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Dean sees bright present and future for USF’s medical school

By Kathleen McGrory
Times Staff Writer
Published: July 20, 2016
Left to Right: Kathryn Gillette, CEO, and Market President of Bayfront Health St. Petersburg, shakes hands with Dr. Charles J. Lockwood, the dean of the University of South Florida's Morsani College of Medicine after signing an affiliation agreement in 2015. Lockwood said USF Health has a bright present and future, and part of his plan to ensure that is to strengthen partnerships with institutions such as Bayfront Health. [SCOTT KEELER | TIMES]

Much has changed at the University of South Florida Morsani College of Medicine since Dr. Charles Lockwood took over as dean two years ago.

School leaders are designing a new downtown Tampa campus, a 11-story tower that will feature state-of-the-art classrooms and laboratories.

Applications are up from about 3,900 to about 6,270, as are accepted students’ scores on the Medical College Admissions Test, or MCAT.

And the school recently jumped to 63rd from 79th in the annual U.S. News and World Report ranking of best medical schools for research.

But Lockwood isn’t satisfied. He’s moving ahead with an ambitious agenda that he hopes will transform the school into a world-class institution.

“When we hit the top 20, I’ll accept congratulations,” he told the Tampa Bay Times editorial board last week.

Lockwood was dean of the Ohio State University College of Medicine before coming to USF. His resume also includes nine years as chairman of obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive services at the Yale University School of Medicine.

He said he arrived in Tampa in 2014 eager to improve the quality of education at the medical school.

Among his first steps: hiring more master teachers and “modernizing” the curriculum. That work included adding assessments and eliminating duplicative lectures.

Lockwood also revamped the admissions process by placing more emphasis on the MCAT.

“The best predictor of competency, the best predictor of professionalism, the best predictor of long-term success for a physician is the MCAT score,” he said. “Like it or not, it’s the reality.”

The biggest challenge, he said, has been improving clinical operations. Many members of the faculty practice on campus and at affiliated locations such as Tampa General Hospital and Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital in St. Petersburg.

Lockwood pushed for a new electronic records system — a measure that will help track quality measures, improve research and enable USF to be more fully integrated with Tampa General, he said.

He and his team have also been working to prepare the system for the impending shift in the way physicians are compensated. Doctors used to be paid for each service they performed. But more and more, the federal government and insurance companies are reimbursing physicians based on their ability to keep an entire population healthy, and the quality of care they provide.

To that end, USF Physicians Group recently teamed up with Florida Medical Clinic, Florida Orthopedic Institute, Pediatric Health Care Alliance and Women’s Care Florida to form the Tampa Bay Health Alliance. The 900 doctors in the clinically integrated network will work together to deliver high-quality care and control costs, said Dr. Ed Funai, USF Health’s chief operating officer.

“Some of it is strength in numbers,” Funai said. “Some of it is actually having a critical mass and sufficient scale to have qualify infrastructure.”

Lockwood’s highest-profile actions, however, have involved USF’s Center for Advanced Medical Learning and Simulation, which opened in downtown Tampa in 2012, and the soon-to-be-built medical school tower that will rise nearby.

CAMLS has been a particular source of controversy since February, when several top leaders were pushed out amid financial problems. An audit showed the medical training center lacked a formal process for approving vendors, and that there was little oversight on spending.

Speaking to the Times for the first time since the shakeup, Lockwood said CAMLS had not been bringing in enough money from the private sector to be sustainable.

“We were looking at their finances, their business model, and we said we need a fundamental change,” he said.

What’s more, he said, students were complaining they didn’t have enough access to the facility.

Top USF health officials decided to develop a new business plan that would allow medical school students to spend more time in the facility, Lockwood said. That model also keeps the university from having to add another simulation center to the new downtown building, he added.

The dean is particularly excited about the new campus, which will anchor a downtown redevelopment project spearheaded by Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik and Cascade Investment LLC. The plan calls for a medical school and heart institute, a medical arts building and a parking garage to be built together on an acre of land donated by Vinik across from the home of his hockey team, the Amalie Arena.

The $152 million project is expected to be completed by September 2019.

“That singular event will pay dividends for USF and Tampa for decades,” Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn said.

Lockwood has other projects in the pipeline. He wants to develop liver and lung transplant programs, and boost the pediatrics program.

He also wants to build on the partnerships with Tampa General, All Children’s, Moffitt Cancer Center, and Bayfront Health St. Petersburg.

Local hospital executives look forward to it.

“Charly is breath of fresh air, and we continue to work closely to strengthen the TGH/USF relationship,” said Jim Burkhart, the CEO of Tampa General who also serves as associate dean for Clinical and Hospital Affairs at USF Health.

Contact Kathleen McGrory at [email protected] or (727) 893-8330. Follow @kmcgrory.