Sep 19

Questions & Answers from Dr. Callender’s July Town Hall

Question:  Why is the tuition reimbursement program only for RN nursing staff?  Would it be possible to provide tuition reimbursement for all levels or titles throughout the institution?

Response: (From HR) Tuition assistance is offered in addition to UTMB’s robust benefits programs (for example, medical and dental insurance, short- and long-term disability coverage, etc.). Our tuition program is designed to aid eligible employees in furthering their education and improving job performance, while supporting the university’s overall strategy and objectives for achieving its mission and vision. The program has always had a defined budget, and it is reviewed annually during the institutional budget process to determine eligibility criteria for the coming year. Because of our growing need for nurses and a statewide shortage in the field, FY16 tuition assistance funding was dedicated to eligible RN’s who are pursuing an individual job-related course or a graduate or undergraduate degree that directly relates to their existing job/career path. The eligibility criteria for fiscal year 2017 will include other hard-to-fill positions, thus encompassing more areas of study. The tuition assistance website will be updated in upcoming weeks to reflect the new eligibility criteria.

It is our hope that more funds for this important benefit will be available in FY2018 and we will be able to expand eligibility to a larger segment of our employees. Our long-term goal with respect to tuition assistance is to be able to provide this benefit at a competitive level and have it available, within the limits of the budget, to all benefit-eligible employees.

To view Dr. Callender’s response at Town Hall, go to (time stamp 43.23)


Question: Is the TRS rate going up again, September 2016?

Response (from HR): Yes, the employee contribution (or “member contribution”) is increasing from 7.2% to 7.7% for FY2017, which begins Sept. 1, 2016. This is the amount withheld from a TRS member’s paycheck and applied to his or her account. The amount is withheld before taxes, which reduces the portion of the individual’s income that is subject to federal income tax. Member contribution rates are set by the Legislature and subject to change if the state contribution rate is reduced from 6.8% in the 2017–2018 school year (which coincides with UTMB’s FY2018).


Question: When potential trainee and faculty recruits consider their options, they often go to web-based sources for how institutions are rated. There are currently two ratings for medical schools (US News and and another for residencies. UTMB ranks poorly (not ranked by US News and #111 in startclass). Why are we not trying to be recognized for excellence? There is a strong focus on education here that does not seem to get adequate recognition. 

Response: (From Dr. Callender) While ranking tools like US News and World Report get a lot of media play and public attention, there has been much discussion among leaders of a number of medical schools and academic health centers regarding the USNWR rankings and whether their value meets or exceeds the significant direct and indirect costs of pursuing and promoting the rankings.

Quality metrics and other measures of educational outcomes such as our pass rate relative to nationally-standardized exams, stand as a true reflection of outcome as opposed to reputational scores, which is what a lot of web-based or media-based surveys really measure. Our focus at UTMB is on providing outstanding education to our students, doing great research and performing incredible clinical work that makes a difference in the lives of patients.

View the Town Hall video to hear Dr. Callender’s entire response, available at (time stamp 46.00)