Inside UTMB's new executive leadership structure

Jochen Reiser, MD, PhD, has served as president of the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston since August, and he brought with him a wealth of experience. This experience included serving as chair of the department of internal medicine at Chicago-based Rush University Medical Center; vice chair for research in the department of medicine and chief of the division of nephrology and hypertension at the University of Miami's graduate medical school in Florida; and assistant professor at Harvard Medical School in Boston.

Dr. Reiser told Becker's all of his experience served as the driving force behind the reorganization of UTMB's executive leadership team in restructuring across the university. He saw different strengths and weaknesses at each organization he was at, and he had a recurring thought: The academic enterprise that does research and education and the clinical enterprise that wants to deliver the best and the most modern healthcare should be valued equally. With that in mind, UTMB's approach has four pillars: research, education, clinical delivery and innovation.

"We transitioned administrative leadership, and elevated physician and science leadership and innovation leadership to make sure that we have adequate representation of those four pillars," said Dr. Reiser. "And that we work together in a circle rather than in the individual pillars."

The reorganization is among his first large initiatives as president. As part of the changes, Dr. Reiser is now also CEO of the UTMB Health System, and Wayne Keathley, who previously served as president and COO of Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City, is now the acting COO of the UTMB Health System. Additionally, the leadership restructuring includes various other changes in UTMB's clinical enterprise, as well as various appointments in support of UTMB's new innovation mission.

Dr. Reiser said under this model, areas of the organization are valued equally, and there is "equal representation in the room." For example, his executive council has changed in terms of composition. 

The academic side was relatively underrepresented before, he explained, and "now we have expanded [the] council that comes together weekly, and it has representatives from all the domains, and we're equal partners in that. … Information flows a lot more equally across the institution's missions. And that allows everybody to understand what's exactly going on."

He also views this new model and information flow as an opportunity to boost recruitment efforts. UTMB, part of the University of Texas System and a member of Houston-based Texas Medical Center, has thousands of employees throughout East, Southeast and South Texas.

"We need to be able to be very nimble and we need to be able to recruit strongly because we have different pressures," said Dr. Reiser. "We can't necessarily compete with all the private practice salaries that are out there. So we need to provide an amazing experience for our learners, practitioners. And with that comes opportunity for research, opportunity for education, opportunity for innovation. But we need to be able to finance that as part of bringing somebody aboard. And so with this model, we are now able to address this."

On the IT side, he also wants to empower physician leaders to help the organization make good decisions when it comes to technologies and novel practice patterns that the organization wants to invest in, he said.

"This model allows that because the research piece and the innovation piece are so closely connected to the daily life of what they do as physicians [with their] patients," he added.

Overall, UTMB expects the model to improve healthcare access and enhance healthcare quality.

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