TAMPA — This isn’t necessarily the greatest time to be in the field of medicine. In fact, Charles Lockwood, new dean at the University of South Florida’s Morsani College of Medicine, calls the era “the Great Depression of health care.”
“Wherever you go around the country, it’s kind of depressing,” Lockwood said. “Everybody thinks the world is ending, and things are falling apart, and there are huge threats to academic health centers today.”
So why would he pull up stakes as dean of The Ohio State University College of Medicine to run the show at USF?
“I have to say, I was shocked by the entrepreneurial spirit of the place,” Lockwood said. “The folks here have a vibrancy, an energy, an optimism and a level of positivity that honestly, I’ve not seen in the last 10 years in academic health centers.”
That entrepreneurial spirit is likely to be critical in navigating the era of the Affordable Care Act, health care price comparison shopping, and the shift from a fee-for-service reimbursement system to a pay-for-performance model that focuses on successful outcomes and cost savings rather than payment by quantity of treatments.
Lockwood said his stints at Ohio State and previously at Yale University involved “very risk-averse” institutions that had cultures of being careful and prudent.
“This is probably not a time in health care that those attributes will be helpful to your longevity,” he said.
Strong research centers, such as USF, also face stagnant investment in biomedical research from the National Institutes for Health, which doles out federal dollars allocated by Congress.
Lockwood called the decline in grants “a national tragedy, and a bipartisan black mark on Washington.” He said he would join his peers in pressuring Congress to increase research dollars, but is also leaning toward alternatives — public-private partnerships, the development of biotechnology industries within academic medical centers and “unleashing the entrepreneurial energies of your faculty. And this place gets that in a really good way.”
Look for Lockwood to also expand USF’s roster of partner hospitals. Tampa General Hospital will remain the university’s “mother ship,” but the new era calls for multiple partnerships, he said.
“There are environments where we may want our patient in a relatively simple community hospital that doesn’t have a lot of overhead, but other times, we want the renal transplant to take place at TGH,” he said.
“And we also have to take care of the Tampa Bay area, not just Davis Islands. So we have to have lots of practices throughout the region, and we have to be partners with a lot of hospitals throughout the region.”
Another issue on Lockwood’s plate: the high cost of medical school. He said he was able to freeze tuition and increase scholarships at OSU, something he wants to continue here.
“Our students have staggering levels of indebtedness, and that will ultimately discourage them from getting into medicine because they may not be able to pay off their debts at the rate we’re reducing reimbursement,” he said. “It certainly is steering them away from primary care, which is where we want them.”
The new dean also is senior vice president of USF Health, which encompasses the Morsani College, the colleges of pharmacy, nursing and public health, and the schools of physical therapy and biomedical sciences. He will lead more than 800 faculty members teaching 5,500 students.
USF Health has revenue of about $570 million, including state funding, billings from the organization’s 500 physicians and health practitioners, and $247 million in research awards.
He will earn $775,000 on his first one-year contract, with bonuses.
Lockwood would like to build USF into a top-30 medical school by building a billion-dollar peration that reinvests heavily in research, picks up some philanthropy and licenses from new technology, and other contracts.
“If we could do that, over a long enough period of time, Tampa Bay could rival Boston and San Francisco in having world-class biomedical research,” he said. “That would drive a lot of jobs. That would be a game changer for central Florida and for the Tampa Bay region, and that’s my goal.”
In addition to his administrative role, Lockwood is known for his research in obstetrics and gynecology, particularly in premature births. His research is coming with him to USF.
Lockwood and his wife of 31 years, Nancy, are renting a home until they find a permanent residence. They have a son earning a master’s in business administration at Ohio State, and a bichon frise-poodle mix named Marley. (“Pre-movie,” he explained — “this one is actually named after the reggae singer.”)
Lockwood is an avid sailor and owned a 42-foot Hunter during his stint at Yale. In Ohio, he took up golf. He has been on several fishing excursions in Florida, landing a kingfish and nice-size grouper.
“All the stuff I like to do, I get to do here year-round,” he said. “That’s pretty nice.”