During his first two months as Dean of UTHSC’s College of Medicine in Chattanooga (UTCOMC) and Senior Vice President of Erlanger Health System, R. Bruce Shack, MD, has spent his time fleshing out a strategic plan of success for the institution. He comes to Chattanooga after serving over 40 years at Vanderbilt University. Dr. Shack explains, “the opportunity to do something totally different at the end of my academic career and all the opportunities for improvement at UTHSC incited me.”
One of Dean Shack’s first goals: improve the infrastructure of the campus to help guide new and exceptional health services for the region. He’s been hard at work fostering relationships between the different departments at Chattanooga and nurturing the clinical research partnerships between UTHSC and Erlanger.
“We’re trying to increase our footprint as it relates to both medical students and resident education as well as faculty development,” Dean Shack said. “Erlanger is the main teaching hospital here in Chattanooga. Therefore, the relationship UT has with them is critical to the mission of the university- to educate residents, promote research, and provide excellent patient care.”
Dr. Shack has future plans to acquire an Associate Dean for Research at UTCOMC to help carry on this mission as well as oversee all research initiatives. He states that the opportunity for different departments to partner together on various research projects “is ripe in Chattanooga” but there has been no one to oversee and coordinate this effort. “I am hopeful that once I get that person identified, recruited, and put in position that we can begin to better coordinate our research efforts here on this Chattanooga campus.”
Among his long-term goals for UTCOMC is to develop a first and second year program for students. Currently, the campus provides training for junior and senior medical students, as well as residency and fellowship programs. Brining basic clinical research programs to the Chattanooga campus “will be beneficial to UTCOMC, Erlanger, and the undergraduate school, UT Chattanooga,” Dean Shack said. “It will grow our program and make us more competitive to incoming medical students and faculty as well.”
Another long-term goal is developing successful a recruitment partnership with Erlanger with the ultimate goal being that new hospital staff will hold dual positions as clinicians at Erlanger as well as teaching or research positions within UTCOMC.
“Not all the clinicians Erlanger recruits will be interested or certified to also become a part of the UTCOMC family, but some may be,” said Dean Shack. “It will be those individuals that will help drive UTCOMC’s teaching and research missions forward while also supporting the exceptional clinical care efforts that Erlanger continually strives to provide its patients.”
When asked about his favorite part of being UTCOMC Dean thus far, Dr. Shack says “it’s been an exciting challenge to take on a new role and responsibility in Chattanooga.” Reminiscing on his past professional experiences, he notes that previously he was just in charge of a smaller department and program at Vanderbilt but now he has the responsibility of looking out for a whole medical school.
“It’s really me challenging myself and that’s what makes it fun for me,” Dr. Shack said. “I’m learning a lot of stuff that I never thought I would need to know and it’s been fun. My hope is that I will continue to see the goals that I’ve laid out come to fruition.”