JACKSON – The recent announcement of a change in the institution’s top leadership by University of Mississippi Medical Center officials comes near the end of a
year marked with retirements and unexpected losses.
Last month, Dr. Wallace Conerly, UMC vice chancellor, announced the appointment of Dr. Daniel W. Jones, Langford Professor of Medicine and director of the
hypertension division, to the post of associate vice chancellor for health affairs at a board meeting at Delta State University in Cleveland. Jones will replace Dr. Roland
B. Robertson, who was appointed associate vice chancellor in 1993 after serving as chief of staff at the Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center for 19 years.
Robertson will retire Dec. 31.
“Dr. Robertson’s leadership has been essential to the growth and progress of the medical center in the last eight years,” Conerly said. “We have relied on his wise
counsel on countless occasions.”
Jones, who earned his M.D. and completed residency training at UMC, and returned to the medical center in 1992 as assistant professor of medicine and director of
clinical hypertension, will assume Robertson’s duties on Jan. 1, 2001.
“Dr. Jones has proven many times that he has the ability and determination to succeed wherever he is,” Conerly said. “He has demonstrated his leadership on many
occasions as well as his commitment and loyalty to the institution. He’s the one that put the Jackson Heart Study together and is the principal investigator for our
portion of it. In the field of hypertension and high blood pressure, Dr. Jones is one of the world experts.”
Earlier this year, UMC lost two important physicians to water-related accidents.
On May 17, Dr. Samuel B. Johnson, 74, who began practicing ophthalmology in Jackson in 1953 and was the first chairman of the ophthalmology department at
UMC, drowned in a rafting accident on the Green River in Utah. Having trained most of the ophthalmologists now practicing in Mississippi, Johnson had established a
residency program recognized as one of the most competitive in the nation. Dr. C.J. Chen has since replaced Johnson as department chairman.
On Aug. 15, Dr. Bobby Heath, 57, professor of surgery at UMC and director of cardiothoracic surgery, died while scuba diving. Heath, a native of Grenada, had
been on the faculty since 1978 after finishing a cardiothoracic surgery residency at the medical center.
“Except for the losses of Dr. Johnson and Dr. Heath to unfortunate water accidents, the only real leadership change has been because of the retirement of Dr.
Robertson, the No. 2 person, at the end of this year,” said Conerly.
While individuals who knew and admired Johnson and Heath must deal with the grief on their own, the university as an institution must also deal with the grief and loss
at the same time adjustments are being made in leadership roles, said Dr. Ronald E. Drabman, director of training and psychology programs at UMC.
“Times of adjustment are always tension producing because of the unknown aspects of change,” Drabman said. “Tension usually returns to equilibrium when the
change is known, understood and complete.”
In July, Conerly announced the appointments of Dr. John Ellis Moffitt, chief of the Division of Allergy and Immunology in the Department of Pediatrics, as associate
dean for graduate medical education, and Dr. Steven T. Case, professor of biochemistry, as associate dean for admissions.
In the newly created position of associate dean for graduate medical education, Moffitt, a Mississippi College graduate who earned his M.D. and completed a
pediatrics residency at UMC, and joined the medical center faculty in 1987 after completing an allergy and immunology fellowship at the Medical College of Georgia,
oversees the 32 programs in which physicians train for specialty certification at the university hospitals and clinics.
Case, who earned a Ph.D. in cellular and molecular biology from the University of Southern California in Los Angeles and completed a postdoctoral fellowship at the
Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden, and served as a postdoctoral associate in the Department of Biology at Yale before joining UMC faculty in 1979, chairs
the Medical School Admissions Committee, the group of basic science and clinical faculty that reviews M.D. program applicants. He takes over the duties from Dr.
Virginia H. Read, former associate professor of pathology and biochemistry, who retired earlier this year.
Since UMC opened in 1955 as a teaching hospital for all medical center education programs, it has evolved into one of the larger economic development tools in the
metro area and the state. Sprawling over 164 acres, UMC is currently using three million square feet of heated and air-conditioned space, which includes a 623-bed
hospital. Last fall, approximately 1,800 students were enrolled in UMC programs at its four schools – medicine, nursing, dentistry and health-related professions –
and graduate program.
With more than 6,500 employees on a payroll totalling more than $270 million, the medical center’s $585-million budget accounts for a $1.2-billion economic impact,
“UMC is making good progress in the hospital replacement plan,” Conerly said. “We’re expanding our clinical service and research efforts at the academic health
center for the entire state, and it’s paying off.
“With the help of our congressional delegation in Washington, we’re doing quite well in getting financial support for our efforts. We do our very best to keep health
care professionals supplied, and we’re grateful for the business community’s tremendous support.”
Contact MBJ contributing writer Lynne Wilbanks Jeter at email@example.com or (601) 853-3967.