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State of the University Presentation Advances Statewide Vision and Momentum

In his recent State of the University presentation, Chancellor Peter Buckley, MD, emphasized UT Health Science Center’s vital role in improving health across Tennessee.

The University of Tennessee Health Science Center is “building into the future” with statewide academic, clinical, research, and community partnerships, as it strives to improve the health of all Tennesseans, Chancellor Peter Buckley, MD, said in his recent State of the University presentation. 

Tennessee ranks among the least-healthy states in America in lifestyle habits, overall health outlook, and substance abuse according a 2024 Forbes report, the chancellor said. This grim reality is the motivating force behind the University of Tennessee Health Science Center’s newly adopted vision statement: Healthy Tennesseans. Thriving Communities.

To emphasize UT Health Science Center’s statewide reach and presence, leadership from the university’s Nashville, Knoxville, and Chattanooga locations participated in an uplifting and informative collective presentation entitled, “Tennessee is our Campus.” It was hosted on the Memphis campus with colleagues across the state watching via Zoom.

  • Robert Craft, MD, dean of the College of Medicine in Knoxville, said one word, “growth,” sums up the message from the College of Medicine in Knoxville. “I’m very happy to say that our strategy here at the College of Medicine is to ensure high-quality physician-led care for our region,” he said. This will be accomplished by growing education and research programs through partnerships across the university’s statewide network. Dr. Craft also marked the College of Medicine’s 25-year partnership with the University of Tennessee Medical Center (UTMC) by presenting Joe Landsman, longtime former president, and current CEO of UTMC, with a Partner of the Year Award.  
Robert Craft, MD, dean of the College of Medicine in Knoxville, presented Joe Landsman, CEO of the the University of Tennessee Medical Center (UTMC), with a Partner of the Year Award. Dr. Craft recognized the College of Medicine’s outstanding and productive 25-year relationship with UTMC.
  • James Wheeler, PharmD, associate dean of the College of Pharmacy in Knoxville, also spoke of growth, saying the college has welcomed its first cohort of students who will complete all four years in Knoxville. He cited new programs to address pressing health issues, including a rural health initiative and certificate program.  
  • Ashley Harkrider, PhD, chair of the College of Health Profession’s Department of Audiology and Speech Pathology in Knoxville, said the department had 325 students in the past year, provided more than 12,000 services to patients in Tennessee and nearby states, and completed the second half of renovations to its space in the UT Conference Center, bringing the entire department under one roof for the first time in more than 60 years.
  • James Haynes, MD, dean of the College of Medicine in Chattanooga, said the college there is “growing and getting stronger,” and is proud to be celebrating the 50-year anniversary of its formal relationship with Erlanger Health System. It has a new residency in neurology, a primary care sports medicine fellowship, a new health career development program in partnership with UT Chattanooga and is raising funds for a new Endowed Chair in Surgery honoring R. Phillip Burns, MD, who served the institution as surgical chair for 45 years. 
  • From Nashville, Brian Wilcox, MD, associate dean of Clinical Affairs and Graduate Medical Education of the College of Medicine, said the 10-year partnership with Ascension Saint Thomas continues to grow, producing about 35 physicians for the Tennessee workforce every year and training about 100 medical students annually. “We’re ready to explore the potential of really growing and expanding what we are in Middle Tennessee, because we strongly believe that with the Ascension partnership, there’s remarkable opportunity with our 16 hospitals, plus specialty and subspecialties, and literally the millions of patient encounters that we’re able to offer the community we serve.”
  • Tracy Hagemann, PharmD, associate dean for the College of Pharmacy in Nashville, said the college has expanded its footprint to allow students to spend all four years of their pharmacy education in Nashville. “So, we have about 100 students here in the Nashville location,” she said. “We have really good partnerships with our community, including Ascension and our other health care partners.” 
Tracy Hagemann, PharmD, spoke from Nashville about the College of Pharmacy’s location there and the dynamic partnerships the college has built in the community.

The chancellor also lauded UT Health Science Center’s stellar hospital partners and the joint strategic agreements that facilitate the delivery of outstanding clinical care statewide, as well as more than 880 clinical and educational training sites in communities across Tennessee, all supported through strategic partnerships. 

Chancellor Buckley recapped UT Health Science Center’s 2023-2028 Strategic Plan, adopted last June and updated recently with input from new executive leaders, new deans, and the inaugural chief wellness officer, all of whom joined the UT Health Science Center team over the past year. 

The plan, which he described as part “perspiration” and part “inspiration,” centers on five strategic pillars: Engaging Communities, Educational Excellence, Expanding Research, Advancing Health, and Developing Talent. The pillars rest on a new mission statement and encompass new values that reflect the UT System’s Be One UT values with added focus on the health sciences.

He highlighted several collaborative successes, which he described as “early wins,” including new neighborhood health hubs, rural outreach initiatives, community service, new major collaborative grants, and new federal grants. He mentioned statewide research collaborations like the new $20 million award from the University of Tennessee-Oak Ridge Innovation Institute in partnership with Oak Ridge National Laboratory and the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, to develop radiopharmaceutical cancer therapies. He also emphasized how the $52 million Healthy Smiles Initiative in the College of Dentistry is helping to spread the university’s impact on dental health statewide. 

Chancellor Buckley emphasized that to continue this momentum and to achieve 2024 goals, it will be critical to manage institutional finances to come in line with a balanced budget and to seek new efficiencies across all campuses. A new and representative Planning and Budget Council has been established to guide and support this vital corrective work. 

Additional goals for 2024 include further solidifying the statewide leadership presence, completing leadership searches, and increasing philanthropy through employee giving, outreach to foundations, and connecting with potential givers across Tennessee.

The full presentation is available to view on the Messages from the Chancellor webpage.