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Let's be frank, Frank..

I've posted an entry on the Periodic Table responding to a Daily opinion piece by Frank Cerra, our VP for the AHC:

A Straw Man Argument and Vague Complaints..

Professor Gary Schwitzer of our J-school skewered Frank in his own response on the Daily.

[Gary has the chops, click his bio link. We are fortunate to have him at the U.]

Professor Schwitzer has posted some further thoughts about this situation on his U-think blog. Some of them are below. I suggest that Frank think about them and possibly even make some sort of apology. But then again, surgeons don't make mistakes, do they Frank?

Mishandling of med school conflict of interest process

I bit my lip for more than six months, but after about 10 calls from reporters in the past two months, I decided to say everything I had to say in a guest column in the Minnesota Daily , which has taken heat from University of Minnesota medical school administration for its reporting on the school’s conflict of interest recommendations process.

I feel for those young journalists who have been trying to do a good job reporting on this bungled affair, but who have been stonewalled by many medical school faculty. It’s easy to take shots at young journalists; it’s harder to reach out and help them learn and improve. Across the University campus in the past eight years I’ve been appalled by the way student journalists have been treated by faculty, staff and administration.

In this case, I think the med school has an awful lot of introspection to do before it starts pointing fingers.

The University's senior vice president for Health Sciences, Frank Cerra, raised a false dichotomy in his guest column in the Daily this week, writing:

“I want to state clearly that this University, our Medical School and all health sciences schools must have industry relationships. … to suggest we sever all ties with industry is a mistake with enormous consequences for the nation’s health.”

I never heard anyone suggest that all ties with industry be severed.

But the following comments are more troubling.

“Finally, I expected more fairness, more facts and less innuendo from the Daily than the coverage during the past several weeks. It’s unfortunate that this important effort continues to be misrepresented by a few who seem to want to influence the outcome outside of the process. The faculty of the Medical School have brought forth their thinking. This is their voice…”

How does he know the effort was misrepresented? He never attended one of the task force meetings. Whom does he refer to as the “few who seem to want to influence the outcome outside of the process”? That’s a pretty vague broad-brushed attack against anyone who comments.

But his emphasis on the faculty’s thinking and the faculty’s voice is most troubling of all.

That shows the lack of a grasp for the importance of public input on the school’s conflict of interest policy – the very point of my guest column.

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