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July 31, 2010

New Post Up at Star-Tribune Community Voices

Innovation, Job Creation, and the Difference Between Academic and Industrial Research, An Introduction

(Pretty pompus title, I'll agree...)

Executive Summary: The next five years are going to make or break the state of Minnesota that we know and love and a large part of the problem is to get the public to recognize our problems and do something about them. Tom Rukavina and most sensible politicians from the three major parties recognize that our focus has to be on jobs and education. As an introduction to these matters, I'd like to make some generalizations about research and its relation to job creation. This is not meant to be patronizing, and I'd certainly be happy for someone to call me on anything I say that they believe to be debatable or in error. That's the purpose of this community forum - as I understand it.

July 29, 2010

One of the Morrill Hall Gang Speaks Up on Inside Higher Education


One of the Morrill Hall Gang squeaks up:

# Posted by Andy Howe, Director of Student Support Initiatives at University of Minnesota on July 29, 2010 at 9:15am EDT #

As I read through the posts, there are many generalizations, misplaced logic, blaming without owning some of the responsibility, and ignorance on the realities facing the marketplace of ideas.

[Would you care to be a bit more specific, Dr. Howe. These sound like unsupported generalizations to me...]

What would we as educators say to students who turned in online posts, journal entries, or papers like some of the posts above? There are also some unchecked arrogance and privilege embedded in some of the statements.

[Again, would you like to give some specific examples? Or is this too hard?]

I agree with many of the points made above and in Eva von Dassow's speech. The defensive tone and rhetoric, however, overwhelm the credibility of these statements in my opinion.

[So you don't like what is being said because of the tone and rhetoric? People are pissed, Doctor Howe, and they have a right to be - in my opinion]

Faculty at public research institutions usually have tremendous power to create profound change on campuses. With this power comes responsibility to use it wisely. Let's be more collaborative than divisive.

My response to Dr. Howe on the IHE website:

People who live in glass houses...

Posted by Bill Gleason at University of Minnesota on July 29, 2010 at 3:45pm EDT

Dr. Howe,

I note that you work in the office of the University of Minnesota Provost.

You call for us to be more collaborative and less divisive?

Where was that spirit of cooperation when the Provost attempted to rub out the Graduate School?

Interested readers should see the statement of the University of Minnesota Faculty Senate in response to our Provost's actions:

From the Senate Resolution of 30 April 2009:

WHEREAS: The Provost's plan to abolish the Graduate School, as publicly announced by the Provost in his e-mail of Feb. 9, 2009 to the University faculty, was adopted without any prior consultation or involvement of the University Senate, or any part or committee thereof, in violation of University policy;

WHEREAS: The "Implementation Committee" (eventually renamed the "Committee on Graduate Education") appointed by and reporting to the Provost is not a "campus assembly (or analogous body)" and was constituted and charged only after the plan to abolish the Graduate School had already been made and publicly announced;

WHEREAS: The formal charge to the "Implementation Committee" (now "Committee on Graduate Education") did not encompass review of the merits of the underlying plan to abolish the Graduate School, having instead been limited to consideration of how the Provost's plan to abolish the Graduate School was to be implemented;

BE IT RESOLVED: That the University Senate of the University of Minnesota disapproves the Provost's plan to dissolve the Graduate School as announced in the Feb. 9. 2009 memorandum;

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED: That the University Senate demands that any proposal to dissolve or otherwise to restructure the Graduate School comply with the University of Minnesota Policy on Reorganization.

Perhaps you might have a discussion with your boss about a more collaborative and less divisive approach?

An earlier and even more self-serving comment by the same Dr. Howe (same source):

A call for collaborative action Posted by And Howe, Director of Student Support Initiatives at University of Minnesota on July 28, 2010 at 1:45pm EDT

I am continually perplexed about the discussion of increases in administrative positions at the University of Minnesota (and other higher education institutions). Less than five years ago, for example, the University of Minnesota changed its budget structure to "encourage" colleges and units to rely more heavily on central administrative services. The reliance of the services has grown. Shouldn't then support (e.g., human, financial, etc.) be increased to ensure that the services are meeting the needs of the campus? If the support is not sufficient, then complaints will increase that the quality of the services are substandard. Wouldn't we expect central administration to grow on our campus and other campuses with similar budget models?

One can argue the flaws of the budget model; how central, colleges, departments, and units spend the limited resources; and the quality of our services across our institution and others. The fact remains, however, that discourse without action produces little results on resolving the issues. During the 2010 State of the University Address, President Bruininks stated that "Reductions, reinvestments, reform, and redesign must occur not only centrally, but also within local units, colleges, and campuses. Our priorities must arise organically, as faculty, staff, and administrators work together with a clear view of the challenges the University will face in coming years" (p. 6). For these decisions to raise organically, collaboration, partnerships, and compromise (i.e., discourse plus action) have to be core to campus culture. I fear, however, blaming one group over another works against us than for us. We run the risk of becoming paralyzed in our action. Ultimately, no action or action made out of spite negatively impacts the learning and development of students across our institutions of higher education.

My hope is that this public elevation to the issues in the video and the informed posts to the article will be a call for collaborative action to put our discourse to work for the common and greater good as well as our colleagues, students, and individual selves.

Andy Howe, Ph.D.

Director of Student Support Initiatives
Office of the Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost
University of Minnesota, Twin Cities

Cough, cough. Dr. Howe, you just don't get it.

How many vice presidents do we have?

And how many more coordinators do we need in the provost's office at ca $70k per annum?

In case you are not aware at the U there are real educators - as you style yourself - being paid a lot less than $70K/annum. Do a little research on the salaries of government and university employees.

For shame.

Latest message from President Bruininks about vp/dean...

I've earlier posted on this situation. For background, please see: "Faculty governance at the University of Minnesota is an oxymoron."

July 29, 2010

Dear Colleagues:

Earlier this month, I wrote to update you on transition plans related to Dr. Frank Cerra's retirement from the University of Minnesota as senior vice president for health sciences and dean of the Medical School, effective December 31, 2010.

As I mentioned in my earlier correspondence, I have convened an outstanding group of advisors to assist me in planning for this transition and in identifying the best possible candidate to fill this leadership position. The advisory group includes:

* Macaran A. Baird, professor and chair, Department of Family Medicine/Community Health
* Bruce R. Blazar, assistant vice president for Clinical and Translational Science, director of the University's Clinical and Translational Science Institute, and Regents Professor of Pediatrics
* Bobbi S. Daniels, chief executive officer, University of Minnesota Physicians
* Gary L. Davis, regional campus dean, School of Medicine, University of Minnesota Duluth
* Connie W. Delaney, dean and professor, School of Nursing
* Timothy J. Ebner, professor and head, Department of Neuroscience
* John H. Kersey, professor, Departments of Pediatrics and Laboratory Medicine/Pathology, and founding director of the University of Minnesota Cancer Center
* Elizabeth A. Malkerson, president and chief executive officer, Minnesota Medical Foundation
* Wesley J. Miller, professor and chair, Department of Medicine
* R. Timothy Mulcahy, vice president for research
* Nancy C. Raymond, professor, Departments of Psychiatry and Family Medicine/Community Health
* Marilyn K. Speedie, dean and professor, School of Pharmacy

Based on the extensive consultation process I conducted this year in preparation for this transition, as well as feedback I received from the advisory group earlier this month, I am pleased to issue this call for nominations of individuals to consider for the position of vice president for health sciences and dean of the Medical School for an 18-24 month interim period until such time as a national search for a permanent vice president and dean may be completed (the position description is available online). Please send your nominations to me through Kate Stuckert in my office at stuck005@umn.edu by August 13, 2010.

You will notice that the responsibilities for this leadership position have been reshaped to reflect consistent themes I heard during the consultative process--that the strength and vitality of the Medical School is of paramount importance, that a strong dean focused on the future of the Medical School is critical, and that a strong Medical School is essential to the continued vitality and growth of the other health sciences colleges and schools. The primary responsibilities of the vice president and dean will be as dean of the Medical School and overseeing the strategic issues and challenges that will help ensure its ongoing progress and continued success. The vice president and dean will also be responsible for advancing interdisciplinary and inter-professional work among the health sciences colleges and schools and other disciplines; for fostering relationships such as those with University of Minnesota Physicians, Fairview Health Services, and other external relationships in the healthcare community; and for advancing health care policies and clinical practices for the University, the state, and surrounding region to address the state's health care workforce issues. The vice president and dean will also be a member of the president's academic executive leadership team to advance systemwide strategic priorities of the University.

For this interim period, I will appoint a strong, assertive leader to advocate for, and advance, the excellence of the Medical School and the broader health sciences. There is a tremendous amount of important work to be done, and this is no time for the University to sit idle. The start date for this appointment is January 1, 2011, but I expect to announce a final candidate in the month of September so that the nominee can work with Senior Vice President Cerra during the remaining months of this calendar year to ensure a smooth transfer of responsibilities.

This fall, I will also be setting the stage for appointing a team of academic and administrative leaders to conduct a comprehensive review of the organizational infrastructure of the Academic Health Center (AHC), including its academic centers and programs, to begin in January 2011. Until then, management responsibility and authority for the AHC as currently structured will remain with Senior Vice President Cerra through the end of this calendar year.

Thank you for your continued engagement and support during this critically important year for the Medical School, the lasting strength and vitality of the other academic health colleges and schools, and the University of Minnesota system. I look forward to working with you over the coming months and will continue to provide updates and more information on the transition as we move forward.


Robert H. Bruininks

Robert H. Bruininks

This message was sent by the President of the University of Minnesota to Academic Health Center faculty and staff and members of the Administrative Email Lists (AEL)

It should be noted that this course of action is in direct contradiction to the wishes of the overwhelming majority of medical school faculty. Thank you Mr. President for once again demonstrating your concept of shared governance...

July 28, 2010

Response from Minnesota Department of Labor & Industry Regarding Northrop Safety

to "wbgleason@gmail.com"
cc "Honerman, James (DLI)" ,
date Wed, Jul 28, 2010 at 9:23 AM
subject RE: Attention: Commissioner
Mr. Gleason,

From our review of the information you submitted, it appears that the building official has appropriately evaluated and addressed concerns expressed over the safety of Northrop Auditorium.

I am afraid that I have to disagree with you. How can it be that a University official - Mr. Rosenstone, claims that Northrop is a threat to public safety. He alleges that fireproofing is inadequate and the air quality is unsafe. Mr. Larson's assurances do not address these important safety issues.

If you continue to disagree with the building official's assessment, you will need to continue discussing the matter with him as he is the designated building official (authority having jurisdiction) for the University.

As noted in the email exchange, Mr. Larson has not responded to my last inquiry.

As confirmed in the correspondence from the Attorney General's Office, our office has no direct jurisdiction over the regulation of the facilities at the University of Minnesota.

I think you should read this letter from the Attorney General's office a little more carefully.

It states: "Second, the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry ("DLI") is the State agency with the authority to certify and regulate ALL building officials in Minnesota. DLI may suspend, limit, place conditions on, or revoke a building official's certificate if he or she violates any provisions of the Code or otherwise engages in fraud, deceit or misrepresentation."

Thus it appears, according to the Attorney General's office that your office does indeed have the power to revoke Mr. Larson's building official 's certificate.

Please respond as soon as possible.

Scott D. McLellan

Assistant Director
Construction Codes & Licensing Division
Minnesota Department of Labor & Industry

July 27, 2010

We make Inside Higher Education AND University Diaries in one day...

From English professor, Margaret Soltan, at George Washington University:

Inside Higher Education interviews Eva von Dassow about her recent powerful statement to the University of Minnesota's clueless, condescending regents.

Von Dassow is part of a new organization at the university - Faculty for the Renewal of Public Education. These people have figured out the contents of the strategic initiative.

1. Put the kiddies online.
2. Invest most of our money in sports.
3. Support only vocational, money-making programs.

July 24, 2010

Is Northrop Safe? Part II

Letter sent today to Office of General Counsel at the suggestion of the Minnesota Attorney General's Office :

Office of the General Counsel
University of Minnesota
July 24, 2010

Dear Mr. Donohue,

I am contacting you at the suggestion of the Minnesota Attorney General's Office.

My concern has to do with safety issues in Northrop that I do not believe have been handled satisfactorily by Mr. Mervyn Larson, who is apparently the person at the University responsible for code violations and safety issues. He was identified by the Attorney General's office as the person to start with.

Since this approach has gone nowhere, I am continuing up the food chain as suggested.

Please read the attached materials and respond with a statement about what, if anything, the University plans to do about the situation.

I have not yet contacted OSHA but will do so if this complaint is not satisfactorily resolved. I expect a response to this message within five working days.

Thank you for your attention to this matter. It is potentially a matter of health and safety for Northrop patrons as well as U of M employees who have to work there. I suggest an independent inspection leading either to closing of Northrop or to a public report assuring that the building, as of now, has no significant safety issues that would warrant closing it.


William B. Gleason, University of Minnesota faculty and alumnus

July 23, 2010

Is Northrop Safe?

For a post on this matter, please see: Is Northrop Hall at the University of Minnesota Safe?

A down loadable pdf from the Minnesota Attorney General's office about this matter:


A down loadable pdf of a relevant email exchange is:


July 21, 2010

The latest from Dean Cerra on Health Informatics


Frank B. Cerra to ALL-AHC-ALL show details 11:55 AM (21 minutes ago) Dear Colleague,

Last month I introduced the framework for reshaping informatics within the AHC. Today, I'd like to provide further information and an update on the implementation process for this new approach. I've heard questions about this transition from a number of you, so wanted to offer further context for this decision.

First, I want to clarify that this change is based on the rapid reshaping of our changing health system, including the payment systems that support improving quality and reducing the cost of care; the development of new care models across the continuum of life; and the substantive increase in access to care. All of these changes are ultimately dependent on the right information being in the right place at the right time to make the right decision -- either for a population or an individual. This is the focus and purview of health information technology (HIT).

I've learned much from our faculty in informatics, those who use the tools of informatics, and the stakeholders in HIT development within and outside the University. It is apparent that the academic, research, and service needs of our faculty and professional students require an expanded scope of effort. Our previous approach was recognized as a weakness in our Clinical and Translational Science Award applications, which helped move us into an expanded platform that will support our future success in a health reform world. It's clear we need to continue our efforts in electronic health records, evidence-based practice, and access to patient data for patient care. We also need to develop data exchanges and databases that support such functions as clinical trials, clinical research, clinical outcomes research, clinical analytics, and areas of clinical management and population health.

As structured, the Institute for Health Informatics, with the efforts of lead faculty, Julie Jacko, Ph.D., was successful in building an effective base for this expanded scope of development. The recent awarding of the University Partnership for Health Informatics (UP-HI) is but one example of this success. On this base, it is now time to build an expanded AHC Biomedical Health Informatics program. I would like to extend my sincere thanks to Professor Jacko for her successes and for her continued involvement with the Institute.

The AHC Informatics program will support HIT development, the education of health professionals and information specialists, and implementation for transformative change in both increased quality and reduced cost of health. This will be accomplished through:

-- research to develop new HIT tools,
-- partnerships with industry, and
-- the development of applications in clinical practice.

This new approach was reviewed and approved by the President and senior University leadership. Clicking here will take you to the summary of this approach that appeared in the June 24, 2010 issue of News Capsules. The plan is now being implemented, and here is a summary:

1. The position of Director, Biomedical Health Informatics has been created as the lead for the development of AHC informatics. This position is also the Acting Director of the Institute for Health Informatics, the PI of the informatics portions of CTSI/CTSA, and will participate in the University Interdisciplinary Informatics Initiative.

2. At my request, Connie Delaney is currently filling the position of Director, Biomedical Health Informatics. She will also continue as Dean of the School of Nursing and, with the full support of the faculty and staff of the School, suitable arrangements have been put in place to support this role. The search for a senior biomedical health informaticist is underway.

3. The Institute for Health Informatics remains an institute in the AHC to serve all the health sciences schools and encompasses such programs as the graduate program in health informatics, faculty development, educational programs in informatics, and research programs. Stuart Speedie will be the Co-Director. There also is action in the development of an e-health research initiative. The Deans Advisory Group has been reconstituted, a Faculty Advisory Group will be formed, and an external review undertaken.

4. The recruiting of additional faculty leadership in biomedical informatics is well underway.

5. AHC Informatics and the "bio" component of informatics constitute the University's Interdisciplinary Informatics Initiative. The synergy within this initiative is a critical success factor for AHC Informatics.

The plan to develop a data exchange among AHC, UMP, and Fairview is in the final stages of development and will soon be launched. I will have more information on this initiative soon.

This AHC Informatics Initiative is critical for the success of our research, education, and clinical programs in the emerging world of health and health care. As always, I am open to your comments and suggestions; my e-mail remains secure: cerra001@umn.edu

Frank B. Cerra, M.D.
Senior Vice President for Health Sciences
Medical School Dean

This is really a little too much...

There is another little problem, the issue of double dipping that has so far been swept under the rug by both the U administration and the General Counsel's office. See, for example: Old Story, Still No Answers.

As of today, Professor Jacko is listed on the University website: "Dr. Jacko directs the Institute for Health Informatics, a research institute of the University of Minnesota's Academic Health Center."

When the original double-dipping matter blew up, Dr. Cerra appointed her as "lead faculty" rather than as Director, but that description seems to have since mutated:

I have asked Prof Julie Jacko to serve as lead faculty for the Institute for Health Informatcs (IHI).

I believe IHI needs to move forward and continue its development. Frank Cerra [21 July 2008]

"I think people will think what they want to think,"
Cerra said, in response to possible criticisms of appointing someone who is under investigation. [Daily: 30 July 2008]

Come clean on this? Tell the truth and shame the devil? We have to put this behind us and by that I do not mean continue to ignore it.

OK, Dean Cerra - What's the Excuse for Footdragging now?

From the Boston Globe:

Harvard Medical School will prohibit its 11,000 faculty from giving promotional talks for drug and medical device makers and accepting personal gifts, travel, or meals, under a new policy intended partly to guard against companies' use of Harvard's prestige to market their products.

The conflict-of-interest rules also place stricter limits on the income faculty can earn from companies for consulting, joining boards, and other work; require public reporting of payments of at least $5,000 on a medical school website; and promise more robust internal reporting and monitoring of these relationships.

The new rules, which will be phased in after Jan. 1, are designed to keep doctors from becoming -- or being perceived as -- marketing agents for industry, said Dr. Robert Mayer, cochairman of the committee that wrote the new policy. "We're anxious to be viewed publicly as doing what's in the best interest of our patients,'' he said. The school wants to "ensure credibility even more than we do today.''

Harvard officials met with Grassley's staff yesterday to describe the new rules.
"Greater disclosure is a foundation for more accountability,'' Grassley said in a statement afterward. Noting that his staff had found "significant discrepancies'' in faculty reporting of payments from drug companies, he said the Harvard policy "will be effective if it is followed by timely implementation and meaningful enforcement.''

Dr. Steven Nissen, head of cardiovascular medicine at Cleveland Clinic Foundation and an outspoken advocate of tougher restrictions on doctors' relationships with industry, said the Harvard policy is similar to rules some other top medical schools and teaching hospitals are adopting. But because Harvard "is a closely watched institution,'' he said, it "will influence others'' to revise their rules.

Harvard's policy is stricter than conflict-of-interest rules at other top medical schools in some respects. For example, Harvard faculty members cannot earn more than $10,000 annually from a company whose product or technology they are investigating in clinical research, half the previous income limit. Few other medical schools have placed hard and fast limits on faculty earnings from industry.

Harvard administrators would not comment on whether the new rules, had they been in place, would have prevented the public run-in with Grassley. He has accused Dr. Joseph Biederman, a well-known Mass. General child psychiatrist and a leading advocate of diagnosing and treating bipolar disorder in children, of failing to make timely disclosures to Harvard of more than $1.5 million that drug companies paid him in consulting and speaking fees.

Biederman has said in statements and letters to the Globe that he complied with conflict-of-interest and disclosure rules. Harvard's investigation into the matter is not completed, the school said. But Flier and Mayer said that there has been general confusion among faculty over what they must disclose, and this policy will help clarify what is expected. Faculty will have to complete online education courses on conflict-of-interest rules before filing their annual disclosure forms, and Harvard will conduct random internal audits.

"The devil is in the details and we had not specified the details,''
Mayer said.

Once again the weary negligence in the Medical School and the AHC on this matter should be obvious by looking at what is going on in the outside world...

For some background on the situation at the University of Minnesota, please see a post on the Periodic Table:

Sunday, August 16, 2009
Strib Editorial Calls for Leadership and Disclosure at the University of Minnesota

For a particularly telling picture of the foot dragging that has been going on, please see the post of nearly a year ago:

Thursday, July 30, 2009
"We're not violating a legal statute"

I was going to put a link up to the culturally insensitive song by Peggy Lee: Manana, but thought better of it. Ciao, Frank.

July 19, 2010

From the Heartland: Not Just the Pornographic Beaver of Bemidji


Offending beaver, third from left

There has lately been a kerfuffle in Bemidji over some fiberglass beavers, art, and censorship that has been the subject of hard hitting journalism over at NewScut: Bemidji Takes a Stand.

Today a heartfelt editorial in the Bemidji Pioneer appeared. Perhaps it is as worthy of as wide dissemination as the beaver piece?

From the BP:

Pioneer Editorial: Election Issues -- Higher ed faces tuition challenges

Public higher education is an important commodity in Bemidji, what with Bemidji State University and Northwest Technical College. The economic impact is huge to the community, let alone what institutions of higher learning bring to a small community like Bemidji in diversity, intellect and innovation.

Yet, the state has not been kind to higher education.
It has felt the pinch of the budget ax as have the state's other programs during the Great Recession. In the case of higher ed, it started even before the recession as the state has steadily decreased the percentage it pays versus student-paid tuition. Students today carry massive debt loads, forcing them to complete their degree in five, six or more years as they work to pay tuition.

Students at MnSCU community and technical institutions will pay an average of 4.4 percent more in tuition and fees for the 2010-11 school year and students at the state universities 4.8 percent more. It means the state's portion has dropped from covering 66 percent of the cost in 2002 to 43 percent this year. Likewise, U of M students will see an average 4.4 percent increase.

Financial aid is available, but not near enough
to guarantee access to higher ed to all who seek it.

BSU has struggled with multimillion-dollar budget cuts, and will see more in the future if adequate resurfaces aren't provided by the 2011 Legislature to close the gap between state appropriations and tuition. But with a possible $5.8 billion and more state budget deficit, policy makers will need to make tough decisions.

The delivery of higher ed is changing -- the use of Internet teaching is on the rise and will play an important role for people working and unable to attend day classes. Still, the infrastructure is needed, from science labs to music halls to business computer labs. Not all teaching can be done by the Net; face-to-face classroom time still relevant and necessary.

Also, during a recession, more people are seeking higher ed to improve their status for the next career they seek, and state resources must be there to support that effort. Higher tuition will only discourage people from doing so.

HIPAA Violations at University of Minnesota Hospital

The Star-Tribune has an article about this latest disgrace:

Dr. Mark Schleiss, a prominent University of Minnesota researcher, was not disciplined by the state Board of Medical Practice despite a dozen violations.

...a prominent University of Minnesota researcher, took matters into his own hands. He used his position at the university to peek into the medical records of his wife and two teenage daughters a dozen times in 2008 and 2009, university and other records show.

For a longer post on the Periodic Table, please see:


July 15, 2010

Mirror, mirror, on the wall, who's the fairest one of all?


"Mirror, mirror so perverse,
Who's #3 in the universe?"

[Note added later: a downloadable pdf containing information in this post is available: NSFfellowshipData.pdf ]

Trying to get a handle on where we are at the University of Minnesota is a tough job. Evaluating this is made even harder by less than transparent claims made by our administration - claims that they have to make rather than admit the failure of their boast of becoming one of the top three public research universities in the world [sic].

A recent example of these pitiful efforts was given by Provost Sullivan as described in this post: University of Minnesota Provost Declares Shanghai Rankings Best. As is pointed out in this link: "Some people follow the world school rankings published in Shanghai blindly. You'd be foolish to do so."

And these claims for Shanghai superiority, despite evidence to the contrary that he, himself, presented to the Board of Regents last Fall and despite the fact that the Shanghai ratings have been the subject of world-wide ridicule. Do you know that a dead Nobel Prize winner from eons ago still counts in your Shanghai ranking? Did you know that a, say, econ paper is worth more than a chemistry paper, because it is longer?

It is really indicative of how bad things are when the Provost has to resort to the Shanghai rankings to support his case that things are improving here. As Erwin Chargaff put it: "It is late in the day, when pygmies cast such long shadows."

But I did run across something today, that I think the Morrill Hall Gang and the Regents might find interesting. Every year the National Science Foundation gives out about two thousand fellowships. These awards go for such things as engineering, physics, biological sciences... There are even some awards for social sciences. It is considered a great honor to get an NSF fellowship and these grad students to be are the best and the brightest and highly sought after.

They are also in the position to pick what graduate school they want to attend, knowing that their stipend will be provided. Thus the source of these people - their undergrad institution - and their choices of graduate institution are quite revealing and probably a pretty decent indication of the current strengths of an institution in terms of both turning out good people and in being attractive as high quality research institutions.

So how did the University of Minnesota do? I'll let you judge. I'll let you decide whether these results validate the hubris about "one of the top three public research universities in the solar system."

(I think we should be comparing ourselves with the other Big~Ten institutions, but the powers that be have declared the ones below to be our aspirational peers, whatever that means...)

From NSF data:

Undergraduate Institution of Fellowship Recipients:

Berkeley (67)

Texas [35]
Michigan (31)
Florida (29)
Illinois (27)
Wisconsin (25)
University of Washington (25)
UCLA (23)

Minnesota (15)

Penn State (13)
Ohio State (12)

U of M Rank 9/11

Graduate Institutions Chosen by Fellows

Berkeley 192

Michigan 74
Washington 56

Wisconsin 37

Illinois 31
Texas 32

Florida 22

Minnesota 21

Ohio State 10
Penn State 7

U of M rank: 9/11

So Provost Sullivan and President Bruininks, which is more indicative of where we stand? The source and choices of two thousand of our best and brightest, or the Shanghai rankings?

(Maybe we could recruit a dead Nobel Prize winner...)

July 11, 2010

Why are we wasting money on a national U of M presidential search?

The best candidate is probably here, at least according to one star faculty member.

From the Strib:

"The likelihood is indeed high that the best person for the job already exists within the university."

"Current university officials are of the highest quality and are most familiar with the unique complexity of our university and the challenges we face."

For some thoughts on this, please see "The Fix is On."

July 8, 2010

Email from Dr. Cerra About President's Decision to Ignore Med School Faculty Input

(For background, please see: Faculty Governance is an Oxymoron)

"Frank B. Cerra"
to ALL-AHC-ALL@oris2.ahc.umn.edu
date Thu, Jul 8, 2010 at 4:15 PM
subject AHC Leadership Transition
mailed-by oris2.ahc.umn.edu

Dear colleagues,

I'm writing to follow up on the memo you received from President Bruininks where he articulates his decisions for the structure of health sciences during this upcoming period of leadership transition for this office and for the recruiting of a new president.

-- I will remain in my role of Senior Vice President for Health Sciences and Dean of the Medical School through the end of the year, reporting directly to President Bruininks.

-- This fall, a short term appointment will be made to assume the SVP/Dean role. I plan to mentor this individual until the end of December. When a new President has been hired and the transition period is over, the new president will make final decisions regarding the organizational structure of health sciences.

-- In January, the deans of the other five health sciences disciplines - dentistry, nursing, pharmacy, public health and veterinary medicine - will begin reporting to Provost Tom Sullivan. At the same time, the AHC Deans' Council will be expanded to include a few other of our colleagues including the deans of IT, CBS, and CFANS. This council will be led by the interim VP/Dean, will report to the President, and will have responsibilities in such areas as interdisciplinary and interprofessional activities.

-- Finally, the shared AHC centers and the AHC infrastructure services will continue to function and to report to the SVP/Dean. We look forward to enhancing our ongoing review process to further ensure there are no programmatic redundancies and that support is well coordinated. We've always seen constructive review processes as healthy for this institution, as our Deans' Council annually reviews AHC shared programs, such as the Masonic Cancer Center.

I want to clearly state that the President has widely consulted and considered multiple options, and that after listening he has reflected on what he's heard and has made his decision. I'm convinced that what President Bruininks is implementing is what he believes is in the best interest of successfully positioning the health sciences for the University during this transition in presidential leadership. The future after that is up to the new University leadership. There are many ways to structure health sciences within a university, and this new approach is one of them. Indeed, since its inception in 1970, the Academic Health Center has had several leadership structures. Like all structural changes, the test of time will determine its effectiveness.

There are a few core ideas I know will continue to sustain the strength of the health sciences and the functionality of the Academic Health Center at the University of Minnesota:

-- The Deans of the Academic Health Center schools are highly articulate, are in touch with the marketplace of their disciplines, and will advocate for what is critical to the health of Minnesota. I know they will continue to be articulate advocates for the strength of our well-developed and interdisciplinary collaborations. That is good for the University.

-- The Deans of the Academic Health Center are also committed to interdisciplinary, interprofessional education, research and clinical practice. Indeed, the ongoing health care reshaping will require this for its success.

-- Minnesotans have high expectations for the performance of the Academic Health Center schools and programs - and our faculty, staff, and deans remain committed to meeting and exceeding those expectations. That, too, is good for the University.

-- Our experienced and collaborative culture has positioned the University well for the Big Science, interdisciplinary, inter-institutional grants that we are successfully attracting.

-- This year's 1,000 AHC graduates entering the health market are encountering a health delivery environment that's characterized by profound change, intense complexity, and shifting opportunities. I know our faculty remains committed to preparing them - and this fall's entering cohort - for the "whitewater" of that shifting change. That is good for Minnesota.

Over the next six months, my work plan remains clear and is available to all of you - click here. Overall, I am committed to ensuring that the unique strengths of this University's health sciences enterprise are positioned to attract and retain nationally recognized leaders and faculty to guide its continued success and that of the health enterprise in the State of Minnesota. The success of our clinical enterprise remains key to our prominence and must remain a top priority. There also is a range of collaborative programs with Mayo, the bioscience business community, and with our affiliated hospitals and clinics that will require my attentive effort.

As we look to the future, it's important to learn from our past, and we'll do that by celebrating the 40 years of strength of the health sciences at this University. I'd like to urge all of you to join me for a hot dog lunch on Tuesday, July 13 - and to reflect on all we've learned during these sometimes tumultuous, always interesting four decades of preparing generations of health professionals to care for our communities while discovering and delivering on the promise of our research on behalf of the health of our state.

Frank B. Cerra, M.D.
Senior Vice President for Health Sciences
Dean of the Medical School

July 7, 2010

Faculty Governance at the University of Minnesota is an Oxymoron

Despite a near unanimous vote by faculty for a dedicated dean at the University of Minnesota Medical School, the administration says no. Here is the blanket email of Robert Bruininks.

This is also available as a downloadable pdf.


date Wed, Jul 7, 2010 at 4:30 PM subject Update on AHC Leadership Transition mailed-by ecommunication.umn.edu

July 7, 2010

Dear Colleagues:

On February 24, 2010, I wrote to announce that our colleague and long-time leader in the University community, Dr. Frank Cerra, had informed me that he planned to retire from his position as senior vice president and dean effective December 31, 2010. In that letter, I also described the broad and thorough consultative approach I planned to undertake as a necessary predicate to any search in this complex and important transition.

As I had hoped, that consultative process has been rich, rewarding, and insightful, and I want to extend my sincere thanks to the hundreds of individuals and numerous groups who have shared their thoughts. It elicited a substantial amount of useful information and ideas that will help guide both near- and long-term strategies for the leadership and organization of the academic health sciences in the context of the University's mission. With this letter, I want to share some of the broad themes we consistently heard through these consultations and provide you with my priorities for moving forward with this transition.

Those consistent themes were as follows:

* The strength and vitality of the University of Minnesota Medical School is the most pressing issue.

* A strong dean focused on the future of the Medical School is critical, and a strong Medical School is essential to the continued vitality and growth of the other health sciences colleges.

* There is high value in coordinating and facilitating interdisciplinary and inter-professional work among the health sciences colleges, and these opportunities should be fostered and broadened to include a number of other disciplines such as biology, engineering, bioengineering, psychology, and others.

* A review of the Academic Health Center (AHC) infrastructure should be undertaken to strengthen alignment with core University academic programs and to identify potential redundancies and opportunities to reduce administrative overhead.

With that context in mind, and considering Dr. Cerra's December 31, 2010, transition date, we will take the following steps to advance this process:

First, it is clear that leadership will be needed in the near term to ensure continuity and progress once Dr. Cerra steps down, and that leadership during this next period needs to be primarily focused on the Medical School and important relationships such as those with University of Minnesota Physicians and Fairview Health Services (Fairview). The position must therefore be appropriately tailored to focus predominantly on the strategic issues and challenges that will help ensure the ongoing progress and continued success of the Medical School. This includes the vital work underway to strengthen the University's relationship with Fairview and other health systems and providers and the coordination of integrated clinical services across the health sciences fields in anticipation of emerging changes in the delivery of health care.

I intend to announce this appointment in the fall and have asked a small group of advisors to assist me in identifying the best possible candidate to fill this role. The start date for this appointment is January 1, 2011, but I expect the nominee to begin working with Dr. Cerra during the fall to allow for some overlap of time in order to ensure a smooth transfer of responsibilities. I have discussed this strategy with Dr. Cerra, and he agrees that this is an important part of the process.

The position will continue as a direct report to the president, with selected academic responsibilities (e.g., promotion and tenure, curricular review, accreditation, etc.) reporting to the senior vice president and provost. This latter change reduces the workload of this position and is consistent with current practice in which the provost is the final review for academic curriculum, academic personnel, and program accreditation matters. I plan to consider nominations for this position during the month of August. Please feel free to share your nominations directly with me at UPres@umn.edu. More information concerning the particulars of this appointment, including title and position description, will be forthcoming.

While I understand the many thoughtful concerns expressed regarding the range of priorities and responsibilities that fall under the current combined role, I also want to make clear that this appointment does not change the decision I made nearly two years ago to combine the roles of senior vice president of the Academic Health Sciences and dean of the Medical School into a single position, effective July 1, 2009. That decision followed nearly a year of extensive review of the organization of the major universities in the United States that have strong medical schools and health sciences disciplines and consultation with many leading thinkers in this area of academic enterprise, both within and outside the University of Minnesota community. It was thoroughly discussed with the University's Board of Regents, and Dr. Cerra's appointment as senior vice president and dean was presented to the Regents and was unanimously approved at their June 2009 meeting. Since that change, I have heard broad consensus that integrating a vice presidential role with the dean of the Medical School is critically important in achieving a stronger and leaner leadership structure for the Medical School, a view that is strongly endorsed by Dr. Cerra as well. This position will retain executive leadership with other senior academic officers related to the University's strategic positioning in setting academic and budget priorities.

[This is an untrue statement, President Bruininks, and you know it.]

Given the unique time we are in, I believe that streamlining the existing role and focusing it on leadership of the Medical School and our statewide responsibility related to research and the provision of health care are imperative. Add to this the pressing reality of the upcoming accreditation process facing the Medical School and that imperative becomes even more obvious.

Second, I have decided to move forward with what I believe is an important next step in this process. Effective with the new appointment at the start of the 2011 calendar year, the deans of the schools of nursing, pharmacy, dentistry, public health, and veterinary medicine will work directly with the senior vice president and provost for all aspects of traditional academic responsibility that the provost holds for the other collegiate units of the Twin Cities campus, specifically promotion and tenure, curriculum, academic planning, and coordination across fields. This pattern is the most common organizational model among major universities with medical and other health sciences schools. I would anticipate, however, that Dr. Cerra's replacement would retain oversight responsibilities for some remaining academic and support functions of the current AHC, pending further review of the AHC infrastructure.

Importantly, the provost has always retained ultimate responsibility for all matters of academic oversight; however, this will eliminate the current review and approval process for these collegiate units at the AHC level. I believe that this action will streamline current responsibilities and provide for more time for Dr. Cerra's replacement to bring attention to the long-term needs of the Medical School, while still retaining focus on health policy and systems relationships and continuing the standard of providing strong interdisciplinary leadership in the University community. It will also provide an opportunity to capture and improve academic efficiencies in the handling of these areas of traditional provostial responsibility. I want to be clear that this action is not intended to communicate that less value is being placed on the successful and highly desirable interdisciplinary collaboration across the health sciences colleges established under Dr. Cerra's leadership. That must continue and be strengthened. This is especially true as it relates to the interdisciplinary approach to the education of future health professionals and the coordinated and integrated delivery of healthcare services and research in the emerging healthcare marketplace.

Third, and to that end, I believe that it is essential for us to build on the significant value that the AHC has brought in the enhancement and support for interdisciplinary research, education, and clinical service provision. Again, that value was echoed throughout the consultative process. Importantly though, many of you related that not only should this commitment be retained, but it should in fact be strengthened through extension to other academic disciplines campus-wide that are essential to the work being done in the health sciences. I agree, and have determined that a very promising strategy to forward this work is through the formation of an all-University level multi-disciplinary leadership council focused on the needs and opportunities present in this vital aspect of our mission. Later this fall, I will announce more detailed plans for this council, but I envision convening the deans of a number of colleges (including, for example, the current health sciences units plus disciplines like engineering, information technology, food and agricultural sciences, education, and psychology), to develop and deliver a University-wide life-and health-sciences strategy. I intend that Dr. Cerra's replacement will hold a leadership role on this council.

Fourth, I also plan to move forward with a review of the AHC infrastructure and will appoint a working committee to help with this process. It is important to note that at the time I made the decision to combine the roles of senior vice president and dean of the Medical School into one position, I also indicated that the organizational model of the AHC would be under further review. I believe we are now at a point to continue that process. Beginning with the new calendar year, and building on work already begun under Dr. Cerra's leadership, the review of the AHC organizational model will cover at least two significant elements:

1. A review of the AHC mission, functions, and responsibilities toward supporting enterprise-wide systems and mission, focusing delivery of services to the University's health sciences units wherever appropriate, and identifying potential synergies and redundancies with colleges and central administration along with opportunities for reducing administrative overhead. The goals of this effort should be supportive of enterprise-wide systems (e.g., human resources, information technology, capital and space management, finance, and communications) to reduce costs and increase responsiveness and should provide clarification of enterprise- and unit-specific roles, responsibilities, and accountabilities.

2. A review of the existing centers and programs located within the AHC to achieve strengthened academic alignment and to determine the most appropriate location and relationship for each of these centers. This review must include the leaders of the centers and the broader University community, and decisions should be based on what is best for the University and its goals.

It is important to note that this kind of review is not focused on the AHC alone, but is part of a broader University-wide response, necessary in the new normal economic environment, to consider the redesign and improved coordination of University support services. This review is not being undertaken with a pre-determined outcome in mind. I anticipate that the current offices and centers of the AHC will continue as they are now organized through the review process and for this fiscal year, to ensure there is no interruption in current work responsibilities and to engage the individuals who are most knowledgeable about the work of the AHC. There are many approaches and strategies for the organization of the health sciences at major universities across the United States. I firmly believe that this period of leadership transition provides a unique opportunity to build on the success of the past while determining whether the current organizational structure for the health sciences or some other will best position us for success into the future.

Finally, I want to again thank Dr. Cerra for his ongoing leadership and all that he has accomplished and will continue to accomplish during his long career at the University of Minnesota. I have heard this gratitude echoed many times over these last few months, and I know that you share in this appreciation for him. Dr. Cerra is widely recognized for his leadership, and he has achieved a lasting legacy that will strengthen the long-term future of the academic health sciences.

Thank you also for your hard work and for all you do to make the University of Minnesota such a rewarding place to work and serve. I will continue to provide updates and more information on the transition as we move forward.


Robert H. Bruininks
Robert H. Bruininks

The Hypocrisy of the Morrill Hall Gang... Part 99999....


From a post on Other Voices (Star-Tribune blog):

"The University is very concerned about the fragility of the building. Northrop is egregiously out of compliance with code and life-safety requirements and code officials could close the building at any time."

Steven Rosenstone, Vice President for Cultural/Scholarly Affairs
University of Minnesota

"Recently, people on campus have described Northrop as uninviting, impenetrable, a 'mausoleum,' under-utilized, and an obstacle to their destination."


"If Northrop does not serve students and faculty of this University, if Northrop does not serve the academic priorities of the University, and better serve the community, turn it into a parking structure." Rosenstone, redux

From the Daily (June 30, 2010)

It's one of the most iconic buildings in the state, and we're perilously close to closing it.. (rappin' Robert Bruininks).

OK, folks, so while all this propaganda has been emanating from Morrill Hall about having to close it, what do we have at the Board of Regents Meeting today but a resolution to put Northrop and most of the rest of the Northrop Mall on the National Register of Historic Places! This is not a joke. Have these people no shame? Apparently not...

From BoRe meeting documents:

President's Recommendation:

The president recommends that the Board of Regents adopt the resolution to nominate the Northrop Mall District to the National Registry of Historic Places.
So, ah, what's it going to be, Bob?

US Quackademia - Evidence in "Evidence-based" Integrative Med Programs?


David Colquhoun, the man who put the needle in the homeopathy balloon of the U of M Director of Spirituality and Healing, provides the headline for this post. He cites an amazing article:

An Evaluation of the Evidence in "Evidence-based" Integrative Medicine Programs Donald M. Marcus, MD; Laurence McCullough, PhD Posted: 11/17/2009; Academic Medicine. 2009;84(9):1229-1234.

Dr. Marcus is professor of medicine and immunology, emeritus, Baylor College of Medicine
Dr. McCullough is a professor at the Cener for Ethics and Health Policy, Baylor College of Medicine


Alternative therapies are popular, and information about them should be included in the curricula of health profession schools.

During 2000 to 2003, the National Institutes of Health National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine awarded five-year education grants to 14 health professions schools in the United States and to the American Medical Students Association Foundation.

The purpose of the grants was to integrate evidence-based information about complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) into the curriculum.

The authors reviewed the educational material concerning four popular CAM therapies--herbal remedies, chiropractic, acupuncture, and homeopathy--posted on the integrative medicine Web sites of the grant recipients and compared it with the best evidence available.

The curricula on the integrative medicine sites were strongly biased in favor of CAM, many of the references were to poor-quality clinical trials, and they were five to six years out of date.

These "evidence-based CAM" curricula, which are used all over the country, fail to meet the generally accepted standards of evidence-based medicine.

By tolerating this situation, health professions schools are not meeting their educational and ethical obligations to learners, patients, or society.

Because integrative medicine programs have failed to uphold educational standards, medical and nursing schools need to assume responsibility for their oversight.

The authors suggest

(1) appointing faculty committees to review the educational materials and therapies provided by integrative medicine programs,

(2) holding integrative medicine programs' education about CAM to the same standard of evidence used for conventional treatments, and

(3) providing ongoing oversight of integrative medicine education


We examined the Web sites of the 15 NCCAM grantees to ascertain what evidence is presented to students and physicians and how that evidence meets EBM guidelines. Three sites--those of AMSA,[3] the Integrative Health Program of the Department of Family Medicine of the University of Washington School of Medicine,[4] and the Center for Spirituality and Healing of the University of Minnesota[5]--contain comprehensive syllabi.

Homeopathy is based on the principle that an illness can be cured by administration of a highly diluted medication that, in higher concentration, produces symptoms similar to the ailment: "Like cures like."[7 (pp91-143)] Most homeopathic remedies are so diluted that they contain no molecules of the original medication.[7 (pp98-100),39]

What is the evidence for the efficacy of homeopathic remedies?
A widely cited 1997 publication concluded that the results of our meta-analysis are not compatible with the hypothesis that "the clinical effects of homeopathy are completely due to placebo."[41] After critics pointed out that 68 of the 89 trials included in the meta-analysis were of poor quality, the authors reexamined the same data two years later and concluded that "studies with better methodological quality tended to yield less positive results."[42] A later meta-analysis, which identified only eight trials that met higher standards for quality, concluded that "homeopathy was only very marginally more effective than placebo."[43] That report was accompanied by an editorial in The Lancet entitled "The end of homeopathy."[44] Despite these analyses demonstrating no clear benefit for homeopathy beyond a placebo effect,[7 (pp91-143), 45] advocates continue to cite the 1997 publication as evidence for homeopathy's efficacy.

The University of Minnesota Medical School's Web site doesn't contain a monograph on homeopathy, but the site's overview section states that homeopathy is more than a placebo and cites as evidence the 1997 Linde publication.[5]

The Quality of Evidence in Integrative Medicine Curricula

In general, the evidence base used by the integrative medicine programs whose Web sites contain relevant information includes only studies reporting positive outcomes, regardless of the studies' quality. Few publications after 2003 are cited, which include most of the best-quality trials of CAM therapies, and the sites have not been revised to take into account new data. The evidence base of these programs fails to meet the generally accepted standards of EBM, and its representation as "evidence based" is misleading. The AMSA EDCAM modules, which are used widely by integrative medicine programs, are uncritical endorsements that were written by practitioners and advocates of CAM. The University of Washington School of Medicine's site[4] is more critical in evaluating the efficacy of alternative therapies, but its references have not been updated since 2003.

In retrospect, the premise of the NCCAM education grant program, that there was solid evidence supporting the efficacy of alternative therapies, was incorrect. Larger, more rigorous, independently funded clinical trials performed during the last decade have not confirmed the positive results of earlier trials, and systematic reviews have pointed out the methodological shortcomings of those trials. The failure of integrative medicine programs to update their database and revise their evaluations of therapies suggests a lack of genuine commitment to evidence-based medicine.

The remarkable improvement in the practice of medicine during the last 50 years was made possible by advances in biomedical science and evidence-based therapeutics. Readers of the British Medical Journal voted evidence-based medicine as one of the 15 most important medical milestones since 1840.[59] A brief overview stated that "the systematic synthesis of evidence is the foundation of all medical discoveries and of good clinical practice."[60] Although the evidence base is always provisional and subject to revision, rejection of evidence in favor of traditional beliefs and clinical anecdotes compromises educational standards and clinical practice.

Educational and Ethical Issues

The flawed curricula presented by integrative medicine programs constitute an educational failure on the part of health professions schools and AMSA. Evidence supporting the efficacy and safety of CAM should be evaluated by the same standards used to analyze conventional therapies. Failure to do so undermines the problem-based educational initiative that emphasizes rigorous review of current literature; it tolerates a double standard of evidence, and it promotes a poor standard of medical practice.

By tolerating this situation, health professions schools are not meeting their ethical obligations to learners, patients, or society. Academic health centers should provide exemplary care to the communities that they serve. An essential component of that mission is provision of the best information available to foster informed decisions about health care. Because CAM is promoted uncritically by the media,[7 (pp250-266), 61] academic health centers should be a source of sound information that is not otherwise available. Failure to meet this obligation confers undeserved credibility on alternative therapies and promotes their use.

These problems have arisen because, to the best of our knowledge, there is no formal oversight of curriculum content by medical schools. Oversight of curriculum content takes place in an informal manner by faculty colleagues who share responsibility for courses and clerkships. For example, a teacher who presented an outdated, unsound therapy for hypertension would be taken to task by her or his colleagues. This corrective process clearly doesn't occur in integrative medicine programs, as one of us (D.M.M.) cautioned several years ago.[62]

This situation presents a unique challenge to health professions schools. We suggest the following steps to deal with the problem:

* appoint a faculty panel to review educational material and therapies provided by integrative medicine centers;

* provide education about CAM based on the same standard of evidence used to develop guidelines for treatments for cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, etc.; and

* carry out ongoing oversight of integrative medicine education programs.

Implementation of these procedures will face resistance. Integrative medicine faculty will raise the issue of academic freedom, but academic freedom requires accountability, and it doesn't justify ignoring educational standards. Leaders of academic institutions, and faculty who teach and practice genuine evidence-based medicine, need to acknowledge the problem and take steps to remedy it.