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VOL. 44 | NO. 44 | Friday, October 30, 2020

UT sets multiple enrollment records

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The University of Tennessee board of trustees has announced new enrollment records for the UT system.

Records set this fall:

• Overall enrollment across the system increased 1.9% to an all-time high of 52,559 students.

• More than 41,100 students enrolled as undergraduates.

• More than 8,800 first-year students enrolled.

• More than 11,300 students enrolled in graduate and professional schools.

In addition, a record of more than 8,600 degrees were conferred in 2020.

“I like records,” UT President Randy Boyd says. “And when it comes to enrollment, this year is full of new records.”

“Any time we can set a record, it’s great, but in these difficult times, it’s remarkable,” he says of the COVID-19 pandemic, while noting that enrollment declined 16% across the nation. “You are not defined by decisions you make when things are easy, but by when things are hard. I think we will look back at this as one of our finest hours.”

Chief Financial Officer David Miller reported on the financial impact of the pandemic for the period of March through September. Results of the pandemic have decreased revenue in certain operations, increased some costs and also decreased some expenses. UT campuses had an operating budget impact of $94 million in lost revenue and COVID-19-related expenses, excluding those related to UT Knoxville athletics and special events. However, through federal and state grants, reduced expenditures and decreases in budgeted savings, the net impact is $9 million.

UTMC recognized with tech certification

The University of Tennessee Medical Center has earned 2020 CHIME Digital Health Most Wired recognition from the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives.

UTMC is a certified level 8, an increase from level 7 last year. The CHIME program conducts an annual survey to assess how effectively health care organizations apply core and advanced technologies into their clinical and business programs to improve health and care in their communities.

Through the annual survey, CHIME aims to elevate the health and health care of communities around the world through the optimal use of information technology.

The survey identifies and recognizes health care organizations that exemplify best practices through their adoption, implementation and use of information technology.

“Technology continues to be one of the main drivers transforming health care as we know it today,” says Michael Saad, senior vice president and chief information officer at UTMC. “This is an exciting time to be in health care and leverage technology to provide better patient outcomes and experiences. At no time has technology in health care been more in the spotlight than now, as we all face the COVID-19 pandemic together.’’

A total of 30,091 organizations were represented in the 2020 Digital Health Most Wired program, which this year included four separate surveys: domestic, ambulatory, long-term care and international. The surveys assessed the adoption, integration and impact of technologies in health care organizations at all stages of development, from early development to industry leading.

Knoxville Fresenius plant to increase production

Fresenius Medical Care North America’s Renal Therapies Group has announced that DELFLEX peritoneal dialysis solutions in Biofine, an innovative bag material, has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration and will be made and distributed from Knoxville.

The milestone marks another step in the company’s commitment to grow home dialysis through new and improved products.

“We are pleased to ramp up the production and distribution of Biofine in our plant and new distribution center in Knoxville,” says Kent Wanzek, CEO of Global Manufacturing, Quality & Supply at Fresenius Medical Care. “This extends and further leverages our global production and distribution footprint, providing a reliable supply of solutions to home patients worldwide.”

The new Biofine peritoneal solutions bag is expected to be first available to a limited number of patients in the U.S. this fall.

UTSI earns $500K hypersonics DOE grant

The UT Space Institute has been selected by the Department of Defense for a $500,000, 12-month award to help increase the speed at which hypersonic-related technology is developed and implemented.

UTSI was one of only eight institutions so honored.

“Hypersonics is a top modernization priority for DoD,” says Mark Lewis, acting deputy undersecretary of defense for research and engineering, in announcing the selections. “We are mobilizing government, industry, and academia to provide real capabilities to our warfighters. That begins at the basic research level as exemplified by these exciting university activities.”

UTSI’s hypersonics efforts are largely led by H.H. Arnold chair John Schmisseur, whose work in the U.S. Air Force spanned 23 years, including his initial look at theoretical hypersonic flows in 1992.

This latest funding is the continuation of a string of successes that Schmisseur has had since joining UTSI six years ago, including two different U.S. Air Force projects related to airflow generated by and materials used in hypersonic flight; and the development of the Tennessee Aerothermodynamics Laboratory, which has one of the largest wind tunnels in use in academia.

Each of the eight universities selected will work on a different area related to hypersonic flight, with UTSI’s role being the development of a core curricula to help train a hypersonics-focused workforce, both for current professionals as well as future students.

Report: Rural rentals good investments

Sevierville, Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge and Whitwell have been named among AIRDNA’s Best Places to Invest in U.S. Vacation Rentals in 2020 report.

Rural towns across the country with modest home values are seeing huge demands in bookings. Vacation rentals are being used in record breaking numbers compared to hotels since the pandemic began and are proving to be a great revenue source for cities and short-term rental owners.

Avalara, the only tax collection and remittance software used by Airbnb, VRBO, HomeAway, published a comprehensive guide for vacation rental owners detailing how to succeed in this post-COVID paradigm. With popularity in these East Tennessee areas, the e-book helps owners provide better service and stay competitive.

Barge Design earns workplace honor

Barge Design Solutions is a Great Place to Work for the fourth time.

Over each of five years participating in this process, Barge has seen an increase in the percentage of employees who agree the firm is a great place to work. According to this year’s anonymous survey, 94% of employees affirm this to be the case. Ninety-two percent of Barge’s 400+ employees participated in the survey this year.

“We are pleased to see that our employees are still having a positive experience at Barge amid the challenges 2020 has placed on us personally and professionally,” says Michele Herlein, Chief Human Resources Officer. “We have been successful in continuing to attract and retain great talent, and our voluntary turnover rate is among the lowest in our company’s history.”

Barge Design Solutions, Inc., is an engineering and architecture firm with diverse in-house multidisciplinary practice areas.

The employee-owned company is 400+ people strong and serves clients nationwide from multiple U.S. locations, including one office in Knoxville.

Turkey Creek Medical Center recognized

Tennova Healthcare’s Turkey Creek Medical Center has received the American College of Cardiology’s NCDR Chest Pain - MI Registry Silver Performance Achievement Award.

Turkey Creek Medical Center is one of only 124 hospitals nationwide to receive the honor. It is the second year the hospital has been honored.

To receive the Silver Performance Achievement Award, hospitals must demonstrate sustained achievement in the Chest Pain - MI Registry for four consecutive quarters during 2019 and perform with distinction for specific performance measures. Full participation in the registry engages hospitals in a robust quality improvement process, using data to drive improvements in adherence to guideline recommendations and overall quality of care provided to heart attack patients.

Register now for Ijams community cleanup

The Ijams Nature Center’s annual communitywide event focusing on removing trash and tires from 32 sites along the Tennessee River and its creek tributaries will be held Saturday, Nov. 21.

Volunteer registration for the event is now open.

The 31st annual cleanup, it will be held from 10 a.m.-1 p.m. It was originally scheduled for March 28 and postponed by the COVID-19 virus.

“Because the cleanup is outside and volunteers can distance themselves from each other or work with family members and friends in their own ‘bubble,’ it’s something we can do safely to bring the community together and make a difference,’’ says Amber Parker, Ijams executive director.

Volunteers can register using an online, interactive site map accessible from the Ijams River Rescue page on Ijams’ website at

Slots are filled on a first-come, first served basis and typically book quickly. The deadline to register is Nov. 14 or until all slots have been filled.

U.S. Cellular donates iPads to youth group

Boys & Girls Clubs of the Tennessee Valley have received a significant gift from U.S. Cellular.

The company has donated eight iPads to the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Tennessee Valley for local community sites and has funded a new “maker space” for the Walter P. Taylor Club to help staff support their members.

The maker space will allow elementary and middle school-aged students to enjoy science, technology, engineering and mathematics education and activities, including coding games, small robotics kits, building physics, circuits and more.

The iPads will help the clubs offer a mix of in-person and virtual programming during the school year and make it easier to communicate with children, teachers and parents.

The $8,000 donation is part of more than $100,000 in technology items that U.S. Cellular donated to 13 clubs across the country.

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