Monday, May 18, 2015

Graduation Time!

Graduation is rightly a time of celebration and pride – for our students, their families, significant others and our faculty and staff. As we prepare to launch our newest group of Salus graduates I want to extend the University’s congratulations and thanks to all of our students, faculty and staff on attaining this significant accomplishment. There will be many more to follow as you mature as providers and educators.

You’ve all embarked on extremely exciting and rewarding careers. Your ability to help people improve their lives is a gift; one that needs to be cherished, honed and continually nurtured. It’s our hope and expectation that you take full advantage of all that you’ve learned during your time at Salus and apply those skills with the utmost care and sensitivity to those patients and clients you will care for. As I’ll remind you on Friday, you’ll be surrounded by all sorts of technology to “assist” you in doing your jobs. It will be important to remember that these technologies are adjuncts to assist you in finding the best ways to care for your patients and clients. Remember, to treat your patients and not the technology!

Finally, when you chose healthcare as a profession you’ve also chosen a path that requires a commitment to life-long learning. Salus will always be your academic home and I want you to think of us that way. Never stop asking questions, challenging your assumptions and sharpening your skills. We’ll all be there to help you continue to succeed. Congratulations on a job exceptionally well done – we’re all very proud of you!

Friday, May 1, 2015

Singapore Graduation Ceremony & Alumni Weekend

Salus University Singapore Graduation Ceremony
I just returned from a wonderful trip to Singapore to officiate at what turned out to be our first official graduation ceremony for Salus Singaporean students (say that three times fast) earning their Master of Science degree in Clinical Optometry.

Salus University Alumni ReceptionGraduation ceremonies are chock full of many traditions that are well worth duplicating half a world away for such important celebrations. We're about to do the same on a much larger scale here in Philadelphia in a few weeks. We also decided to start the tradition of Singapore alumni receptions, and we planned our first one for the evening of the graduation ceremony. The reception was attended by members from all five graduating classes. What was striking to me, as well as the others who were traveling with me, was that our Singaporean students and alumni really appreciated the fact that we took the time and effort to conduct the graduation ceremony and then co-host the alumni event later that evening. They couldn't thank us enough. I told our hosts that it is generally considered a tradition to celebrate these types of events with pomp and circumstance as well as to have opportunities for alumni to get together to renew friendships and experiences. One could feel the excitement and pride in our Singaporean contingent, so much so that they've asked us to pledge to do this every two years. From my perspective, it was pretty cool to see the faces on our graduates' and their families' faces when they walked across the stage, as well as to watch everyone socialize later that evening. It was truly a successful evolution.

So, now to this tradition thing. We also celebrate these traditions here at Salus. Graduations occur twice annually and enable us to celebrate our students' academic accomplishments. We also have an annual alumni reunion to help continue to foster the bond between all of us. It's my belief that our alumni are the glue that helps to hold Salus together. As we grow new cadres of alumni in our newer specialties, I'm hoping that a true tradition of participation and inter-professional education and interaction becomes ingrained in our institutional DNA. 

From looking at alumni participation in some of our events, I don't believe that's the case today. Everyone gets so busy with everything else they have to do, I think it's easy to lose sight of the importance of maintaining or even developing new traditions as a University family. University traditions are important, as I believe they help to bind us as a University community both while here as students and later as alumni. 

We don't have a football or basketball team to draw us to an event but we do have alumni reunions, receptions, commencements and other events that do. I'm a strong advocate for participation in these to foster professional camaraderie as well as pride in our alma mater. These are all traditions that greatly matter. As Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof said, "Without our traditions, our lives would be as shaky as a Fiddler on the Roof!" Let's not ignore those traditions that can serve us so well - lest we risk becoming that shaky fiddler on the roof. 

Happy Alumni Weekend!

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Cutting Edge Changes Coming to Salus!

I've been following the social media activity that some of our students have been generating about the condition of some of our facilities, namely the library and our optometric clinical procedures lab.  Since the first day I arrived at Salus I too have noted that both of these important resources were sorely in need of an update.  As luck would have it, this is the year we've developed a new strategic plan for the University that prioritizes and addresses these and other upcoming improvements to Salus. 

Beginning several months ago, working very closely with the Board of Trustees as well as faculty and students, we've begun to develop plans to completely renovate our optometric clinical procedures lab, review and update the entire optometric curriculum and modernize our library.   

Since all of these projects require a good deal of financial and human resources, we're spending an appropriate amount of time doing deliberate planning to ensure we're capturing best practices and obtaining the best and most effective equipment, technology and designs as possible.  In order to accomplish this, we've been sending teams of faculty members to several different optometry programs to look at clinical procedure lab designs, curricula and other aspects of their programs. We're also studying current literature and designs from non-optometric sources. Additionally, we've already learned a great deal from administering our new Optometric Scholars program that will be applied to the curriculum review.

We anticipate the cost of these renovations and updates could be upwards of $3 million.  In order to help fund these necessary initiatives I'll be reaching out to our alumni and industry base for assistance. Concurrently, we are developing a design and build timeline that hopefully will see a new clinical procedures lab by the end of summer 2016.  The new lab will have an integrated electronic health record, state-of-the-art clinical equipment and an efficient design allowing faculty and students to interact seamlessly. 

Changes in the library are commencing now with removal of antiquated, superfluous reference materials that have already been replaced with online resources. Removal of shelving is planned within the next couple of months and replacement carpeting and furniture will soon follow. We also hope to update the current computer lab with more modern equipment. 

The optometric curriculum review has already begun with a timeline for incremental implementation to commence sometime next academic year. The entire update to the curriculum will likely take about three years to complete to ensure our students don't miss out on essential material. 

I'm excited about all these changes as it will ensure that Salus remains at the cutting edge of optometric education by leveraging our extremely talented faculty, innovative technology, and the most progressive optometric curriculum taught in the country. 

I'll keep everyone posted as to our progress with these major projects. 

Friday, March 27, 2015

Vision Expo East & other Recent Events

I've been on the road for the past couple of weeks. Last week I attended the American College of Healthcare Executives annual meeting in Chicago where I reconnected with some of my Navy colleagues as well as learned current healthcare trends for administration, finance, assessment and compliance. One lecture that struck me discussed the ever growing focus on healthcare customer service. While we have always taught (and lived it in the Navy) patient-centered care, there is a movement afoot to more clearly define what that means. I was encouraged to hear how some of the larger healthcare delivery organizations were moving from "patient-centered" care to "person-centered" care. When you think about it, that's what we're all about - taking care of people, whether they're our patients or not. As healthcare providers we have the responsibility to not only care for those sitting in our exam rooms or those who are the direct beneficiary of our care but also those around them. That includes being able to communicate effectively, ensuring ready and consistent access to care and information as well as spending time with our patients and families or significant others to help ensure they are active partners in their healthcare. In the days of productivity and RVU generation it's easy to loose sight of the fact that we're in the business of caring for people, not just generating numbers and data. It's a tough balance but I believe we need to maintain our focus on the person as providers. Sometimes that's easier said than done - which is where the challenge lies.  

Last weekend I had the opportunity to meet with alumni, friends and other industry professionals while attending Vision Expo East in New York. I never attended this meeting so it was a nice treat to experience something new. In my conversations with some of our alumni and others I discussed what I had heard in Chicago in the week prior. It was surprising to me the "push-back" I received from some stating that it's almost impossible to see enough patients during the day if we spend too much time with them. On the other side of the coin, I heard the opposite, where others were making the effort to ensure enough time was spent with patients in order for them to feel important. Once again, it's a balancing act that we absolutely need to get our heads around.  

Now I'm on my way home from San Antonio where I had the absolute pleasure of supporting our Osborne College of Audiology at their annual AudiologyNOW,  American Academy of Audiology meeting. It's funny, there was no talk of RVU's or anything like that. Audiology is a dynamic profession in the midst of growth and change.   Today's audiologists are trained at the highest level (they obtain an AuD or Doctor of Audiology degree), but because legislation has not kept up with educational levels, these amazingly talented professionals are not considered independent providers in the eyes of Medicare, most third party payers and the Federal Government. This creates quite a problem if Medicare patients need hearing care as they must be referred to an audiologist if that provider is to receive Medicare or third party reimbursement. While the profession is working hard to get this corrected, it's not likely going to happen for quite a while. The sad part is that the biggest loser is the patient. Getting back to my original points about patient or person-centered care, the government really needs to take a hard look at professions such as audiology. They need to ensure that patients are benefiting from current rules and regulations and not lobbyists, or others more concerned about their own rice bowls than they are about the patients we all care for.

Monday, January 26, 2015

University Mission & Vision Statements

It's been a while since I've written one of these. Lots going on at the University these days. We're getting ready to put the final touches on our strategic plan which is extremely exciting. We've been able to reach out to a large majority of our University community to include students, faculty, alumni, Board of Trustees and staff. The input we've received from each cohort has significantly shaped the tenor of discussion that has resulted in what I believe is an aggressive, thoughtful and realistic plan for Salus. In our off-site with the Board of Trustees yesterday we all agreed that we needed to drive a greater sense of urgency into portions of our plan that will result in accelerated curriculum changes in our optometry program, improvements in infrastructure and a continued emphasis on program accreditation, self assessment and program excellence.

To that end the Board approved our new Mission and Vision statements:



Subsequent College plans will align under the umbrella of the University's overarching plan.  It's exciting to be part of the process and see how each college is developing their road maps that lead to providing the most modern, efficacious and exciting integrated health science programs in the country.

It's an honor to be part of this great organization moving the delivery of healthcare forward.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

The Affordable Care Act and Our Professions - Players or Spectators?

Earlier this week while attending the American Academy of Optometry meeting I wrote a blog posing the question, "How does optometry want to fit into the new healthcare landscape?"  Much to my surprise, while many have had the opportunity to look at the entry, only one person responded - and that person did so in a personal email, not on the blog.  Now that the meeting is over and I’m headed home I'm wondering why the silence?  I think this is a discussion and debate that optometry and all the other health science professions need to have.  

As the effects of the Affordable Care Act take hold on the American healthcare system the number of payment and payer options for our professions will unquestionably change.  Today there are a myriad of payer and insurance companies.  According to the experts I've talked to this almost certainly will change.  In the (very near) future we will see a consolidation of insurance providers and payers much like we've seen in the American healthcare sector.  We've already seen this happen to our airline industry.  Remember when there was an Eastern, National, Pan Am, TWA, and Continental airline?  Well, now there are only a few major carriers.  We're going to see the same thing occur with health insurance carriers.  Optometry, Audiology, Occupational Therapy, Speech, Language Pathology and the other health sciences must be agile in adapting to this new environment, otherwise they risk being "boxed out" by major carriers or worse.  

In my humble opinion, one of the best ways to do this is to ensure we're all part of what will be an integrated system of healthcare providers who are aligned with Accountable Care Organizations, Patient Centric Medical Homes and Medical Neighborhoods and other entities that focus on the delivery of primary care, high quality and value.  As I mentioned in my prior blog I believe this will require all the schools and colleges to work together to develop and teach our students how to best work within this new landscape.  This includes business prowess but also must include in-depth discussions in policy and how to influence policies.  

For optometry, I also believe the profession will need to continue its evolution as a primary care profession to include the management or co-management of common metabolic disorders such as diabetes, hypertension and hyperlipidemia.  As our healthcare system focuses more on the public health, outcome data, access to care and cost, professions such as those were training need to become more involved in prevention and patient education.  Smoking cessation, nutritional counseling, and lifestyle advice need to become integral parts of what we teach and ultimately integrate into our everyday practices.  

There is a great deal to think about as we enter into this new chapter in healthcare delivery.  I want us to be part of the discussion on what this looks like and not the recipient of what others develop for us.  Complacency and sitting on the sidelines is not only an unacceptable course of action but can very well become a devastating behavior that leaves many health science professions subservient to others; something many have successfully worked very hard to avoid over the past 50 years.  

It's time to be bold, creative and responsible.  Educators, providers, researchers, industry and other important collaborators need to come together and have a very candid debate on how we all fit into this new healthcare landscape.   We can choose to be spectators or players - Players determine the outcome of the game - spectators only can brood about the outcome.  I want to play;  I hope you do as well!

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

How Does Optometry Want to Fit Into the New Healthcare Landscape?

I just finished participating in a meeting of the Association of Schools and Colleges of Optometry.  That group is composed of all the Deans and Presidents of the nations optometry schools with representation from our neighbors in Canada.  I had the distinct honor to lead a discussion on how optometry, as a profession, will prepare our new graduates to work in the new healthcare landscape that has been developed by the Affordable Care Act.  Along with that I also asked the group to explore how to build the foundation for the expansion of clinical privileges to include the diagnosis and treatment of such pervasive diseases as diabetes, hypertension, hyperlipidemia and other prevalent metabolic disorders that often beckon the doors of optometric practice.  The discussion on expanding the scope of practice was spirited, to say the least. There was consensus that we, as educators, need to do a much better job of preparing our graduates to succeed under the new healthcare landscape to include understanding the lexicon of Accountable Care Organizations, Medical Homes and other payor models.  I think we agreed to all work together to develop a consolidated curriculum that will address this in the near future.  I'm committed to having Salus take the lead on this.  

There was much more discussion and debate around the scope of practice expansion.  The Affordable Care Act will result in a significant shortage of primary care providers in the country through the foreseeable future. Someone is going to need to fill that void to see those diabetics, hypertensives and others needing care.  While physician assistants, nurses and possibly others will certainly help to fill that void, optometrists are extremely well positioned to provide the necessary care.   Many diabetics and hypertensive patients are often diagnosed or referred for definitive diagnosis following a routine eye exam.  With additional didactic and clinical training, optometrists can obtain the necessary skills to care for those patients.  While much work still needs to be done both academically and statutorily, I believe this is the direction that optometry needs to take.  A little over 30 years ago optometry obtained diagnostic and therapeutic privileges.  For the benefit of the public health, economics and the patients optometrists care for, it's now time for the profession to take the next evolutional step towards the diagnosis and management of the common diseases aforementioned.  Appropriately, there will be much debate over this, but in the end, the profession needs to decide what direction to take as we enter into this new landscape of healthcare delivery.