The University of Tennessee Health Science Center’s Advisory Board Friday unanimously approved the UTHSC 2023-2028 Strategic Plan, a comprehensive roadmap 18 months in development that defines the institution’s direction for the future. The plan will go before the UT Board of Trustees for a final vote at its meeting in June, which is set for UTHSC’s Memphis campus.
“This institution has a great historic presence and a positive future ahead of it,” Chancellor Peter Buckley, MD, said introducing the plan to the board. He said the plan was a “team effort” led by Cindy Russell, PhD, vice chancellor for Academic, Faculty, and Student Affairs. “I want to say a public thank you to Cindy.”
Dr. Russell gave a masterful presentation of the strategic plan, explaining its context and content, and also describing the remarkably inclusive planning process involving all UTHSC communities. “More than 700 faculty, staff, students, and community members participated in the planning process,” she said.
This long-term collaborative process defined UTHSC’s new vision in four words: Healthy Tennesseans. Thriving Communities.
The plan centers on five strategic pillars: Engaging communities, educational excellence, expanding research, advancing health, and developing talent. The pillars rest on a new, streamlined mission statement and encompass new values that reflect the UT System’s Be One UT values with added focus on the health sciences.
“The plan will not be dormant,” Dr. Russell said. “We will develop performance indicators to show visible progress.” The strategic plan will also provide a point of reference and instructional support for forthcoming UTHSC strategic planning in the individual colleges.
Phil Wenk, DDS, board chair, chief executive officer of Delta Dental of Tennessee, and an alumnus of the UTHSC College of Dentistry, said the plan is “well-developed and can be an excellent roadmap for the future. . . a plan that fits to the institutional vision will be successful.”
Dr. Russell also highlighted that the plan is on track to be completed on time and indicated that following an upcoming presentation and discussion of the plan with UT System President Randy Boyd and his executive leadership team, the plan will be presented to the UT System Board of Trustees when they convene next month in Memphis.
Earlier in the meeting the board unanimously approved a proposed $680,907,300 operating budget for FY24, which includes a 1.5% increase for in-state and out-of-state-tuition.
Senior Vice Chancellor for Finance and Chief Financial Officer Anthony A. Ferrara, CPA, MAS, said UTHSC has not raised tuition in four years, and while state appropriations have been generous, the increase reflects inflationary pressures on the university. All funds raised from the increase would be earmarked for instructional needs, he said.
“None of us want to raise tuition, but the inevitability of it is we have to,” Dr. Wenk said.
Elizabeth Evans, the student representative on the board, said student government leaders were given advance notice of the proposed increase and approved it. “I appreciate letting us be a part of the discussion,” she said.
The spring meeting of the board also included updates from the chancellor and the deans about recent accomplishments at UTHSC. Chancellor Buckley noted that the university has three new leaders: Reginald Frye, College of Pharmacy dean; Brigitte Grant, vice chancellor for Advancement; and Paul Wesolowski, vice chancellor for Strategic Partnerships.
The chancellor and board expressed appreciation to Brad Boucher, PharmD, FCCP, FNAP, MCCM, for his service as interim dean of the College of Pharmacy, and Charles “Charley” Deal, PhD, for serving as the interim vice chancellor for Advancement. “Under their leadership, both Advancement and the College of Pharmacy have moved forward. I am very grateful to them both,” the chancellor said, presenting them with certificates of appreciation.
The deans and leadership spoke about accomplishments and initiatives in their areas. Highlights included:
- “This year has been a wonderful year for us,” Dr. Deal said, reporting on the activities of the Office of Advancement. As of May 1, philanthropy has reached $26.5 million, surpassing the goal for the fiscal year. “These figures are indicative of what people feel about the leadership on this campus,” he said.
- Representing the College of Dentistry, Paul Luepke, DDS, interim associate dean of Clinical Affairs, mentioned the floss cutting and grand opening in April of the new Delta Dental of Tennessee Building on the Memphis campus, as well as the new Kingsport Dental Clinic of the Appalachian Highlands, part of a collaborative effort to increase access to dental care in rural areas of Tennessee.
- The College of Graduate Health Sciences has seen an uptick in applications and philanthropic support and is working to increase internship opportunities for students, said Dean Donald Thomason, PhD.
- Dean Stephan Alway, PhD, MSc, said enrollment in the College of Health Professions is strong, and interest in the new Pathologists’ Assistant program is high with more than 90 candidates for the 10 positions.
- U.S. News & World Report has ranked the College of Medicine No. 24 for Best Medical School for Primary Care, said Teresa Hartnett, EdD, associate dean for Finance and Administration in the college. Other rankings, she said, include No. 18 for Most Graduates Practicing in Underserved Areas, No. 46 for its Physician Assistant program, No. 46 for Most Graduates Practicing in Primary Care, and No. 71 for Research.
- Wendy Likes, PhD, DNSc, APRN-Bc, FAANP, dean of the College of Nursing, said the DNP program is ranked No. 23 by U.S. News & World Report. She also said the college has many projects underway, including the UTHSC Nursing Mobile Health unit that was unveiled Thursday and will expand access to health care in Lake and Lauderdale counties.
- Dr. Boucher said the College of Pharmacy had an excellent residency match with 78 graduates matching and an additional six graduates heading to internships in industry.
The full advisory board meeting is available to view on the UTHSC Advisory Board webpage.