August 6th Grand Rounds Follow-up Message

To the Faculty of the Department of Internal Medicine,

This message is a follow-up to my initial grand rounds presentation during which I outlined my vision for the Department. I would like to begin with acknowledging the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has not only caused substantial mortality and morbidity to our community but has also strained our mental and emotional well-being. After weathering our initial surge, we experiencing yet another wave of increased infection and although our system has the physical components to accommodate these patients, continuously working in the hazardous conditions of this infection is wearing us down.

It is within this context that I would like to add my observations as newcomer to the institution. The resilience of our community is beyond anything I have been a part of in my 25 year career. You continue to deliver the highest quality of patient care and every week I receive the accolades from patients and their families for your commitment and empathy. This year, we have ranked 1st for Inpatient Quality & Accountability (we have ranked in the Top 10 for the last 11 years) and 2nd for Ambulatory Quality in Vizient’s 2020 annual rankings. You continue to publish outstanding quality research and receive extramural funding: the University of Utah has surpassed $600 million in extramural funding, with $400 million to the Health Sciences campus.

Your teaching remains superb for a new generation of students, residents and fellows who are following your inspiration for care during a pandemic. Our support staff, both clinical and non-clinical, remain dedicated and committed to the clinical, educational and discovery pillars of our academic mission. I am extremely grateful for your continued hard work and dedication to everything this Department stands for. THANK YOU!

With these thoughts in mind, I will briefly outline our plans for the coming year:

Diversity & Inclusion

I have a commitment to all Department members to fulfill our goals of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI). The University and School of Medicine have committees that have been formed to address these vital issues and the DOIM already has a gender equity workgroup that has been diligently working on a large number of initiatives over the past year. To complement the activities, I would like to focus the Department’s attention on supporting a group whose future is in greatest immediate jeopardy – women in academic medicine whose career advancement depends on their research success. I am commissioning a Task Force to Address the Barriers to Academic Advancement of Women in the DOIM. This group will be able to implement their solutions using the financial and infrastructure resources of the DOIM. It is expected that although this group will be the initial focus, the solutions tested and validated to be successful in this group can be more widely used in many other groups including men and women in the Research Track, Clinical Track and Clinician-Scholars (I will speak more on this last item in the near future).

This Task Force will report to me and will work collaboratively with the gender equity workgroup under the office of Faculty Affairs. As we increase the depth and breadth of our programs it may be advantageous to establish an Associate Chair for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion for the DOIM.

Research

I would like to conduct a series of “Advancements” (not retreats) so that you may help me develop our Department’s strategic plan for discovery. 

Our first priority is to focus on the retention and support of existing scientists. There are multiple barriers to success for investigators and department-wide solutions to reducing these barriers will lead to greater productivity, increased extramural support, enhanced job satisfaction and improved retention of existing faculty.

Our second priority is the recruitment of key faculty who can collaborate with existing scientists and programs that have already demonstrated research success. The goals for these key recruitments will be to increase our conduct and dissemination of high-impact research and enhance our portfolio of federal funding throughout the spectrum of basic, translational, clinical, health services and implementation science. Each Divisions should produce a list of 3-5 topics that they would like to pursue based on the individual faculty response.

The Research Advances will provide a venue to discuss and choose the topics that best fit the vision of the DOIM, have the highest likelihood of achieving our research goals and benefit the greatest number of DOIM faculty. Priority will be assigned to those topics that are most impactful, utilize our unique strengths, and partner with existing centers and investigators who have demonstrated research success. 

Clinical Care

HELIX is an exciting project with a very real deadline of Spring 2023 for opening. It has been exciting to watch the development of the building and how the concepts of collaboration and open space combined with natural light for the maximum number of occupants will create an ideal working environment. We are in the process of designing the space and I will have your Division Chiefs keep you updated regarding the progress on our new office building.

Education

MEDX and Discovery is also slated for completion mid-2023. This medical school building will create the atmosphere for our students to engage in new models of learning, with designated areas for simulation, innovation and collaboration in addition to traditional classrooms and meeting spaces. The University of Utah is a fantastic medical school and this building will showcase to the world how we combine outstanding education with great clinical care and research in an ideal environment. 

Finances

We have successfully discontinued salary deferments and now have plans to repay these deferments. Importantly, the vast majority of funds needed to repay deferred salary has come from cost reduction, not increased work. My plan is to repay staff and APCs first, followed by faculty. By consensus, the last group to receive payment of deferred compensation will be faculty leadership. We have already submitted our plans for repayment and hope to achieve this important step in recovery by end of calendar year. 

I have recommissioned the compensation committee for the DOIM. I would like to ensure there is a consistent method of assessing compensation using national benchmarks across the Department. Importantly, if we embark on a department-wide incentive plan there should be gender equity not only in base salary but also in the incentive process; moreover, this must include rewards for teaching and research. An institution’s values are reflected in what is rewarded and our strengths lie not only in clinical care, but also education and discovery. 

I would like to reiterate my thanks and express my appreciation for your hard work and dedication to your patients, to your trainees, to your staff, to each other. You are a constant source of inspiration for me, and the individuals I have met, the stories of success, and the continued dedication to Medicine make me proud to be a Ute!

Sincerely,

John

John M. Inadomi, MD
Jon M. Huntsman Presidential Chair
Professor and Chair, Department of Internal Medicine
University of Utah School of Medicine