A President's Perspective – January 2022

Dear MUSC family,

It’s not even Feb. 2, and yet, many of us are probably feeling like Bill Murray’s character in the 1993 movie “Groundhog Day,” at least when it comes to COVID-19: Here we go again.

Like you, dealing with another surge was not on my Top 10 list of “Ways I want to start the New Year.” However, there’s some small comfort in knowing that we’ve been here before, handled it well and led the way. We can, and will, do it again because that is what is required, and it’s who we are.

Since November, vaccines, the No. 1 tool in our box for fighting this virus, have been available to everyone over the age of 5, and in addition, boosters have been approved for use in everyone age 12 and up, as of Jan. 3. I cannot overstate the importance of getting vaccinated and boosted as we persevere through these last miles of our COVID-19 marathon. As more individuals become vaccinated, it lessens the impact of each viral wave on our communities, front-line care providers, educators and businesses. So please, continue to advocate to all in your lives about the importance of vaccination. If you haven’t gotten your booster yet, please get it as soon as possible.

You have done INCREDIBLE work, and so many individuals and teams have gone above and beyond for much longer than any of us could have anticipated. I promise you that your efforts, compassion, skill and expertise are at the top of my mind, every day. THANK YOU.

MUSC has done very well in handling the worst of what this disease has thrown our way, and I have every confidence that because of each of you, our institution will continue to do well. We must take heart in the reality that this pandemic can’t, and won’t, last forever. Although it may not be apparent at the moment, we are gaining essential experience, judgement and resources (testing, vaccines, emerging oral antiviral therapies) to enable us, eventually, to move forward toward a normal, balanced existence, despite the reality of an endemic COVID presence in our communities.

As always, thank you for doing your part to stop the spread of COVID-19 and encouraging the people in your lives to do the same. This year may not be starting exactly the way we want it to, but I believe that we have the collective power to make 2022 the year that we help to end the pandemic.

Yours in service,

David J. Cole, M.D., FACS
MUSC President

New year, new role: Dawn Hartsell, President’s Office chief of staff

It’s no secret that the MUSC enterprise has grown by leaps and bounds in the last several years. It has become clear that the President’s Office also needs to grow in order to meet the challenges and opportunities of the future. To enhance connectivity and physical presence throughout the enterprise, I am pleased to announce, after a comprehensive search process, the appointment of Dawn Hartsell as the new chief of staff for the MUSC President’s Office. We are also currently searching for a high-performing executive assistant to support the President’s Office as a part of this structure change.

Given the realities of the various roles I serve for the institution, and because it’s still physically impossible to be everywhere at once (teleportation would be nice one day; am I right?), the chief of staff role was established to promote more strategic and frequent engagement and presence from the President’s Office with leaders, teams and individuals across MUSC. Dawn, who holds a Master of Business Administration, has served numerous and critical roles on multiple professional teams and within the President’s Office for many years, and her project management work, covering a broad range of activities, will be the linchpin needed to have better coordination and two-way communication going forward.

In the weeks ahead, Dawn will be working with leaders across the institution to evaluate and determine the most strategic ways to “plug into” myriad meetings, committees and ad hoc task forces that require presidential input, feedback and support. I know that as my official representative, Dawn looks forward to connecting the President’s Office to the talented and hard-working teams throughout MUSC in a greater way.

Values in Action

One of my favorite activities each year is reading through and selecting our annual President’s Values in Action winners. Our values are at the heart of what we do at MUSC: compassion, respect, innovation, collaboration and integrity. While not necessarily an annual award, last year we also started the President’s Impact Award, which allows for recognition of an individual who not only embodies all five of our values but is someone who goes above and beyond to create positive and sustainable impact for those we serve. I’m excited to share with you that in addition to the Values in Action award winners this year, we also had another individual whose efforts embodied the criteria for an Impact Award.

Please take a moment to watch this video highlighting the moments when we surprised the winners. If you haven’t already, I hope you’ll consider nominating someone in your sphere during the 2022 cycle.

Giving with Purpose

The Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) Foundation has received a commitment of $1 million from the Town of Kiawah Island in support of the MUSC Health Sea Islands Medical Pavilion. On Jan. 11, MUSC Health CEO Patrick Cawley, M.D., attended the town council meeting to thank members for their support and vision.

This donation signals a significant level of support to improve the well-being of Charleston’s Sea Island communities overall as well as a desire to join MUSC Health in its mission to improve access to the right care, in the right place, at the right time.

“The Town is proud to invest in MUSC's Sea Islands Medical Pavilion and excited about the emergent care services it will provide to Kiawah, Seabrook, Johns and Wadmalaw Islands, and the broader community,” said Town of Kiawah Mayor John D. Labriola. “Our geography has always been a challenge and concern. This new facility will make a crucial difference in life-threatening emergencies and provide the Sea Island communities with greater ease of mind. We are grateful to MUSC for their pursuit of this project, to Kiawah Partners for donating the land, and to the other community partners who have made this possible.”

Construction on the Sea Islands project is expected to begin in early 2022 and conclude in fall of 2023. Of note, this project was made possible, in part, thanks to another donation from Kiawah Partners, which donated 6 acres of land to MUSC Health, valued at $4.85 million.

Read more

And as we emerge from the hustle and bustle of the holidays, I wanted to make sure that I followed up with you about MUSC’s Giving Tuesday 2021. The total raised came to a record-breaking $1,863,144 in support of our mission! That is more than three times the amount raised in 2020. MUSC employees were once again a huge part of that success, as the largest group of donors this year. Many gifts were also given in honor of you –MUSC’s employees –and the difference you make in the lives of our patients and their families every day.

Read more about how these funds will be used to support MUSC and the impact that will come from so many alumni, employees, patients, families and community members coming together to support our efforts to change what’s possible for those we serve.

From Kathy

Happy New Year, everyone! I hope that the holiday season provided you with an opportunity to rest and spend time with your loved ones. Dave and I found out we’re going to be first-time grandparents this summer, and it was the best Christmas present EVER!

At the start of the pandemic, I think we all believed that it would have been over by now. It’s frustrating and exhausting in so many ways still to be dealing with it, but, I’m reminded every day how incredibly blessed our state is to have every member of the MUSC family digging so deep, every minute, to fulfill the mission and get us through this time. Thank you for all that you do, publicly and behind the scenes.

In fact, I wanted to let you know that when Dave recently accepted the Joseph P. Riley Leadership Award from the Charleston Metro Chamber of Commerce for his leadership during the pandemic, he made sure that others knew that he doesn’t do it alone.

“The 17th century English poet John Donne famously wrote: ‘No man is an island, no man stands alone.’ It takes a community, and connectivity, to accomplish anything of significance. For me, that community is the MUSC family – almost 24,000 talented, dedicated faculty, educators, researchers, students, clinicians and staff, who work daily to make a difference, a positive impact, on individuals’ lives. This has shone through over the past two years in the midst of all things COVID. As the president of MUSC, it is a privilege to have the opportunity to lead such a group, and on occasion, be the one that intersects with our community and state in a meaningful manner.”

Dave’s not one to toot his own horn, so that leaves me to do it for him … lol. If you have a couple of minutes to spare, please watch this video.

All of my best wishes for a happy, healthy and healing 2022!


Intimate portrait of a hospital COVID unit from a photojournalist turned nurse

Since 2013, photojournalist-turned-registered nurse Alan Hawes has worked at MUSC in critical care, on the rapid response team and most recently, with some of the most serious COVID-positive patients in the hospital’s medical intensive care unit (MICU). As the author of the MUSC Catalyst News piece wrote, “Somewhere along the line, Hawes had the idea to marry his two passions. After talking with hospital leadership, he got the green light to bring his camera into the units … Hawes wanted people to see what he and his colleagues saw on a daily basis. He wanted them to see the compassion. The struggle. The reality.”

Hawes’ story and his moving photographs were featured on NPR’s All Things Considered on Jan. 5.

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