Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center
Challenges to Untangle

Challenges to Untangle

You can tell a lot about a person
By the way they handle three things:
a rainy day, lost luggage
and tangled Christmas tree lights.
—Maya Angelou


Have you seen one of the new coins in the American Women Quarters Program? The first one features the late, great poet Maya Angelou—the person quoted above. In addition to her poetry, Angelou wrote several books and was a civil rights activist. During her lifetime, she received dozens of awards and more than 50 honorary degrees. A wonderful and thoughtful person.
Thinking about this quote—we don’t see too many rainy days in West Texas and, frankly, we are generally thrilled to be getting rain in a part of the country where we measure it in one-hundreds of an inch.  As far as lost luggage, well, that seems to be the least of our problems these days when we fly, if we have even returned to flying due to the pandemic. Aha, how we untangle Christmas lights—that can be revealing. Of course, her bigger point is: how does one go about addressing problems and challenges?
Here are some challenges to untangle:
One, experts tell us that we will not have enough health care workers in the future.  It is said America faces a shortage of 124,000 physicians by 2033. Furthermore, we will need to hire at least 200,000 nurses per year to meet the increasing demand and replace retiring nurses. Allied health and behavioral health professionals will also be in short supply, too. As a nation, we need to produce more professionals with expertise in Public Health. A challenge to be sure.
We need to improve access to care throughout our service area and help populations living with chronic disease manage it from home through remote monitoring and other resources. We need to employ a multi-disciplinary approach.
We must overcome dependencies on foreign sources of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and other critical supplies. It's time to enable West Texas experts/workers to address the need! (We do know something about cotton, engineering, and textiles.) Supply chain issues abound—the Just-in-Time delivery philosophy has been found to be deficient under recent circumstances.
This is where the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center can shine and help to untangle these challenges. At least do our part. According to the latest issue of our very own Pulse magazine (always excellent, BTW), we already award one-fourth of all health-related degrees awarded in Texas. 

Here are some things that I think would be helpful. (To be accurate, some of these items are already well underway or part of our Strategic Plan FY2022-2027 document—so credit to others is certainly indicated.)

  • Work to lift the cap on Medicare-funded physician residencies. How about setting up residencies in Abilene, San Angelo, and Wichita Falls? Expand the ones we already have? 
  • Encourage more support for our nursing school and all the rest of our fine schools. Continue innovation in alternative teaching delivery models.
  • Finalize setting up our School of Population and Public Health. (Watch for an important announcement on this soon!) The pandemic has revealed that our public health systems need more funding, more trained professionals, more respect, and a greater role in our overall health care system. Do this before the onset of societal amnesia on lessons learned from the pandemic.
  • Greatly expand telemedicine—embrace it and exploit it (in a good way). Provide patients with fast, easy options with transparent pricing. They should be able to go online to schedule appointments, compare convenient care options, including costs, and get what they need with a few simple clicks—and possibly without ever leaving home.  We need remote home monitoring for patients living with chronic disease processes.
  • Start making our own PPE!  Ask any third grader—“Does it make sense to send West Texas cotton 7,500 miles one way to be turned into PPE and 7,500 miles to get in back OR should we manufacture it here?”  See what the third-grader says. (Thinking here of carbon footprint, costs of transportation, dependency, and supply chain blues.)

Time to untangle some things.