A day before the Royal Wedding gave the world “a glorious day for hope for the future,” 155 top healthcare leaders from across the state came away from the collaboration-centered, one-day Mississippi Health Summit echoing the word “hope” for the future of Mississippi healthcare.
“We had a very strong, excellent inaugural event,” said Ryan Kelly, spokesperson for the Southern Mississippi College of Health. “Great efforts were made to carry us forward as we improve health outcomes and performance in the state.”
The University of Mississippi Medical Center, University of Southern Mississippi, Mississippi Hospital Association, Mississippi Public Health Association, and Forrest General Hospital sponsored the invitation-only event, which was held at the Trent Lott National Center for Excellence in Economic Development and Entrepreneurship.
“By bringing together so many individuals with influence over one or another facet of Mississippi’s health system, the summit underscored opportunities for collaborative synergy and identified some specific steps we can take to move forward,” said Michael Forster, PhD, dean of the College of Health at Southern Miss, which hosted a three-part spring forum series that was well received, with a general consensus among healthcare professionals that Mississippi would remain near the bottom of major health-related statistics unless a unified effort was made to combat the problem. “In a state as health-challenged as Mississippi, what could be more important?”
Workforce development, research, and health-related economic development were identified as key points of discussion, with Rick deShazo, MD, professor of medicine and pediatrics at UMC, focusing on the “biggest” problem during the keynote address.
“We all know Mississippi’s big problem—obesity—is driving an epidemic of diabetes, high blood pressure, arthritis and stroke among others in our state,” said deShazo. “This will be our first generation that lives a shorter and lower quality of life than their parents. I think Mississippi’s bigger problem is who will lead us out of this quagmire? No one person, or group, seems to be doing that.”
Breakout sessions followed each primary topic discussion, during which attendees had an opportunity to exchange ideas about a given theme and find ways to unify efforts between their respective organizations to help remedy the state’s health problems.
The workforce development panel, consisting of Wanda Jones, RN, LouAnn Woodward, MD, Luke Lampton, MD, and state lawmaker Toby Barker, addressed these guiding questions:
- How can we better track health-related professional practitioners in Mississippi, and also allow this information to be available for public consumption?
- How can we improve or integrate educational planning and programming to ensure long-term responsiveness to changing workforce needs?