Dr. Charles Lockwood has been dean of the University of South Florida medical school for only a few months, but the change in demeanor and direction from his predecessor already is clear. Instead of wishing USF had its own teaching hospital, Lockwood muses about the merits of building a new medical school in downtown Tampa or on campus. Instead talking up a new partnership with a Lakeland hospital, he reaffirms the medical school's strong ties to Tampa General Hospital. It's a fresh eye and a fresh approach to the role the Morsani College of Medicine can play in the public and economic health of Tampa Bay.
Lockwood, the former medical school dean of Ohio State University, offered thoughtful approaches to issues such as how to cure a growing shortage of primary care physicians in a recent visit with the Tampa Bay Times editorial board. Among his ideas: Find ways to lower student debt for beginning doctors so they won't be so determined to avoid general practice for more lucrative specialties. He wants to establish new scholarships and talks favorably about the national debate on shortening medical school by a year to reduce the debt accrued.
Lockwood has no desire for USF to open its own hospital and anticipates less than 30 percent of health care in five years will be based on the standard fee-for-service model under Affordable Care Act reforms. Nor does he sound like he has much interest in pursuing a plan announced last year to partner with Lakeland Regional Medical Center to establish residency slots there. That idea, unveiled under former med school dean Dr. Stephen Klasko, apparently stalled after the hospital had trouble securing the federal funding it had anticipated for residency slots. Instead, Lockwood said, the college should be working with community partners to build strong networks to serve patients as reimbursement shifts to a model where doctors have incentives to avoid having to refer patients to hospitals.
The most political issue on his agenda is evaluating where the university should build new medical school facilities after the 2014 Legislature provided $5 million for planning. Downtown Tampa has increasingly been discussed as a possibility, for its ability to attract faculty and students to an urban environment and strengthen ties with Tampa General and USF Health's own Center for Advanced Medical Learning and Simulation for medical technology training. And downtown boosters are sure to push hard for attracting yet another employer. Lockwood says he will make a recommendation only after weighing the likely more-expensive downtown option against building the facility on the main USF campus.
Lockwood is not turning the medical school in an entirely new direction. He supports the existing public health efforts aimed at older residents at the Villages, the retirement mecca. He sees new revenue streams for CAMLS to set it apart from other simulation centers, working with high-tech companies to improve their products. He appreciates what he describes as the "innovative culture'' at USF — and his leadership and that culture will enable USF to help lead Tampa Bay through the transformation in health care.