Q&A Archives

President's Q&A, January 2013

January 22, 2013

The excerpts below are from Dr. Perman’s group Q&A on Jan. 22 at the School of Nursing auditorium, which centered on the University of Maryland: MPowering the Statestructured collaboration with the University of Maryland, College Park and also on campus safety. 

Dr. Perman: So let me start with MPowering the State. Starting in the spring of 2011, at the direction of the legislature, a very meticulous process as well as a discussion were organized and directed by the University System of Maryland Board of Regents. UMB and our partner institution in College Park participated vigorously in the discussion. Out of it came a decision in December 2011 by the Board of Regents not to merge the two institutions but to create a very formal, structured, highly collaborative interaction to leverage what we have on the two campuses and make something better than the two separate parts. 

We launched this in the governor’s boardroom in March 2012. So we’re a little less than a year old. And I think, at least at the leadership level, we couldn’t be more pleased with what has been achieved. The MPowering the State initiative has been overseen by two leaders from this campus—Dr. Bruce Jarrell, our chief academic research officer, and Mr. Pete Gilbert, our chief operating officer—and their counterparts at College Park. Allow me to give you an overview. 

I’ll start with technology transfer/economic development, that is, making the most out of our discoveries that have commercial value here at UMB and at College Park. Each institution has significant resources in this regard. We were sure more resources were needed, but the first thing we needed to do was combine our power—which has emerged as UM Ventures. UM Ventures is a combination of technology transfer and research commercialization economic development activities from both institutions. By consensus, a decision was made to ask Jim Hughes, UMB’s vice president for economic development and entrepreneurship, to oversee the effort. He’s also retaining his responsibilities here.

We have created with College Park a Health-Related Informatics Center. It is very important to be able to analyze the incredible amount of data that is available in order to further health care and other kinds of research. Our colleagues at College Park have incredible abilities with regard to bioinformatics, with regard to computation, and we at UMB have the same kind of competencies, although the focus may be a bit different. We brought those two efforts together in a combined center. We are going to create a presence for this center in our Health Sciences and Human Services Library.

A wonderful marriage has developed over the past year between our School of Pharmacy and the School of Engineering in College Park around regulatory science and innovation. That partnership has been supported by a $3 million award from the Food and Drug Administration. Some of you know that my interaction with the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene has moved forward in an entity now called the Institute for a Healthiest Maryland. This is intended to take what we do in the academic medical center and push it out in practical ways, particularly to the rural counties of Maryland. It has been supported by part of an almost $10 million grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and we cannot do it without our partners at College Park. They are an integral part of it, especially the School of Public Health and the Agricultural Extension Service. 

We have programs at the Universities at Shady Grove —our nursing, pharmacy, and social work presence has been very well-received there. Our partners at College Park as well as other institutions in the University System of Maryland have programs there as well. In addition, UMB, College Park, and UMBC [University of Maryland, Baltimore County] have engaged in a planning process for a new education building on that campus where we all can interact on various programs. 

A program that Dr. Jarrell was very instrumental in starting some years ago has grown under MPowering the State. The research seed grant program requires partnership from faculty at UMB and College Park in order to be competitive for grants. We have broadened that program and it is starting to bear fruit; researchers using this funding to collaborate and then compete for national agency funds.

Last September, we announced an educational partnership between the Department of Epidemiology and Public Health in the School of Medicine and the School of Public Health in College Park. Our position for being a collaborative school of public health is established and we will march through an accreditation process. The student seeking a public health education can get the best of what’s offered both at College Park and at UMB.

Lastly, a couple more points between us and College Park. We are working on shared use of our campus libraries; we have a mechanism in place to easily put a grant application together; we’ve executed a memorandum of understanding [MOU] to make joint faculty appointments easier; and we’ve created funding so students from either one of our campuses can have stimulating graduate experiences—summer laboratory experiences, for example. 

That’s a quick overview and I’m going to ask Bruce or Pete if they want to add anything. 

Dr. Jarrell: I’d like to add that there is a lot of energy going into IT solutions, into making the whole computing expertise on both campuses available to both campuses. We are looking at single sign-on for email and single sign-on for various other information resources at each campus, which we believe will greatly expedite collaboration between the universities. 

Dr. Perman: We have had recognition that we’re making some progress. We proposed to the governor the need for additional funding. I’m happy to report there is additional funding for these initiatives in the governor’s budget that was announced last week. 

Are there any questions or comments or concerns? 

Q:Do we see any collaborative effort in joining our UMMS [University of Maryland Medical System] partners with these developments for the future? 

Dr. Perman: I think the partnership between UMB and UMMS has never been better, and to pull College Park into it will lift it even higher. I’ll give you one example. You may have heard there is a major initiative between UMMS and the state to improve health care in Prince George’s County. We have worked very closely with the School of Public Health at College Park to identify the health care needs in Prince George’s County, so if and when UMMS engages in replacing hospital facilities, we both can work with UMMS to build a 21st-century health care delivery system there. That is something College Park’s School of Public Health and UMB’s schools of dentistry, medicine, nursing, and pharmacy can do very well because we think in terms of team-based care and patient-centered medical homes. Another is the informatics initiative. How does UMMS fit into that, Dr. Jarrell? 

Dr. Jarrell: So assuming by UMMS you mean not just the medical system but also the University of Maryland Medical Center, both have been very involved in participating in the informatics part of MPowering the State as well as the Prince George’s planning initiative. The idea is to get electronic health records, and much of the information associated with them, into a HIPAA-compliant mechanism where faculty, students, and staff can ask appropriate questions about that data. Quality of care issues can be analyzed and research questions relating to how we make improvements can be asked.

Dr. Perman: All right, let’s turn to safety. 

Apart from recent incidents, our leadership and strategic planning committee members made a determination that, within the budgetary limits of the strategic planning goals, a healthy piece of the funds needed to go toward safety enhancements. Whether it’s paying more overtime to place officers on more street corners or hiring more officers—we had already decided to make that investment. Last year, you saw officers on Segways, which enhances police visibility. Recently, we upgraded the lights in Plaza Park. I could go on, but the point is, this issue is not one in which we are reactive. We have been endeavoring to be as proactive as possible. 

Before I let Chief Williams comment, I need everybody’s help. You see the signs that we plastered up about cell phones. Now that may seem to be very paternal. But I asked that we be very visible about it because many of us at this institution are very data-driven. It’s the way we do our work, it’s the way we conduct our science. So when I see the data that states we had nine robberies on campus last year and eight of them were directly associated with people using their cell phones, that suggests to me we all have a responsibility to change our behavior. I’m talking about myself first.

What would you think of my judgment if I walked around campus like this [holding out his wallet in his hand]? You wouldn’t think very much of my judgment. And, you shouldn’t. That’s the way I’m starting to look at all of us who are walking around with visible cell phones. You make yourself a target. If we put away the cell phones is that going to stop all the crime on this campus? I’m not so foolish to think so, but I would hope so. We’ve got to take some responsibility ourselves and we’ve got to act appropriately to the data. 

So please, help with the cell phones. Tony?

Police Chief Tony Williams: Let me start out by giving you some crime facts. We analyze our crime statistics from year to year, month to month, even week to week. At the end of 2012, we ended up with exactly four more crimes than we had in 2011. We had a total of 166 crimes in 2012. Just to put that into a little bit of perspective, we had nine robberies, as Dr. Perman mentioned, and eight of them involved cell phones. The city of Baltimore had over 3,500 robberies in 2012. Now, we don’t say those nine robberies are acceptable, but despite our having what have been significant crime problems, we’re still in pretty good shape. 

President's Q&AWhen you look at robberies in the past year, most of them happened along Greene or Fayette streets. The first robbery of 2013 occurred on Jan. 4 at about 1 in the afternoon. That incident is an out-lier for us. Most of our incidents typically occur in the evening after traditional business hours.

If we look at the other crimes on this campus, the assault crimes were down in 2012. There were no murders; there were no rapes. We had the same number of burglaries in 2012 that we had in 2011, that’s a grand total of two. No arsons and one auto theft. Statistically by far, the biggest crime problem on our campus is theft. If you leave things laying around, people will take them. We had 140 incidents of theft last year. If there is any good news to that it’s that 139 of them could have been prevented if people didn’t leave things laying around. Don’t leave your cell phone, your laptop—anything you deem valuable—sitting around. People say I only went to make a phone call, I only went to use the restroom. It only takes a few seconds for someone to take something. 

I did an exercise last year in the School of Law. We set a laptop on a podium in front of maybe 100 to 200 people. Someone walked in with no ID on and picked up that laptop and walked out with it. Not only didn’t anyone say anything, but most people didn’t even notice it.

I’m in my 27th year of policing and I can tell you without hesitation that this University provides more support and resources to public safety than I’ve seen in the other three agencies where I’ve worked, including the Baltimore City Police Department. You’re not going to find another group of people who are more concerned about making sure you’re not only physically safe but that you also feel safe as you traverse this campus for your work and study needs. I want to thank Dr. Perman’s leadership for realizing UMB’s Department of Public Safety needs more resources and support. 

What are we doing about it? We’ve received authorization for overtime funding to put extra officers out in those critical areas where we need them, we are working vigorously from a good pool of candidates to fill the seven police vacancies we have, and we’ve started the process to ask for a few more police officers and a few more security officers. We have asked for more cameras, particularly in the parking garages. We are looking to integrate all the cameras on the University that come through the Department of Public Safety and for improvements to the camera monitoring process. We also are being more aggressive about challenging people who may be out of place on this campus. We ask you to do something else to help us help you, and that is to wear your University identification as you traverse the campus. 

Additionally, we fully inform you about what goes on here at UMB, and what is reported by the city police. Visit our website to read the crimes we report. We’ve taken great strides to make sure we’re getting better and more timely information out to you. And, certainly call us when crimes occur, but also let us know when a police presence is lacking. Officers not only will be out and riding around in police cars, but they will be out on foot and visible. We want to send a strong message. 

The message we’re trying to send is that it’s not so easy to take someone’s cell phone or rob someone at this University. To put the cell phone away, to not be talking and texting as you walk the campus, might seem like a small task. And in an ideal world, you should be able to talk and text anytime you like. It’s like several months ago when we prepared for Hurricane Sandy. We heard the weather reports and we prepared for the storm. We moved outdoor furniture, we dressed appropriately—we took the necessary steps to make sure we protected ourselves. It’s a similar situation here. Let’s adapt to our environment and not be easy targets. If you see your co-workers and fellow students talking outside on that cell phone or texting, let’s civilly ask them not to do so, for everyone’s good.

But the reality is it doesn’t matter how many police we have outside or how many security officers we have in our buildings, there’s still a part for the community to play.

I am urging you to be more alert around campus. Know your surroundings. Plan your route before you leave. Take a look to your right and your left. Look behind you and in front of you. See if anyone looks out of place. All of us have that instinct where the hairs on the back of our neck rise up. If that happens, you should take heed and immediately be more alert. 

Q: And do what? Are we supposed to call you?

Absolutely call us. It’s not only our job but it’s our privilege to come out. It’s easier to prevent something from happening than to investigate it after the fact. 

If you have to traverse the campus at night, use the shuttle service, use the police escort service. Sometimes we hear that our UMB constituents think the police are busy and we do not want to be bothered. What I say is bother us. Please. I’ll walk you somewhere just to keep you safe.

We work diligently to make this campus a difficult place to commit a crime. It will take all of us to do that. With that being said, I’d like to take some questions. 

Q: One thing that has troubled me over the years is the issue of unwelcome solicitations on campus. Whether I am walking from the Plaza Garage, or by one of the schools or elsewhere, it’s disconcerting. If I say no to the panhandler, I don’t know whether they’re going to let me walk by or whether they’re going to pull out a weapon. I think it creates an atmosphere that’s troubling for not only staff, students, and faculty but also for parents of students, for patients, for their families—it’s not the kind of atmosphere we want to have. I don’t know how the rules read and what restrictions could be put in place, but it seems to me it would be helpful if we could somehow ratchet that down. 

President's Q&AChief Williams: There is no law against panhandling in our city and our state. I agree it is a bad sight and it makes most of us uncomfortable, but some of us have great hearts and want to help these people. 

However, if someone comes up to you and asks for money, do not give them money. Because if you do that, you’ve just made a new friend and every time they see you they’re going to ask for money. If they tell you they’re hungry and you’re really compelled to help them, buy them something to eat. I’ve had people ask me for money and say they’re hungry, so I’ve walked them into a restaurant where then they say, ‘That’s OK.’ Because most of the time, they don’t want the money for food. 

We try to make it a little difficult for panhandlers on campus, but we have to be careful in dealing with them because they have a right to ask for help and resources. 

If you feel someone is harassing you, call us and we’ll be glad to assist you and deal with the panhandler. 

Q: Dr. Perman, my name is Steve Moyer, I am a retired colonel from the state police, I’m the security director next door at the hospital and I’d like to comment on the leadership you have in place here. I call him Chief Williams in public, but Tony Williams and I are friends. I’ve worked all over this state for 24 years and Tony and I have about the same amount of time invested. When he was a colonel in the city, I was a colonel in the state. We collaborated a lot. It was great when he and I ended up in our roles here. Plus, I knew Colonel Milland Reed when I was on the state police force, so the three of us immediately shared information due to our professional history. The information Tony is telling you is the same information we’re telling folks in the hospital. Cell phones are the issue. One in three robberies in this country are cell phones. One in three robberies in this city are cell phones. Whenever something important happens, Tony and I are in contact immediately. Collaboration goes beyond the business and the educational and health care setting. It also goes on in public safety. You have great leadership here, and I applaud your efforts. 

Dr. Perman: Thank you very much.

Chief Williams: Steve and his team are tremendous and we do work together and treat the university and hospital community as one. In fact, we had some discussions this morning about sharing information and making sure the hospital community can get our alerts. So thank you Steve for your support. He’s also joined today by Craig Savageau, who is the emergency management director for the hospital. Craig also participates in our University’s emergency management team meetings. So we don’t wait until something happens to collaborate; we work together all the time.

Dr. Perman: We’ve got a few minutes left. Any questions about anything? 

Q: This weekend there were reports both in The Baltimore Sun and The Washington Post about an MOU between the University of Maryland, Eastern Shore, Salisbury University, and our School of Medicine about a satellite medical campus. The reports were kind of sketchy so I was wondering if we could hear a little bit more about that?  

Dr. Perman: Probably a year or so ago, the major hospital on the lower Eastern Shore, Peninsula Regional Medical Center, asked us how could we, given what we do, improve the workforce situation on the lower Eastern Shore, particularly in regard to physicians. Dean Reece, from our School of Medicine, and I were very responsive to that question. We emphasized that the quickest way to address those issues is to find ways to attract those physicians who might be interested in conducting their residencies in a non-urban area, such as the Eastern Shore. Not their medical education and not their undergraduate education, but the actual residency training.

Peninsula Regional Medical Center and our partner universities on the lower Eastern Shore, Salisbury University and the University of Maryland, Eastern Shore (UMES), engaged a consultant to conduct a full analysis of the right ways to approach medical education. The evolution of that process was that the four partners—UMB, Peninsula Regional Medical Center, Salisbury University, and UMES—engage in a further planning process to assess the feasibility of what might be an Eastern Shore regional campus of our medical school. 

But, again, Dean Reece, Dr. Jarrell and I continue to emphasize that even if a regional campus of our medical school becomes a reality, it cannot happen without having graduate medical education. You can’t put medical students into an environment where they do not have a set of their principal teachers—residents. Under the dean’s leadership, we will continue the discussions to create a family medicine track there with regard to residency as well as determine the feasibility of the aforementioned regional campus.  

Unfortunately the news reports suggested a new medical school de novo, which is not accurate in terms of the current discussions. We are very committed to making something happen regarding medical education on the lower Eastern Shore, as we are in Western Maryland and Southern Maryland. It is our responsibility as the state’s medical school and as the state’s health science education campus.  

Q: I think it was in a meeting like this last year where you expressed to us that you might be a 49ers fan. So my question is whether the game in two weeks is going to create problems for you from a loyalty aspect?

President's Q&ADr. Perman: People know I have divided loyalties. Yes, I began my academic career at the University of California, San Francisco in the halcyon days when a lot of those Super Bowls were won. So I will acknowledge to all of you that, wherever I’ve lived and wherever I’ve gone, I have always been a Niners fan. And you will pardon me for the fact that I came to Baltimore in 1984 at a time when you all—those of you who were here—let those Colts go. So as a result even if I had a choice at the time there was no choice. So I’ve remained a Niners fan.

Now I must tell you that last year when the Niners came here and the two Harbaugh brothers met, it happened that Papa and Mrs. Harbaugh were staying in the place where I live. And we got a chance to interact with them. I was so envious because he had a hat that was half Ravens and half Niners. I let everyone know I wanted a cap like that. Now I have that cap and will be wearing it over the next two weeks.

Q: I’m from the School of Social Work and one of the things I have noticed lately are opportunities to partner with schools abroad. For example, the University of the Philippines College of Social Work and Community Development is looking at climate change and how disasters have occurred in many parts of the world, and thus training their students to respond in a timely manner. I wonder if our University is interested in exploring those types of partnerships so that we can devise local solutions to some of the local issues with which we’re dealing. 

Dr. Perman: The broad answer is yes, of course, because we have any number of understandings with institutions across the world. At the same time, I know from my own discussions last year, when I went on a mission with Governor O’Malley to China and South Korea, that often these discussions become ones in which the other institution or the other country expects investment from us. That’s something that has to be done with great care, as we have very limited resources. These really need to be partnerships. Quite frankly, I would want to be sure that those who are asking do their fair share in this. Having said that, of course we’re interested in discussions like that. 

Q: Our University has a great foothold in the research arena. I am happy to hear MPowering the State is bringing our campus and College Park together for improving administrative processes. With all of the great electronic systems in place here at UMB, why is it that some processes like “direct retros” (manual payroll adjustments older than 90 days) have made an already manual process more manual? Shouldn’t direct retros be electronic like EFPs (employee funding profiles) and journal entries? Processing direct retros is especially inefficient and ineffective for everyone involved. The process has a devastating effect on faculty who need efficient and effective administrative processes the most.

The University is dedicated to converting manual processes to electronic processes whenever significant gains in productivity and compliance can be achieved. We have had tremendous success with recent projects like the travel e-forms. The Human Resource Management System upgrade project currently under way will provide many other opportunities. However, direct retros, or payroll adjustments over 90 days, are manual for a reason. Payroll adjustments made after 90 days indicate a problem with the payroll on the projects. For that reason, these transactions are highly scrutinized by auditors. As good stewards of external funding, it is our responsibility to minimize these transactions as much as possible. The difficulty exists to encourage departments to manage their payroll in a more timely and effective manner. We welcome an ongoing dialogue and any suggestions that department administrators may have on improving payroll management to reduce the need to process late cost transfers.

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