Expanding the UF Health footprint
A new year signifies new beginnings for our academic health center.
Welcome to the winter 2019 edition of Academic Matters, the e-newsletter of the University of Florida College of Medicine – Jacksonville.
The beginning of a new year is an ideal time to reflect on recent strides and accomplishments while looking forward to what lies ahead for our academic health center. In 2018, we expanded our regional footprint, celebrated key milestones, refocused our goals and welcomed a host of new leaders. And, of course, we continued to provide excellent clinical care while training the next generation of medical providers.
Last year, Alexander Parker, Ph.D., joined us as the new senior associate dean for research. His arrival from Mayo Clinic represents our commitment to vastly growing our research portfolio and using it to help fulfill our aim of being the most comprehensive academic health center in the region.
Along those lines, we opened the Jacksonville Aging Studies Center, or JAX-ASCENT, which is our campus’ hub for clinical trials targeting older adults. We’ve begun recruiting participants for a study on age-related muscle mass loss, with other trials forthcoming. During the year, faculty also led an ongoing community-based study on telemedicine-driven HIV care and another on culturally sensitive approaches to target obesity.
In 2018, K.C. Balaji, M.D.; Chandana “Sandy” Lall, M.D., M.B.A.; and Darrell WuDunn, M.D., Ph.D., came to UF Health to chair our departments of urology, radiology and ophthalmology, respectively. Meanwhile, Paul Mongan, M.D., who has been a UF COMJ faculty member since 2016, was appointed chair of anesthesiology.
More recently, John Davis, M.D., moved from the Gainesville campus to Jacksonville to chair our department of obstetrics and gynecology. He takes over for Guy Benrubi, M.D., who announced he would be taking a six-month sabbatical before retiring, effective June 30, 2019.
Dr. Benrubi, who joined the faculty in 1981, served as the OB-GYN chair for 22 years. In addition, he held several campuswide leadership positions over the years, including senior associate dean for clinical affairs, senior associate dean for faculty affairs and interim administrative dean for the college; president and CEO of UF Jacksonville Healthcare Inc.; and associate chief medical officer for UF Health Jacksonville.
We thank Dr. Benrubi for everything he’s done for UF Health and wish him well in retirement.
New deans and directors
Some familiar faces among faculty have stepped into newly created leadership positions on campus. They are:
- Assistant dean for faculty affairs – Kelly Best, M.D.
- Associate dean for inclusion and equity – Madeline Joseph, M.D.
- Medical director of community health – Ross Jones, M.D., M.P.H.
- Director of Work-Life Center – David Chesire, Ph.D.
We are actively recruiting for two other positions: senior associate dean for faculty affairs and vice president of community engagement and chief diversity officer. Meanwhile, the entire UF Health system seeks a new president and senior vice president for health affairs. David R. Nelson, M.D., continues to serve in an interim capacity. Visit svpha.health.ufl.edu to learn more about the position and the ongoing search. We hope to provide updates soon.
Construction and renovation
Construction continues at Wildlight, the new community under development in neighboring Nassau County. We broke ground on a medical office building in August 2018. Work is on schedule, with plans to open the facility in December. Services will include urgent care, imaging, pediatrics, obstetrics and gynecology, mental health and dentistry.
On the downtown campus, infrastructural improvements have begun that are the result of a $120 million multi-year allocation from the city of Jacksonville. The City Council approved the funding in 2018, with $15 million of the sum made available this fiscal year. The work includes roof replacements and electrical upgrades, as well as other needs such as air handler, generator and fire pump replacements.
This spring, we will work closely with our legislative team on a number of federal, state and local issues. Our primary federal focus is on 340B Drug Pricing Program; Medicaid Disproportionate Share Hospital, or DSH, payments; and “neutral site” payment matters. State issues include Medicaid reimbursement, Low Income Pool funding, DSH payments, opioids, telehealth and graduate medical education. Meanwhile, we will continue to work with the city of Jacksonville on local funding.
Our team includes myself and Dean Cocchi, along with Mark Kaplan, Samantha Sexson and Mike Henson from UF Government Affairs. We have support from The Fiorentino Group, Paul Hawkes and the Safety Net Hospital Alliance of Florida, led by Justin Senior and Lindy Kennedy.
An aim for excellence
Looking back, 2018 brought plenty of challenges and change, but also yielded so much growth and accomplishment. I’m confident that with our collective talents, expertise and dedication, 2019 will be even more rewarding. Excellence is our aim. We owe it to our patients and the community.
I’m excited about the future as we pursue our vision to be the region’s most valued health care asset.
Leon L. Haley Jr., M.D., MHSA, C.P.E., FACEP