Elevating the College of Medicine
Office of Finance and Administration initiative aims to ensure success and future growth of the college
April 20, 2023 — When Tammy Williams, M.H.A., and Scott Sumner, M.B.A., were appointed as chief operating officer and chief financial officer for the University of Florida College of Medicine in late 2021, they were given one primary assignment: review the college’s financial and administrative infrastructure to understand opportunities to align governance, increase operational efficiencies, enhance financial stewardship and better serve the departments and support the college’s growth and goals as outlined by its five-year strategic plan.
To fulfill this need, project champions Williams and Sumner, along with project manager Mindy Pulliam, who works as the assistant director of operations for the college, embarked on a comprehensive evaluation of current structures and systems with assistance from Huron Consulting. The project entailed evaluating the appropriateness of the current distribution of work; assessing the deployment of roles to perform work; reviewing operational policies, procedures and guidelines for effectiveness; recommending opportunities to optimize operating models and organizational structures; enhancing fiscal responsibility and establishing accountability across departments and units; and positioning the college for sustainable, long-term growth.
After a monthslong review informed by the college community, with a 91% participation rate from finance and administration stakeholders, the assessment process resulted in recommendations to more efficiently and effectively deliver administrative support services to departments in alignment with the college’s priorities. The resulting plan, called ELEVATE, or Efficient Leverage Engagement Value Align Trust Empower, launched April 20 and will lead to opportunities to improve efficiency and optimization of budget management, while emphasizing a sense of unity among the college community.
“In short order, we’ve started to shift our culture,” Sumner said of the initiative, which falls under the system integration pillar of the strategic plan, adding that the review provided a road map on how best to move forward with data and input. “We’ve decided to lead with transparency and collaboration, and we’ve seen a great deal of engagement from the departments. It’s important to us that this benefits the community because it’s not for our benefit, it is for the benefit of the College of Medicine. All for one and one for all.”
Opportunities outlined in phase 1 of ELEVATE include establishing centers of expertise to create repositories of knowledge experts, data and best practices; reimagining service delivery strategy to establish function-specific transactional support teams to perform high-volume administrative tasks and services for a shared customer base; and strengthening the budget process to document key milestones, establish discussion topics for regular evaluation meetings and publish summaries of progress and performance to date. Additional recommendations include clarifying funding models and fund uses to enhance transparency into funding model methodologies and provide guidance around the optimal use of fund sources; clarifying sources and uses of assessments to shed light on rates, levels, methodologies, rationale and uses of assessments levied on departments; and leveraging and enhancing reporting to produce standard departmental reports of all resource availability, utilization and key performance metrics.
Implementation of these six priority areas will include establishing workgroups for each initiative, gathering perspectives, synthesizing and analyzing data, crafting deliverables and aligning outcomes with College of Medicine leadership and governance structures.
The workgroups, called design team task forces, have already begun to meet regularly. They consist of subject matter experts from across the college who aim to provide perspectives, refine processes and recommend decisions to be considered by steering committees. Within each task force, project managers help define goals, create and maintain timelines and communicate project updates to leadership.
“It’s important to note that it’s not a top-down approach; the design teams that are working on enhancements are from the departments, so each unit’s interests are being taken into account with each workgroup,” Pulliam said.
Information from each design team task force will then go to a steering committee, made up of key stakeholders who can guide all aspects of the project by participating in design specification, vetting and validation of financial scenarios, previewing output from each task force and addressing barriers or issues that arise. Department administrators, who will serve as the primary feedback mechanism for implementation efforts, will also receive consistent updates from project leadership as efforts take shape and will remain engaged throughout the initiative to provide input to ensure projects meet departmental needs and expectations.
Though ELEVATE just formally launched, Williams said the project is still in the discovery phase as the teams and their stakeholders see what is needed and how best to move forward. Tangible impacts that the college community can expect to see include process improvements, greater transparency in policies and procedures, changes to funding models and more emphasis on position competencies and best practices that lead to greater alignment and efficiency for all teams across the college.
“The thing I’m most proud of is when we got to the point where we could kick off the teams,” Pulliam said. “In each kickoff meeting, you could see that moment when it clicked for the people in the room that they had a voice in the change — that they were actually going to be the ones designing the future of the College of Medicine.”
College of Medicine faculty and staff can visit https://bridge.ufhealth.org/com-elevate/ to learn more about ELEVATE and to submit ideas and feedback.