Strategic Plan approved in late June by the University of Tennessee Board of Trustees.
“Just as the entire campus fed into this strategic plan, helped develop and refine this strategic plan, so does the work of this strategic plan belong to the campus and all of us,” Dr. Russell said.
Dr. Russell spoke about developing a detailed dashboard to monitor progress and determine the need for modifications; identifying individuals, along with the Chancellor’s Cabinet, as sources of official data and strategies for data collection; planning for the evolution of the strategic plan; and planning a fall retreat for the cabinet to discuss performance indicators and strategies. Referring to Dr. Rosenthal’s pivotal work and on pipeline development at UTHSC, Dr. Russell also presented on expanding the university’s emphasis on access and engagement, as well as the philanthropic potential of this work for the institution.
The deans across the six colleges presented with pride the most recent accomplishments, initiatives, and programs of their colleges.
- James Ragain, DDS, MS, PhD, FICD, FACD, dean of the College of Dentistry, gave an update on the $53 million state-funded Healthy Smiles Initiative, created to expand the dental workforce statewide and increase outreach in clinics in urban and rural areas. “Last year was our first year to receive funding and I am proud to say that we not only met the metrics we were given, but also surpassed them,” he said. Dean Ragain also said the Kingsport Dental Clinic is on track for a floss-cutting opening next spring.
- Donald Thomason, PhD, dean of the College of Graduate Health Sciences, spoke about the college’s Summer Research Scholars Program, which introduces high school and college students to careers in research. He also discussed philanthropic support the college has received, including $35,000 for student and postdoc independent research projects.
- Stephen Alway, PhD, FACSM, dean of the College of Health Professions, discussed the upcoming ribbon cutting and open house for the new Rachel Kay Stevens Therapy Center, Aug. 24, and the 7th-annual Rachel Kay Stevens Therapy Center Art Show and Auction, Aug. 25-27. In addition, Dean Alway updated the board on phase two of the renovations for the UT Conference Center in Knoxville for the Department of Audiology and Speech Pathology.
- G. Nicholas Verne, MD, interim dean of the College of Medicine, discussed the new leadership in the college, including Robert M. Craft, MD, dean of the College of Medicine in Knoxville, James W. Haynes, MD, MBA, FAAFP, dean of the College of Medicine – Chattanooga, and Brian Wilcox, MD, associate dean of Clinical Affairs and Graduate Medical Education, College of Medicine – Nashville. Dr. Verne also highlighted the LCME accreditation site visit in October and noted the outstanding results from the medical student satisfaction survey.
- Wendy Likes, PhD, DNSc, ARPN-Bc, FAANP, dean of the College of Nursing, provided updates including the college’s HRSA renewal grant of $2.6 million, submission of almost $30 million in grants, expansion of the Partnership Enrollment Programs five to 10 programs, and recognition as a recipient of the 2023 American Association of Colleges of Nursing’s Exemplary Academic-Practice Partnership Award to be presented in Washington D.C. in October.
- Reginald Frye, PharmD, PhD, FCCP, dean of the College of Pharmacy, reported the college has risen to No. 6 in annual research funding from the National Institutes of Health. He also said this year marks the college’s 125th anniversary.
The full advisory board meeting is available to view on the UTHSC Advisory Board webpage.