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Updated: Thursday, 20 Sep 2012, 6:44 PM CDT
Published : Thursday, 20 Sep 2012, 6:44 PM CDT
MOBILE, Ala. (WALA) - Dr. Ron Franks is responsible for thousands of people and three major schools at the University of South Alabama. Dr. Franks is the Vice President of Health Sciences, and he answers directly to USA President Gordon Moulton.
Dr. Franks recently shared how his area of responsibility is vital to USA's mission and the Gulf Coast community. It directly affects our health care and helps attract new industry.
"I've been very pleased since I’ve been here. And I'm really enjoying my work. There are a lot of new challenges here, and it keeps me very stimulated and excited," said Franks.
He provides leadership and oversight to nearly 7,000 students, faculty, staff and resident physicians. Dr. Franks is USA'S top academic healthcare educator.
Years ago, his parents insisted that no matter how many interests he had, homework must be done and grades kept up.
"My father graduated from high school and not everyone in his family graduated from high school. And my mother was the first in her generation to go to college. Both of them recognized that if you're going to be successful, that you have to have a good education, that probably was the greatest influence on my success," believes Dr. Franks.
His father worked at General Motors in Flint Michigan and retired as a middle manager. Like his dad, as a young man Franks was attracted to the job security and money auto factor work provided.
"Back then, the pay was so much better than most people that went to college that it was a better way to support your families. The benefits were better, and the opportunities for advancement were better. But I began to realize that as you get older, you have to be fortunate that you don't have an injury or some kind of illness that compromises your ability to do physical work. Many of my dad's coworkers got into their 40s or 50s and they were not able to continue to be as productive as they had been," said Franks.
So at 20, Franks turned his focus to a college education and his future.
"I was thinking about going into dentistry, and I had an advisor that said I ought to think about going into medicine as well as Dentistry and to make sure that I looked all the different health professions. I really thought about that, my neighbor was a Dentist and I really admired what he was doing and he was kind of a mentor to me and so i was going to follow in his footsteps. But, that really challenged my thoughts on that, I ended up then looking into the field of medicine and realized that fit better for me," Franks said.
"When I got into medical school, and as I had experiences in working with patients. What I realized is that I wanted something that would be as challenging for me in 30 years when I get up in the morning and get ready to go to work, as it is when I just got started. And for me, I thought psychiatry would be that field partly because there's a lot more that we need to know about how the mind works.”
He became a psychiatrist. Dr. Franks later added experience as an Educator and Administrator to his extensive resume.
"Maybe every 8 to 10 years, I'll look for a new challenge. I got a call about oh about five and half years ago, now and the caller asked me if I would be interested in looking at a job here at USA. The people that I had contact with here from the President all the way through to the people that are in charge of the hospitals, the clinics, the staff, the doctors, the faculty, the people in the nursing school, the college of allied health, the professions, medical school etc. I just really enjoyed my conversations with them, what they were doing, where they were headed, their commitment to making USA successful. And so I thought, ‘You know what, I would enjoy working here,’" Dr. Franks said.
"I think the major challenge for us at USA, like for all health focused programs, we're in a rapid change in health care delivery, health reform its going to happen. We're seeing significant changes in the way health care is delivered and the way health care is paid for. We're moving toward having most of our population covered buy health insurance. We're paying for it thru the back door and not quite recognizing that we're doing it. It's often more costly, patients show up in the emergency room to get what treatment they should be getting from their primary care doctor, so they might pay several hundred dollars for a $25 office visit," said Dr. Franks.
As Chief Executive Officer of USA's Schools of Medicine, Nursing and Allied Health Professions, Dr Franks has a Gulf Coast perspective. He believes USA is making a significant regional impact on a daily basis.
"When you have a medical school and university hospitals like we do, that brings a tremendous asset to the community. When ThyssenKrupp came in to survey the area, they wanted to know do we have high level trauma services and a burn unit here in this city to take care of potential accidents. They want their employees taken good care of. Fortunately,
the medical center has both. USA is having a major impact on the delivery of health care and also on the recruitment of businesses to this region who want good health care services for their employees and their families," said Dr. Franks.
While he is focused on the present, he’s also looking to the future.
"So what I see for the future is that the university will continue to expand. We can take the health sciences up one more notch to provide for the community what previously people felt they had to go to UAB or Mayo for and now will have to do that much less. They'll get the same exact care here, it’s right here in your own community and so there's a kind of a specialness about taking care of your own," said Dr. Franks.
Dr. Franks said USA is making a major impact locally, as at least 50 percent of the area's health care professionals were educated at South Alabama. He also said that another reason you can get specialized health care at USA like at other older and well known institutions is because medical protocols have been standardized nationally. Franks added that significant changes are ahead for health care delivery regardless of who's in the White House because we're in a period of instability and uncertainty.