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Regents consider UI vice president

Position would oversee UIHC, College of Medicine

Hieu Pham

Iowa City Press-Citizen

November 27, 2006

[Note: This material is copyright by the Press-Citizen, and is reproduced here as a matter of "fair use" for non-commercial, educational purposes only. Any other use may require the prior approval of the Iowa City Press-Citizen.]

Talk of creating a new vice president position at the University of Iowa to oversee University Hospitals and the College of Medicine could influence the outcome of the UI presidential search, two regents said.

Regents Bill Downer and Amir Arbisser, who also are members of the University Hospitals and Clinics Committee, said the idea is receiving "serious consideration" in informal meetings among some regents and other UI officials.

The vice president position has been empty since Robert Kelch left in 2003 for the University of Iowa.

Downer said an official proposal will go before the Iowa state Board of Regents later this winter or spring.

Discussions will occur in open meetings and job requirents have yet to be determined.

"This is beyond the stage that this is one person's idea. This has been discussed fairly broadly," Downer said.

Arbisser, who also is a doctor, said, "If this position is well developed and is operating smoothly, ... it could really allow us not to be dependant on having a less strong health care experience (among presidential candidates)."

Recently the board voted 6 to 2 to temporarily abort the search for the next UI president -- a move that also rejected four candidates for not having enough health care experience and disbanded the 18-member search committee that picked them. The decision -- compounded with accusations of excessive secrecy, possible open meetings violations and regent domination -- has embroiled the UI campus in controversy and angered many UI faculty and staff.

In a Des Moines Register guest editorial on Sunday, Downer questioned the importance of a candidate's health care expertise and has said the regents' decision was "inexplicable." Downer and Regent Rose Vasquez opposed dissolving the search.

"There's going to be infinitively more capital spending and fundraising campaigns," Downer said. "There is considerable thought that there needs to be a senior executive to make decisions and tie this all together."

Jean Robillard, dean of the College of Medicine, said many universities across the country have successfully created an "administrative structure" to make both departments more effective and cost efficient.

For example, negotiations can be made to benefit the hospital and college in dealings with health insurance companies.

"There are times when there are potential conflicts (between departments)," Arbisser said.

He said the vice president job description likely would focus on the delivery of clinical care.

In the past there have been several attempts to fill the position, but those have fallen through for a number of reasons.

"It was not continued after Kelch largely because of (former UI president David) Skorton's qualifications and intimate knowledge of both University Hospitals and the College of Medicine," Downer said.

Skorton stepped down from the UI presidency in June to take the same position at Cornell University in New York.

Downer said during Skorton's time the vice president position also remained vacant because UI was crippled with cuts in state appropriations that resulted in the loss of $100 million in four years.

"I know for a fact that one of the factors that motivated Skorton was the saving costs," Downer said.

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