UMN’s top medical administrator position should split, faculty say

The AHC FCC recommended the positions split after a survey showed faculty support for the idea.

Dean of the University of Minnesota Medical School Jakub Tolar sits down with the Minnesota Daily on Nov. 10, 2017.

Jack Rodgers, Daily File Photo

Dean of the University of Minnesota Medical School Jakub Tolar sits down with the Minnesota Daily on Nov. 10, 2017.

Michelle Griffith

Citing concerns over conflicts of interest, some University of Minnesota faculty want the University’s top medical administrator’s job split into two positions. 

A January survey by the University’s Academic Health Center Faculty Consultative Committee found most of its faculty think the combination of vice president of health sciences and dean of medical school into one position could limit the administrator’s ability to be impartial toward other University health sciences schools. The survey informed a report of recommendations for potential AHC changes to the VPHS job, which University President Eric Kaler said he will review this month.

The AHC encompasses the Schools of Pharmacy, Dentistry, Nursing, Medicine, Public Health, Veterinary Medicine and AHC Shared, which is made up of interdisciplinary centers. The VPHS’s primary job is to focus on common aspects between each health science school, like interprofessional education, and to advocate for the growth of all the schools, said AHC FCC Chair Wendy St. Peter. 

“One of the main objections faculty have to current administrative structure is an inherent conflict of interest with the dual position of VPHS and Medical Dean. Faculty reported that there is overemphasis on the priorities and interests of the Medical School compared to other health science schools/colleges/programs,” St. Peter said in an email. 

This isn’t the first time faculty have expressed support for splitting the jobs. Internal and external reviews in 2011 showed that health sciences faculty members favored separating the positions.

Many faculty members believe the conflict of interest lies in the tendency of the administrator to favor the medical school or lack time for both jobs, she said in an interview. If one school is favored over another, research, funding and aspects unique to each school can be harmed, she said.

Since both jobs are important, they encompass a broad range of duties, said AHC faculty member Dr. Kendall Wallace. The general consensus among faculty is that it would be best for two people to tackle the separate responsibilities, he said.

The University’s medical school alone has more than 3,300 faculty members, and officials are working to improve its national research rankings, so it’s difficult for one person to meet the demands of the job, St. Peter said.

The combination of jobs also creates inconveniences for some faculty. Some schools’ policies say that one dean cannot report to another dean, so some faculty members report to multiple bosses as a result, said AHC FCC member and biostatistics professor John Connett.

Connett said the administration hasn’t separated the two positions in the past because of inadequate funding, since the dean of the medical school is a high-paid administrator, and a new VPHS would have a large salary as well.

Current Interim Vice President and Dean of the Medical School Jakub Tolar, who was appointed in October, declined to comment until Kaler makes a decision on the issue.