Review calls for separate Med School dean, health sciences VP

An executive committee recommended that Aaron Friedman split his roles.

Kathryn Elliott

A review of the UniversityâÄôs Academic Health Center resulted in a recommendation that few contested: designate an AHC vice president who is not also leading the Medical School.

Deans in the AHC currently report to the vice president for health sciences. The problem is, Medical School Dean Aaron Friedman is both the vice president for health sciences and an AHC dean, so he canâÄôt report to himself.

The recommended solution is to prohibit the Medical School dean from being vice president for health sciences.

The current solution is that Friedman reports to President Eric Kaler and Tom Sullivan, provost and vice president for academic affairs.

This fall, Friedman co-chaired an executive committee of top-AHC administrators who reviewed the AHCâÄôs mission and administrative structure, including FriedmanâÄôs concurrent posts. Friedman was present at the meetings discussing his leadership roles.

Friedman chairs the AHC Deans Council and through his dual position is the only academic dean with a reporting line to Kaler.

The committeeâÄôs report was vague on many points âÄî a frequent complaint voiced in the accompanying 83 pages of comments âÄî but one message was clear: The medical school dean should not have special access to the president, even through another position.

Supporters of the recommendation say the current setup gives too much authority to one person and creates a possible conflict of interest.

Many of the comments on the review argued that the Medical School dean should report directly to the president because of the Medical SchoolâÄôs size, but the committee felt that all deans should be âÄúat parity,âÄù said Tim Mulcahy, vice president for research and co-chairman of the review committee.

A situation where the medical school dean reports to the University president is âÄúimbalancedâÄù and âÄúdisenfranchises members of other schools comprising the AHC,âÄù said a comment submitted by nursing professor Ruth Lindquist on behalf of the Faculty Consultative Committee of the School of Nursing.

Mulcahy said Friedman more or less âÄúdid not open his mouthâÄù while the committee discussed his roles. Mulcahy said he, not Friedman, moderated discussions about FriedmanâÄôs posts and the resulting recommendation shows that FriedmanâÄôs presence didnâÄôt stifle open conversation.

Friedman declined to comment for this story.

In 2009, when the Medical School faced financial trouble under the leadership of former Dean Deborah Powell, former University President Bob Bruininks decided to merge the position of vice president for health sciences with that of Medical School dean. Frank Cerra was the first appointee to the double post until he left the University in January and passed the baton to Friedman.

John Finnegan, School of Public Health dean, said the recommendations of the review leave a lot of gray areas about who will report to whom.

âÄúFor many AHC activities, the supervisory chain of command is extremely ambiguous,âÄù said Peter Bitterman, a professor in the Medical School. Fixing the organizational chart is good, he said, but itâÄôs important not to get bogged down.

But none of the recommendations in the review could go into effect without KalerâÄôs evaluation and approval, which is still pending.

At the beginning of December, Kaler said he was strongly considering commissioning an outside review of the AHC. Kaler has not released any definite plans or further details.