Q&A Archives

President's Q&A, April 2013

April 16, 2013

The items below are excerpts from Dr. Perman’s quarterly group Q&A on April 16 at the School of Dentistry.

Dr. Perman: I think it’s only appropriate that I say a few words regarding yesterday’s events at the Boston Marathon. This atrocity is very much on our collective minds and I send our condolences to the people of Boston. I’ve had several questions this morning related to what if this happened on our campus? I have asked Chief Williams to respond.

Antonio “Tony” Williams, chief of public safety: Certainly we’re all concerned. I was asked if, as a University, we are on a heightened alert status? The answer is the University as a whole is not on heightened alert status, however our Department of Public Safety is. First, let me reassure you there is no information to suggest the city of Baltimore, and that includes our University, is in any immediate danger. However, we wouldn’t be prudent if we didn’t take some official steps to ensure that things are in order at the University.

The Department of Public Safety’s sworn officers and security officers are on heightened alert. They’re conducting extra patrols, not only around our campus, but also in our buildings, to look for anything out of the ordinary, anything suspicious. We also have increased our challenging of any individuals who look out of place. Outside of that, our campus is right where we need to be. We continue to receive updated information from our city and other officials and if something happens that the University needs to be aware of, we certainly will disseminate that information very rapidly.

Strategic Plan update

Dr. Perman asked senior vice presidents Peter N. Gilbert, MSF, chief operating officer, and Bruce Jarrell, MD, FACS, chief academic and research officer, to give an update on the 2011-2016 University strategic plan.

Mr. Gilbert: First, a show of hands. Who in here had something to do with the strategic plan? A lot of people. Very good. By now, you have received email updates about the implementation phase of the plan. Additionally, you can see every tactic going forward this year on the website at www.umaryland.edu/strategicplan. One of the things we learned from the planning process is to be very transparent. As we go forward, we will report on what goes well and what doesn’t go well.

President's Q&AI’d like to talk a little bit about the implementation process. You’ll remember we formed an Executive Implementation Committee (EIC), which involved pairing a dean or a vice president with one of the original leaders of the strategic plan themes, in an effort to maintain continuity from planning to implementation. 

That group worked extensively with team members to come up with recommendations on which tactics should go forward in Fiscal Year 2013, the year we’re in, and also how implementation should be phased in over five years. They did a tremendous amount of work, dealing with a proposal for 84 tactics out of a total of 134 tactics to go forward in FY13. We reallocated University money to fund tactics that needed money. For instance, each school and each central administrative unit contributed, and we were able to put $1 million of recurring money into the pot. Also, we allocated $1.25 million of president’s funds to be used as one-time funding. Combined, this totaled all the money the EIC had to award.

If you look at some of the circulated information, you’ll see it’s spread across all themes and fundamental elements. This took place over five meetings of 32 people sitting in a room for two or 2½ hours at a time. This was an enormous amount of work. They took it very seriously and you all need to know that. 

They weeded it down from the 84 tactics to the approved number of 59. Fifteen of those required money. Forty-four didn’t require any money. Please don’t think that no money means not important. In fact, I would encourage you to visit the website, see the tactics without money, and see if you don’t agree we’ve started to change the culture here. 

Things like assigning the president’s diversity advisory committee real authority for implementing diversity and inclusion initiatives. Things like requiring the schools and units to have annual transparent presentations, where they report on their progress toward their own goals as well as strategic plan goals, and requiring the president to give an annual State of the University address.

To me, the big achievement in all of this is how that implementation committee was functioning and making decisions. Keep in mind we’ve been a fairly siloed University—medicine over here, dentistry over here, finance and administration over here. People really didn’t get to make decisions about what was best for the entire University. Now they can and they are, which gives us a lot of power moving forward together. 

The other thing we accomplished is reallocating real money. When we began this process, Dr. Perman said the document could not sit on the shelf, so we put real money into it to make sure that didn’t happen. Every group leader has a dashboard that Greg Spengler [assistant VP, Institutional Research and Accountability] created where they have to report at least twice a year their progress in achieving their tactics, implementing their themes, and using their money. If they don’t do it well, we’re taking the money back. We’ll reallocate to other areas of the plan.

We’ve had exceptional participation from the University, upward of 1,500 people. From planning to implementation either on committees, surveys, and focus groups. We actually are starting to think as seven schools | one University. Are we all the way there yet? Is everything perfect? No. But we’re moving in that direction and I think that’s fantastic. Dr. Jarrell? 

Dr. Jarrell: We also had 16 two-hour meetings in which Pete and I and several others met with the committee chairs to hear their priorities outside of their own committee. Essentially, they were judging others’ work, which was part of the prioritizing process.  

President's Q&AOne of the big themes was to achieve pre-eminence in the area of innovation. After a lot of discussion, we concluded we should support one major research program opposed to a plethora of research programs. This will come under the title of Research Harbor. This is a utility, a resource, that’s being developed for this University for faculty, staff, and students to pose questions about their environment. Not just health-related questions, it also will include law, social work, and other questions. So what is a Research Harbor? It is going to be a physical location, but also a virtual location, where a set of databases, resources, and information will be highly accessible. A broad set of agendas aimed at using informatics as a major mechanism for UMB to become pre-eminent in terms of questioning health care, legal profession, and social work data sets. We have committed $400,000 of one-time funding to finish the harbor; significant funds already exist from other sources. Then a recurring $250,000 a year to provide these other mechanisms to help you ask questions and interpret your data. 

We concluded staff development on this campus is underappreciated, so $42,000 was committed to that project. There was also a lot of interest for a program called local engagement. There are many University programs that extend into the West Baltimore community. UMB is involved but yet not coordinated in a manner that has a maximum impact. A total of $71,000 in recurring funds was set aside to create an on-campus center.  

There was a lot of money put into what I would call entrepreneurship, intellectual property development, licensing and contracting. To improve the ability of faculty members to be entrepreneurial—to perhaps begin a startup company, patent the research, obtain a license with a large company—$111,000 of recurring dollars was committed.

Here’s an interesting one that cost no money: Streamlining processes, making them more electronic, making us more functional in our business functions. Then a tactic to evaluate the deans and vice presidents annually on their success in collaborating to improve efficiency and the cost of support services on campus. So you see, nobody escaped this process. When we say let’s do things better, the deans and the vice presidents are included. 

From a broad point of view there was a tremendous—in fact, I would say the highest priority to come out of the strategic plan—emphasis on UMB as a local environment, campus safety, how our campus looks, how we interact with our local community, how we can be more identified as a University. $270,000 was put into that.

A lot of discussion occurred on how we as a University oversee the computing on this campus. IT is an ongoing discussion and a high-attention area. One recurring question was why do I need to remember 50 passwords on this campus? Thus, establishing a single sign-on received a high priority. $120,000 was committed to that. 

Our Office of Government and Community Affairs, specifically working out of its Annapolis office, has been indispensable in interacting with the state legislature. To replicate that on a federal level, $125,000 was committed to having an employee who will be our main Washington, D.C., connection. 

And lastly there were two communications initiatives: a $65,000 one-time commitment to better our Web capability and an $85,000 one-time commitment to develop a clear communications plan to enhance our visibility in the world. 

Not having a common calendar was a common complaint. This does not mean a common academic calendar because each school or professional degree has its own calendar and nobody’s going to tackle that yet. But, we are working toward a common calendar, with efficient and easy functionality, which will display campus events and the like. 

That’s a list of many of the tactics. As you can see, we engaged in a very rich discussion on many levels. It wasn’t just the faculty or vice presidents and deans. The staff was involved, the students were involved, and obviously we want to keep that kind of participation alive. 

Q: Is anyone looking into the fact that we’ve had several years with a lack of increases in salaries across the board? This has put us in a situation where we’re not competitive with many other areas of the state and we’re losing staff. Then it’s a complicated situation because of the rules that are in place for hiring staff. It’s a problem in many areas, housekeeping in particular.

Dr. Perman: No. 1, everybody shares your perspective starting with me. I wasn’t here for all of the last five years but I know what the four years of furloughs and the lack of raises have done to put us at a broad disadvantage for taking care of our employees, acquiring new people, and retaining those we have. Of course, what we can do as a state agency is dictated by the state.

But things are turning around. Our workforce received a 2 percent raise on Jan. 1 and if anybody read my recent announcement, we have good news upcoming. Perhaps Marjorie Powell, our associate vice president for human resources, can provide some specifics. 

President's Q&AMs. Powell: On Jan. 1 in 2014, we will receive a 3 percent COLA (Cost of Living Adjustment) that will be in place for all UMB employees. We also will be eligible to receive a merit increase in April 2014. The details need to be worked out. Human Resources will have much more about this in upcoming months.

Q: I want to put in a plug for the Staff Senate. A lot of the issues that were discussed here today are the same issues we talk to senior leadership about on a regular basis. We’re accepting nominations for staff senators for our 2013-2015 term. If you’re interested in making a difference here, the Staff Senate is a really good voice for that. 

Dr. Perman: Let me tell you why this is important to us. I meet every two months with the executive council for the Staff Senate in addition to meeting periodically with the entire Staff Senate. I do the same with the Faculty Senate and the student government.  

The point I want to make is this: There are things that come up where I need your advice or you need to get something in front of me that I don’t know about. Apart from venues like this and the brown bag lunches we hold in the months we don’t have Q&As, another way to have the kind of dialogue we’re having here is through these shared governance mechanisms. So please heed the call for senators.

Q: Could you give us a quick update on the plans for the old dental school? 

Dr. Perman: The plan, and I know this probably won’t be welcomed by those who have done very good work in that building, is to demolish it within the year. On that site will go our newest research building, Health Sciences Facility III. It will be placed between the pharmacy building, the current School of Dentistry, and the School of Medicine facilities across West Baltimore Street.

President's Q&APlans for the new facility are under way, being coordinated through a campuswide planning committee. The new facility will offer a plaza where people can enjoy the outdoors and eat lunch. But, obviously it will start with demolition. The state legislature has been responsive in terms of providing us the commitment for demolition and the new building. I think it’s going to go in the next six months or so. A comprehensive look was taken at what could be done with that building short of demolishing it and to repurpose it was not worth it. 

Robert Rowan, associate VP, Facilities and Operations: On July 1 we’re going to fence off the building and start the interior abatement and the interior demolition. Oct. 1 is when the actual demolition will start. I’m working with the Office of Communications and Public Affairs to disseminate pertinent information because traffic lane and sidewalk closures are forthcoming that will impact us.

Q: I attended Interprofessional Education Day on April 10 and thought it was a great idea and well worthwhile. I have a pet project I’ve been working on and I wanted to get your thoughts. We know that 20 million Americans will see a dentist in a year while not seeing a physician during that same period of time. And we know that diabetes is reaching epidemic proportions that will eventually bankrupt our health care system. We also know there is a bi-directional relationship between diabetes and periodontal disease, gum disease, and oral conditions. Therefore the dental office could become an ideal place to screen for pre-diabetes and diabetes. In our School, a group of us would like to begin teaching our students how to monitor and test for diabetes. I’d like to get your thoughts on such a concept. 

Dr. Perman: I’d like to begin with a very important point you make about the fact that more individuals in a given year are likely to see a dentist than to see another kind of health professional. For me, as a physician interested in the population health challenges that we have, this represents an enormous opportunity that currently is not being taken. Some of you know I have a great deal of interest in what may be an important root cause for the diabetes you are worried about, namely childhood obesity. 

I was heartened by an article in the Journal of the American Dental Association that surveyed pediatric and adult dentists on their potential interest in doing something akin to what you are talking about. Namely in conducting the kind of counseling you describe during the course of seeing a child or an adult in the dental office. Issues related to healthy living, being overweight or obese, can be measured accurately by simply doing a Body Mass Index, which certainly could be performed in a dental office. The survey showed dentists in general, perhaps more so the pediatric dentists, were very interested in participating this way. But the important point is that we the advocates should be doing this. That’s exactly what you touched on, especially in terms of the opportunity with dental students. 

We have to stop doing everything in our siloed ways. We have to stop learning in our siloed ways, we have to stop providing care in our siloed ways, and we have to take advantage of each other’s skills. I hope I’ve encouraged you. 

Q: My question probably applies to a very few people on this campus but it’s still a major concern: what is happening with the day care? We have two day care centers right on or near campus—one is closing in about five months and one is out of the price range of many of us. Not only is it out of price range, but it is filled to capacity. So that’s not a viable option. A significant amount of families do not have day care. And, if you suggest going to another area in Baltimore, very few good, clean day care centers exist that aren’t already at maximum capacity. Is there any kind of help for this situation?  

Dr. Perman: Let me start by saying the fundamental point you’re making: as an institution, we don’t have anywhere near optimal opportunities for child care. You make a valid point. I knew it when I got here. I set up an advisory group that’s led by one of our staff, Aphrodite Bodycomb. That advisory group conducted a child care survey on campus that clearly shows the need. In addition, we have watched with interest the potential fate of the day care center to be moved, which is the child care center at the Metro West facility. Allow me to briefly discuss the Metro West facility. 

It is the two-block-square facility immediately north of our campus across Saratoga Street, which houses a great deal of the Social Security Administration. The federal government is almost certain to move all the work that is being done in that building out to its Woodlawn complex. Thus, the complex here will not be used.

We are watching very carefully the process the federal government will use to surplus that facility. There’s a pecking order. We don’t come first. Agencies of the federal government come first. If no one in the federal government wants that huge facility, then the state comes next. We don’t come first with the state, but we are among the players. I think there’s a reasonable possibility we’re going to at least be offered a chance to annex that facility to our campus. Now that might sound like a great deal, but that and probably $100 million to $200 million would turn the whole facility into something possibly very useful for this campus. 

So that’s the background. In that facility is a child care center I have toured, just as I have toured the Downtown Baltimore Child Care Center, which sits across the street from my office. I’m very interested in child care because of my background in pediatrics. The facility in Metro West is very nice. It’s a wonderful place and a comfortable place. I’m sure for many of our current faculty, students, and staff, it would be a nice place to use. I have been hoping that the timing would work out so the transfer of the Metro West facility to us would occur at a time when the child care facility is still operating. My understanding is that’s probably not going to line up as well as we would like.

I honestly don’t know if we would be in a position to simply take over the child care facility now. And when I say take over, everyone needs to stay within one’s competence. We’re a great University with plenty of people interested in child care. But we’re not day care operators—a profession in and of itself. We would need to look at a child care operator and we would have to put it out to bid, and that would take time.

So what am I saying to you? We’re probably going to continue to have a day care gap. The gap is probably going to be worse. And the only assurance I can give you is that right in my office, right with me, I’m paying attention to this and care to solve it. 

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