Masks, flu shots, and voting …

Important Stuff Joe Knows - What's going on at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Tyler

Many of the important things we do in life, and in our work, serve more than one purpose. We wear masks not only because they reduce the spread of coronavirus, but also because they’re a visual reminder to the public that COVID-19 is still a very real threat. The same is true for flu shots. Not only does your vaccination help protect you from influenza, but that sticker on your badge also reminds others of the flu vaccine’s importance. Voting is no different. When we vote, we’re expressing our preferences about candidates and issues. But those “I voted!” stickers remind our neighbors to vote, too. You have until November 15 to get your flu shot or submit an exemption request (see below). But today is the last day to vote in this year’s election. If you haven’t already done so, please vote today.

Announcements …

Flu vaccines (or exemption requests) required by November 15

This is another reminder that all employees of The University of Texas Health Science Center at Tyler (UTHSCT) are required to get the vaccine, or submit an exemption request, by November 15. Supervisors should have already contacted Occupational Health at 903-877-7930 to schedule a date and time for their staff to come to your department (or, for clinical departments, to pick up vaccinations for your employees). Your supervisor should have told you when vaccinations will be given in your department. If you decide to get your flu vaccination elsewhere, submit documentation of that to Requests for exemptions can be found here.

Proper timekeeping while working hybrid schedules

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced many UTHSCT employees to adopt hybrid schedules, working some days from home and some days on campus. It’s important as we adapt to these changes to follow proper procedures for clocking your time. When you’re scheduled to work on campus, you should clock in when you arrive at your workstation and clock out before you leave campus. Similarly, when you’re scheduled to work remotely, you should clock in and out at that location. Commuting to and from UTHSCT on days you’re scheduled to be on campus should not be counted as part of the workday. If you’ve mistakenly recorded your scheduled commuting time incorrectly as work time, please submit a Time & Attendance form in Kronos to correct the error. If you have any questions, please contact your supervisor or Human Resources.

Reported scam telephone calls regarding over-the-counter medication coverage

The UT System Office of Employee Benefits has learned that some Blue Cross Blue Shield (BCBS) members in Texas have received calls from individuals claiming to represent a group plan pharmacy contracted to handle their over-the-counter (OTC) medication needs. If you receive a call like this, please do not give out your information. BCBS does not cover OTC medications and does not contract with any prescription company other than Express Scripts. BCBS is monitoring the situation and reporting these calls to their fraud, waste and abuse team.

November is Lung Cancer Awareness Month

Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer-related deaths worldwide. More lives are lost to lung cancer than to breast, prostate and colon cancers combined. Tobacco use is the number one risk factor for lung cancer and is linked to 80-90% of lung cancer deaths. Join the fun (in person and on social media) during the month of November to support and recognize the importance of lung cancer awareness and smoking cessation with educational opportunities, activities and prizes! Make sure to follow UTHSCT on social media and to share our posts. Please use the hashtag #EliminateTobaccoUseETX. Weekly events and prize winners will be announced in Important Stuff Joe Knows. If you have questions, please contact Misty Lewis at extension 7369 or Sarah Tison Malone at extension 1430.

Nicotine/tobacco cessation training

A new continuing medical education (CME) offering has been uploaded to Performance Manger for completion by December 15. This CME is offered in partnership with The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston through the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT) initiative to help east Texas. Our region has the highest number of tobacco users in the state. The CME is filled with important information and resources to help others quit smoking. If you’re a medical provider, it discusses best practices to offer support for your patients. But, even if you’re not a medical provider, you probably know someone you would like to help quit smoking or using nicotine products. This learning opportunity will help you do your part to reduce addiction to tobacco and nicotine products, which leads to many poor health outcomes in our region. Helping even one person quit is worth it! Please contact MD Anderson at 713-794-3175 with questions or concerns regarding the CME Training website.

Halloween contest winners

Winners of the third annual pumpkin decorating contest were:

    • Most Creative and Best in Class: Pumpkin Infusion Fox
    • Funniest: HOPE Oncology MA Grannie
    • Infection Prevention: UHC Granny

Winner of the UT Health North Campus Tyler costume contest was:

    • 2 East COVID Busters

Please call Kara Mink at extension 7851 to claim your prizes!

Library reopening

The Watson W. Wise Medical Research Library has reopened as of November 2. Masks and social distancing are required at all times while in the library. For remote access to library resources such as e-journals, e-books and databases, log on to the UTHSCT network using VMware. The library is open during regular operating hours of 8:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m., Monday through Friday.

UTHSCT officer featured as UT System’s “Officer of the Month”

Officer Roger Henry with the UTHSCT Police Department has been featured by UT System Police as their November “Officer of the Month.” Officer Henry joined the department in November in 2014. He retired after 28 years of service with the Smith County Sheriff’s Office. Henry is a Master Peace Officer, Crisis Intervention Team Officer, a certified hostage negotiator, a 1989 graduate of the North Texas Police Academy and a 1986 graduate of the East Texas Police Academy in Kilgore. Read more about Officer Henry’s career and contributions to East Texas and the UTHSCT family here:

Walk with a Doc latest video

Watch Michele Bosworth, MD, FAAFP, LSSGB, as she discusses “Making Informed Decisions as a Patient” in the current virtual edition of UTHSCT’s Walk with a Doc. As the video series continues, you’re encouraged to visit the Camp Fannin Walking Trail, while maintaining social distancing guidelines. This Walk with a Doc video presentation is posted on our website at: and on all of our social media channels.

Obtaining materials with the UTHSCT logo

Important reminder: If you need printed or digital materials to help promote an event or to communicate departmental information and/or specific messages to students, the UTHSCT campus, the community, etc., your first step should be to contact the UTHSCT Public Affairs Department. As emphasized in the new UTHSCT Brand Standards Graphic and Editorial Guidelines, you should never create your own materials “from scratch.” Instead, either use one of the preapproved templates located on the Logo Resources Portal ( or submit a “Custom Design Request” through the portal so Public Affairs can help you get what you need. If you have questions about this process, please email:

Diabetes prevention program: ‘Prevent T2’ – orientation TODAY November 3

The National Diabetes Prevention Program is approved by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and taught by a CDC-certified lifestyle change coach. Prevent T2 is a yearlong workshop series proven to help people with prediabetes prevent or delay development of Type 2 diabetes by 58%. Participants will learn to make healthier lifestyle choices that include nutrition, physical activity, stress management and more. Prevent T2 workshops are open to the public and require a one-year commitment meeting weekly for the first six months, then once or twice a month for the second six months, in order to maintain healthy lifestyle changes. The workshops will be held in person in room H104, and virtually using Microsoft Teams on Tuesdays from 6:00 until 7:00 p.m., starting with an orientation on November 3. Attendees are invited to preregister by calling 903-877-1479 or emailing For more information about other programs we offer, visit To find out if you are at an increased risk for having prediabetes and are at high risk for Type 2 diabetes, take the National Diabetes Prevention Program’s prediabetes risk test:

November is Diabetes Awareness Month, webinar – November 4

UT Select members can learn about how Livongo, a UT System wellness vendor, can help manage their diabetes during a webinar on November 4 at noon. See if Livongo can help you or a covered family member find easy ways to fit health into your life. Register for the webinar by clicking this link:

UT Select participant benefit webinar – November 4

UT Select participants have access to Omada, a program that helps reduce healthcare costs by providing opportunities to improve your health through an evidence-based, digital care program that provides ongoing and personalized support. Register now to learn more during the Omada Diabetes Awareness Month virtual webinar on November 4 at 12:30 p.m. by clicking this link:

Reminders …

 The Riter Center coffee kiosk is open

The coffee kiosk in the Riter Center is open again just in time for fall. Breakfast pastries are available along with a selection of Starbucks coffee and smoothies. If you’re a pumpkin spice lover, it’s on the way. The coffee kiosk is open Monday through Friday from 7:30 a.m. until 3:30 p.m.

Virtual appointments with UT retirement vendors

UT retirement vendors are not currently allowed to come on campus for face-to-face meetings with employees. But they are available for virtual appointments. Check availability and schedule appointments using the links for each vendor company below.

COVID-19 Reminders … 

Updates and changes to our policies and practices as a result of COVID-19 are posted here:

The latest public health information on COVID-19 is available here:

Travel and COVID-19

Please remember that – despite the phased re-opening by the State of Texas – we are still in a critical phase of the COVID-19 pandemic. Physical distancing continues to be recommended to decrease spread of this illness. Following these safe practices from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is strongly advised

    • Business travel on behalf of UTHSCT continues to be suspended except under extraordinary circumstances.
    • Additionally, personal travel outside our region (defined as more than 125-150 miles) continues to be discouraged. Travel by common carrier (public airlines, buses, trains, etc.) is especially problematic. If you must travel for personal reasons, use of a personal vehicle is preferred due to the inability to practice social distancing on common carriers.
    • You must fill out a Return-to-Work Screening Questionnaire by no later than 3:00 p.m. the day before your intended return to work: If your return to work is on Sunday or Monday, it must be completed by no later than 3:00 p.m. the Friday before. Occupational Health will make determinations on M-F between 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. If you develop symptoms over the weekend, please stay home and contact Occupational Health on Monday.
    • Occupational Health cannot make return-to-work decisions before you travel. If you choose to travel, you may be subject to quarantine upon your return.

Submit your announcements …

Announcements for the Important Stuff Joe Knows newsletter must be submitted by 5:00 p.m. on the Friday before the item is to appear in the following Tuesday’s newsletter. Submit announcements here: Publication of The Friday Forecast event calendar is suspended during the COVID-19 public health emergency. Early submissions are always welcome!

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Important Stuff Joe Knows is a weekly newsletter published by Joseph Woelkers, EVP & COO of The UT Health Science Center at Tyler, stuffjoeknows@nulluthct.eduEmails to this address will not receive a personal response.