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For the Record: VP and Med School Dean Friedman responds to Star-Tribune

Response to Recent Medical School Headlines
May 6, 2011

Dear Colleagues,

As we enter a period of time of celebration at the University with students completing degree programs, and moving towards practice in the health professions, I'd like to pause to share with you my concerns over an inaccurate and unfair depiction of our Medical School that appeared in the Sunday newspaper.

[link added - not in original]

I've learned in my five months in the role of Vice President for Health Sciences and Dean of the Medical School that we all carry a wide range of perceptions about what is or is not taking place within our complex organization, but I want to assure you that the Medical School remains on solid footing, and is very well positioned to continue its missions of education, research, and patient care--as it has for 154 years.

Words matter and the choice of language used in the newspaper included terms that make implications or judgments that are simply wrong and lead to unfair conclusions.

It states that there's no search for a new Chair of Medicine because of money. Not true. We're not searching because we have a Chair of Medicine, one who serves the Department and Medical School admirably.

The story states there's a decline in federal research funding--not in the Medical School or the University overall. Simply not true for the U of M.

The statement that there was an "internal loan" is inaccurate. I can assure you that CFO Pfutzenreuter transferred no funds to the Medical School. Instead, the Dean's office assumed responsibility to re-allocate up to $2.3M across the school and its 25 departments to balance accounts school wide over the next seven years.

A $10 million budget gap was called "withering", when that's less than 1.75% of the overall $570 million budget, within the $3.5 billion University. Really?

The Biomedical Discovery District remains a significant priority, with construction proceeding on the Cancer-Cardio building.

Finally, the "second guessing" of decisions made in the past is off base and unfair. It is fundamentally unfair to criticize solid and rational decisions from 2006 with post-Recession 2011 eyes.

I think we all know how important the health sciences are to the strength and reputation of the University, and that the Medical School plays a key role there.

The Medical School has in the last two years met the financial challenges we have all faced. It is making the critical decisions necessary to ensure that it has the solid financial foundation to continue its important missions of education, research, and patient care.

I believe it's critically important that we speak up when statements are made that are unfair or simply wrong, and I also know that our community stands up for what's right. It's what we expect of the students we are sending off into the professions this month, and it's what we should expect of each other.


Aaron Friedman, M.D.
Vice President for Health Sciences and Dean of the Medical School


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