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AHC Reorganization - OurLeader Still Doesn't Get It

From the Daily:

AHC reacts to position change

BY Emma Carew
PUBLISHED: 02/01/2009

University of Minnesota Medical School Dean Dr. Deborah Powell is out. Senior Vice President of Health Sciences Dr. Frank Cerra is in – at least for now.

The only question now is why.

University of Minnesota President Bob Bruininks announced Wednesday that the positions of senior vice president for health sciences and dean of the medical school would be combined, effective July 1, pending approval by the Board of Regents in May.

University spokesman Dan Wolter said the decision comes as the first step in the bigger picture of cost-saving moves for the Academic Health Center.

Powell and the Medical School have recently come under fire for missteps relating to a committee Powell created last year to address major flaws in the Medical School’s conflict of interest policies.

Cerra, the current senior vice president for health sciences, will serve in the interim position as the University works toward identifying a new candidate for the position in 2011 .

Powell’s future in the AHC is less clear. A memo from Bruininks to the Regents, acquired by the Minnesota Daily, states Cerra and Powell are “in discussions concerning a future administrative role for Dean Powell in the area of medical education.?

A statement from Bruininks issued Friday evening reiterates that the decision was based on the potential for cost savings, and was unrelated to the conflicts of interest committee.

Wolter said the salary information has not been determined for the new position.

The Minnesota Daily previously reported Cerra and Powell as commanding base salaries of $439,570 and $242,149, respectively .

The bigger picture goal of the restructuring between the two offices is to save $5-$10 million annually, Wolter said, but he acknowledged this move alone will not create that level of savings.

At this point, it’s unclear how those savings will manifest.

Dr. Jon Hallberg, assistant professor of family medicine in the Medical School, said he believes Cerra will implement a number of associate deans in order to balance the priorities of the Medical School with those of the AHC overall.

“I liken it to being a football coach,? he said. “You have a line coordinator, a defensive coordinator… I think Frank will need and will put into place some confident, strong [associate deans] to take care of the day-to-day operations.?

Still, Bruininks has been unwavering in his stance that his decision is unrelated to recent Medical School controversies.

“I’ve been disappointed by some of the media coverage of this administrative restructuring, and need to set the record straight. As University officials told reporters yesterday, this decision had nothing to do with Dean Powell’s service on the PepsicoAmericas Board of Directors, or, indeed, any conflict of interests concerns,? Bruininks said in the Friday statement. “Dean Powell has never acted contrary to the University’s conflict o f interest policies and principles.?

But a simple Google News search of Powell’s name and title tells an entirely different story.

Recent articles tell not of award and accolades bestowed upon the school, but of accusations of severe conflicts of interest and policy failures.

Late last year for instance, the Star Tribune reported that Dr. Leo Furcht , whom Powell named to chair the conflicts of interest committee, was disciplined for severe conflicts of interest violations.

In a report obtained by the Daily, the disciplinary committee states: “Dr. Furcht, at a minimum should not be allowed to perform the conflict of interest responsibilities of a department head.?

Gary Schwitzer, an associate professor of journalism who sits on Powell’s conflict of interest committee, posted his reaction to Bruininks’ announcement on his blog, Health News Blog.

Schwitzer details being approached by a reporter who asked whether he thought the decision was made in response to the recently reported controversies relating to the committee.

“How would I know?? Schwitzer writes. “The thought crossed my mind when I heard the news, but U hierarchy hasn't shared any such info in my in-box recently.?

Other Med School faculty, including some who sit on the conflicts of interest committee, as well as the American Medical Student Association, declined to comment or go on record for this story, saying the topic is too politicized.

Whether Dean Powell violated the conflict of interest policy is not the point. Many people have expressed disappointment that Dr. Powell would take (in 2007) $130 K for being on the board of directors of a company that sells products that rot children's teeth. And be aware that she is NOT on the board as a health care consultant but as someone who had a fiduciary responsibility to help the company make money.

Recall your statement: "I think we need to put ourselves in the position of acting according to the highest ethical principles. I believe our people do that now and I believe our people will be doing that in the future as well." President Bruininks (Daily: 6-18-08)

If you don't understand why people might be upset about this, President Bruininks, then your moral compass, too, is demagnetized.

Dr. Bruiniks, do you believe that Dr. Powell should have appointed Dr. Furcht to the conflict of interest study panel?

I note that you have been careful, thus far, to not directly comment on this matter. If you are going to reorganize things in the AHC then I think you owe us an answer to this question.

Dr. Halberg - how is hiring yet more associate deans for Coach Cerra going to save us money? We have a new associate dean who is being paid $266 K, according to the Daily, for what used to be a halftime job and it is now full time. And, purportedly, this move is to save money? This makes no sense.

It is a terrible idea to have one person be both the Medical School Dean and the AHC Provost/VP.

Do you really think that one person can do both jobs?
This is disrespectful of the abilities of both the dean and the provost. To imply that the provost can take care of the medical school in his or her spare time is also disrespectful of the medical school students, staff, and faculty.

We'll see how the recruiting goes for this new position.

This mistaken action sets up a very bad parallelism between the Dean of the Medical School and other deans in the AHC. It is hard enough for these other deans to compete for resources with the med school dean, but if the med school dean is the provost - the other dean's boss - then it is going to be even worse. I think that one might even describe this as a conflict of interest...

President Bruininks, either you have done this re-organization to remove Dean Powell from her deanship - in which case you should have the courage to admit it - or you have done a very amateurish and mistaken job of re-organization.

These developments are very disappointing to those of us in the medical school who have to deal with the consequences of your misinformed actions.

Bill Gleason

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