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Four Years of Progress on Our Strategic Plan: Working Toward Unstoppable Momentum

May 20, 2014 marked the fourth anniversary of the five-year Strategic Plan for UF Health. This plan, called “Forward Together,” was driven by a vision of creating unstoppable momentum, and the recognition that this vision could be achieved only by fostering functional integration of our faculty and health system. 

These ideas were captured in the preamble of Forward Together: “Together we discover. Together we teach. Together we care for our patients and our communities. And together we will create unstoppable momentum toward achieving our goals.”

The meaning of “Together” was explained this way: “We are working to create a close collaboration that brings together, under a unified vision, the colleges, centers and institutes of the Health Science Center campus with the Shands HealthCare hospital system on our two campuses of Gainesville and Jacksonville. The synergies of an integrated academic health center can only be fully realized if we work collaboratively.”

The meaning of “unstoppable momentum” was explained in our statement of vision: “Together we strive to create unstoppable momentum toward the goal of improving individual and community health through discovery, clinical and translational science and technology, exceptional education, and patient-centered, innovative, high-quality health care.”

Given these ideas, the plan’s tagline, Forward Together, seemed apt. And indeed, we can be very proud of our progress. Some of our accomplishments are contained in the yearly summaries of college deans, research center and institute directors, and hospital CEOs, the most recent of which is contained in the Jan. 15 and Jan. 22 issues of On the Same Page. In this issue, I will provide a more global summary, focusing on how we are beginning to reach unstoppable momentum.

Let’s begin by reviewing once again the core strategies and principles of Forward Together:

Core Strategies and Principles

As I have expressed before in this newsletter, there is good reason to believe that the considerable success we have achieved is largely due to embracing these strategies and principles collectively.

The first step to achieving our vision is contained in the four statements under “General” strategies and principles. Hopefully, when you read these statements, they will resonate as an authentic representation of where we are in May 2014, four years into the plan. I would hope that the vast majority of those in the UF Health community would agree with this conclusion. If so, we’ve accomplished a great deal in putting ourselves on solid footing.

The remaining three boxes on the chart relate to our three missions. They are, of course, intertwined. Shown below is another figure that has been used before in this newsletter to demonstrate the interconnections between missions, but also the ways in which they can produce momentum:

As a result of Forward Together, we have indeed produced an expanding virtuous circle of patient care, research and education. Beyond a certain point, if we don’t over-reach in any one of these areas, the momentum represented by the expanding circle can become unstoppable.

It feels like we are moving toward unstoppable. Let’s look at the three remaining boxes in the first chart, starting with the three statements under “research.” I hope you agree that the reality of what we’ve been able to accomplish in research is a true reflection of the stated research strategies.

To make this point, shown below is an updated bar graph for NIH funding across the Health Science Center.

This increase in NIH funding has been remarkable, given that NIH funding has been essentially flat during this period. For example, in the College of Medicine, even in 2013 when funding was flat, we moved up three notches in NIH rankings. Consistent with our guiding principles, these results reflect a reach for excellence, opportunistic faculty recruitment and retention, and a balanced research portfolio. New faculty members have collaborated with existing faculty, resulting in excellent science and strong grant support. Of the total NIH funding of $111.2M in FY 2013, approximately 50% represented funding for basic research and 50% was for clinical and translational research.

Most of the increase in HSC research funding thus far has been due to growth in the College of Public Health and Health Professions and the College of Medicine. In the past year, however, Deans Johnson, Lloyd, McDaniel and Robinson have been recruiting highly accomplished investigators to their colleges of Pharmacy, Veterinary Medicine, Nursing and Dentistry, respectively. Looking ahead, the state Legislature’s funding of UF’s preeminence and cancer research initiatives are extraordinarily exciting developments that will reinforce the growth trajectory we have established.

Now let’s turn to the five statements in the box labeled “clinical.” I hope you agree that we have made significant progress in “Quality is Job 1” and “Alignment of clinical programs and facilities.” While quality improvement is an ongoing journey that never reaches a final destination, we have made objective progress in defined quality metrics, including recognition of UF Health Shands and UF Health Jacksonville as 4-star hospitals by the University HealthSystem Consortium. Qualitatively, there has been a satisfying and markedly upward trend in the frequency of heartwarming and uplifting stories from our patients about the care they receive throughout UF Health. As a result of these quality improvements, more patients are drawn to UF Health, and outstanding clinical faculty have been attracted by the exciting environment we have created. Our hospital and ambulatory sites are full, and financial margin has been generated to invest in academic programs and capital needs. The virtuous circle is turning and expanding.

Regarding facilities, we have implemented much of the plan laid out in Forward Together. In Gainesville, we have built new primary care sites throughout the community and a multispecialty ambulatory center at Springhill, and have completed significant renovation of our hospital campus along Archer Road for children’s, women’s and some other adult services. Because our hospital is full and with an eye to the future, planning and design for a new hospital with neuromedicine and cardiovascular towers is underway.  In Jacksonville, the Jacksonville North ambulatory center is under construction and on track for a January 2015 ribbon-cutting. Renovations to accommodate new ICUs for adults and children are underway, but budget constraints have delayed needed renovations elsewhere on the UF Health Jacksonville campus.

Considering the remaining goals in the “clinical box” of the Strategic Plan, faculty-run clinical programs and faculty ownership of clinical outcomes remain important objectives. We have made some progress toward this end in the development of ICAPs (Interdisciplinary Clinical and Academic Programs) for neuromedicine, cancer and children’s services in Gainesville, but we still have a ways to go. Addressing the health care needs of our employees can now be done in the context of GatorCare, and this will be given priority as we develop programs to enhance employee health.

We have also moved forward in the goals stated in the “education box.” There have been fundamental changes in the curricula in some of our colleges, especially Medicine, Nursing and Pharmacy, and we have expanded the interprofessional education program is several ways. Regarding facilities for learning, the Communicore has been significantly upgraded, a new Medical Education Building is going up and new educational space for Veterinary Medicine has been completed. All that said, there remains substantial opportunity to leverage our six HSC colleges to create a national model for interprofessional education.

All and all, it has been a remarkable four years. Thanks to all of you for your tremendous effort in making it happen. The energy is palpable and the momentum is undeniable. A new strategic planning process is underway for the next five years. We are well on our way toward unstoppable.

Forward Together,

David S. Guzick, M.D., Ph.D.
Senior Vice President for Health Affairs
President, UF Health