UTHSC Focused on Statewide Impact, Chancellor Buckley Tells Advisory Board

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UTHSC Chancellor Peter Buckley addresses members of the Advisory Board at its summer meeting Wednesday.

During the summer meeting of the University of Tennessee Health Science Center’s Advisory Board Wednesday, Chancellor Peter Buckley, MD, along with vice chancellors and the deans leadership team, discussed accomplishments, challenges, and goals from his first six months at UTHSC.

The focus has been on examining and improving the university internally, extending partnerships and collaborations externally, and raising the profile of UTHSC as a statewide institution dedicated to improving the health of all Tennesseans, he said.

“It’s our team’s privilege to give you an update, a sense of the work we’ve been doing at UTHSC at the community level,” Chancellor Buckley told the board.

He cited the new Healthy Smiles initiative, a five-year grant that in total could reach $53 million. College of Dentistry Dean James Ragain, DDS, MS, PhD, FICD, FACD, explained that this is a major focus of the university’s goal to improve access to health care across the state. The grant will allow the College of Dentistry to increase the dental workforce across Tennessee in rural communities, where the need is greatest. Implementation of that program is in its initial phase.

Wendy Likes, PhD, DNSC, APRN-Bc, FAANP, dean of the College of Nursing, highlighted the recent $3.9 million grant from the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) to the College of Nursing to establish a mobile health unit to provide care in Lake and Lauderdale counties, which are designated by HRSA as underserved.

UTHSC’s Tennessee Population Health Consortium is collaborating with East Tennessee State University to improve health care access to rural areas in East Tennessee. The College of Nursing is also working on a collaboration with UT Southern, pending approval by the Tennessee Higher Education Commission, to establish a joint BSN program that will help strengthen health care career opportunities for students in that part of Tennessee.

Cindy Russell, PhD, RN, vice chancellor for Academic, Faculty, and Student Affairs, described how UTHSC is in the process of drafting a new strategic plan.

The university also is realigning its statewide clinical trials network and is working to strengthen its brand with a statewide audience through media outreach and other avenues, the chancellor said.

“You’re only as good as the noise that you make, and it’s important to make a lot of noise, ideally good noise,” the chancellor said. He thanked Vice Chancellor for Communications and Marketing Sally Badoud and her team, who are increasing UTHSC’s presence in the media. “We are giving a rejuvenated face and message that while we’re here and our home is in Memphis and we’re proud of that, we are a statewide organization and truly the state of Tennessee is our campus, and we’re trying to brand and make sure people are aware of that.”

Chancellor Buckley said he has been meeting with community, business, and academic leaders to forge relationships for future collaborations to benefit the university and the citizens of Memphis and Tennessee. The enthusiasm and appreciation for the work of UTHSC in Memphis and across Tennessee is exhilarating and encouraging, he said.

Additionally, UTHSC has hired a national health care consulting firm to evaluate the status of its clinical partnerships for strategic recommendations for the future. He said the university will soon be launching a search for a new vice chancellor to oversee UTHSC’s vital and dynamic clinical partnerships

Executive Vice Chancellor and Chief Operations Officer Ken Brown, JD, MPA, PhD, FACHE, discussed the impressive capital improvements under way and planned on the Memphis campus, including the Delta Dental of Tennessee Building, which is on track for completion in the Spring of 2023.

“Hopefully you see a relatively dramatic change in the campus,” Dr. Brown said. “We’re on this evolutionary fast track in terms of our capital construction and we’ve got more and more capital construction planned. So, we anticipate the campus will be in a state of constructive improvement for the foreseeable future.”

The board recognized outgoing member Michael Ugwueke, DHA FACHE, president and chief executive officer of Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare, for his service since the board began in 2019.

“He is a leader and CEO of one of our most important partners,” Dr. Wenk said. “Michael, you have been a great representative to our board. I truly thank you, not only for your service to us, but for your friendship.”

Michael Ugwueke, left, president and chief executive officer of Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare, was honored for his service on the board since it began in 2019.

Dr. Ugwueke said serving on the board has been a privilege and an honor. “I have seen the board growing over the years and we’ve accomplished quite a lot together, and what I cherish most is the relationships and the partnerships and the things that we will do in the future for the benefit of Memphis and ultimately the state of Tennessee.”

The board also welcomed its new student member, Elizabeth Evans, a second-year physical therapy student in the College of Health Professions.

The full advisory board meeting is available to view on the UTHSC Advisory Board webpage.