U Senate amends Conflict of Interest policy

The change introduced an standalone policy for those in clinical health care.

The University Senate approved changes to its conflict of interest policy Thursday, replacing an add-on section for members of its health center with a standalone policy covering all employees dealing in clinical health care.

Kathryn Vandenbosch, chairwoman of the bodyâÄôs Faculty Consultative Committee, said the amendments were expected since the original policy was approved last October.

âÄúIt was known at that time that we needed a more stringent policy for people involved with clinical care,âÄù she said.

The main benefit of the change for the Academic Health Center is symbolic, said Michael Oakes, a professor of epidemiology and a contributor to the policy.

The visibility of a standalone policy makes employees more aware of it, he said, and so more likely to comply with it.

 âÄúWe want it to be like taxes,âÄù Oakes said. âÄúEveryone knows you have to pay your taxes.âÄù

Under the policy, automatic referral to a review committee is triggered when income from consulting, royalties, or equity exceeds $5,000 annually. For other employees that level is $10,000.

The amendments also included some relaxations for specific cases, including exempting adjunct faculty members from reporting compensation by their primary employer and anyone from reporting income from presentations at a continuing health education event if a non-commercial entity is paying.

Stricter guidelines for committee members helping the University select vendors were also approved in the package, as were requirements for fellowships and scholarships to be given free of expectations of reciprocity from the donating entity.

Several high-profile conflicts of interest have dogged the University in recent years. Former Medical School dean Deboarh Powell drew criticism for sitting on PepsiCoâÄôs board of directors and actively sought to weaken conflict of interest reforms before leaving her post in 2009.

Later that year a University surgeon was revealed to havereceived more than $1 million over four years for consulting work with Medtronic, a Minneapolis-based medical technology business.