“I hate deans.” With that opening sentence, Dr. Frank M. Torti immediately grabbed the attention of the audience gathered Tuesday in Keller auditorium for the first town hall meeting held by the Health Center’s new executive vice president and medical school dean.
After the laughter subsided, Torti explained the reasons for his loathing and promised to try to do things differently. “I will try to streamline decision-making. We will increase transparency, we will increase accountability. Notice I said we, not I. This has to be a team sport. Faculty, staff, students, and I will do this together.”
Torti told the standing room-only audience “to forget the UCHC you knew.” He explained how the Health Center is the best place in America right now to start a career in academic medicine, and that it is growing while others are shrinking.
“We need transformational ideas and innovations. Discoveries and innovations do not happen in community hospitals. They happen in academic medical centers. I think that’s why you’re here and that’s a big reason why I’m here.”
Torti said the single biggest obstacle to the Health Center’s success is its chronic financial deficit. “We must make prudent and reasoned effort to increase our income and decrease our expenses in order to secure our future.”
The Health Center’s eighth medical school dean joins UConn from the Wake Forest University School of Medicine, where he served as vice president for strategic programs, director of its comprehensive cancer center, and chair of the Department of Cancer Biology.
Torti’s research interests focus on the potential of personalized medicine, which he said will transform medical care. But he told the audience he wants to emphasize another kind of personalized medicine.
“That personalized medicine is a big smile for someone being admitted to the hospital; stopping to give directions to a patient who is lost; taking the time to comfort a patient’s family; and making sure the call light is answered promptly. Make no mistake about it – this is the personalized medicine I value most.”
He went on to say that patients come first. “They are the source of our revenue, the focus of our research, and the foundation of all of our teaching of medical and dental students, residents, and clinical fellows. As long as the patients are the touchstones of our decisions, I believe we’ll be moving in the right direction.”
Torti intends to take a fresh look at the Health Center’s priorities, and the plans on how to get there. He said the review would be quick and surgical, not long and convoluted. “My explicit purpose is to give everyone a voice in the direction and future of the Health Center and to foster a culture of inclusiveness.”
He outlined three pillars to support his vision of the future.
- Distinction – developing programs that can make a unique and profound contribution.
- Stewardship – bringing our resources and ingenuity to bear on delivering quality health care to the poor and disenfranchised.
- Community – finding a way back to a strong sense of collegiality, responsibility, and mutual commitment.
Torti concluded by saying his door was always open and he would soon be holding meetings with small groups of students, faculty, and staff. “We have a lot to do. We’ll do it together and we’ll get it done — guaranteed.”