Word of the Week: SYZYGY

Last week, a total lunar eclipse occurred. As it passed fully through the Earth’s shadow, the moon took on a dramatic, dusky red color. For us to see an eclipse from here on Earth, the Sun, Moon, and Earth need to be positioned in a straight line. When astronomers first took notice of fleeting linear alignments of celestial bodies like this, they coined the term “syzygy,” Greek for “yoked together.”

This periodic and occasional alignment of planets can remind us of how difficult it is for moving objects to align and how much harder is to maintain alignment. An example closer to home is in your garage: How many times have you taken your car to the mechanic for an alignment?

There is a theory of organizational alignment, in which staff, systems, and strategy align with other elements to create a high-performance entity. There are many moving parts to any organization, yet think of the complexity in schools of medicine with our multiple missions, customers, and affiliations. No wonder it is not easy to align goals!

So this is our challenge: Make connections and create alignments across departments, divisions, and centers that will unify the SOM and that will be as constant and predictable as the sun’s rising in the morning. Let’s get the missions of the School of Medicine in syzygy!

Reminder: The long-awaited LCME accreditation review begins next week! We have a wonderful educational program and much to be proud of. Thank you to all who are helping with the preparation.

Nancy E. Dunlap, MD, PhD, MBA
Dean, UVA School of Medicine
James Carroll Flippin Professor of Medical Science