Thursday, November 29, 2007

The University of Minnesota Makes The Chronicle (Again)

The Chronicle of Higher Education Comments on a new endowed chair at the University of Minnesota:

Novemer 28, 2007

U. of Minnesota Endows Chair Honoring Professor Who Brought Costly Fame

Now that’s burying the hatchet.

More than a decade ago, the famed University of Minnesota transplant surgeon John S. Najarian was at the center of a federal criminal trial and research-misconduct controversy that ultimately cost the university $30-million and immeasurable damage to its reputation and its scientific enterprise. This week, the institution created a new endowed professorship for research on organ transplantation that will bear his name. Dr. Najarian’s colleagues, friends, and patients committed more than $1.5-million toward the chair, and the university will add $500,000, officials said.

“What happened in the past happened, and the chair is not about that,” Frank Cerra, the senior vice president who oversees the university’s academic health center, said, according to the St. Paul Pioneer Press. Dr. Najarian, he said, had “saved thousands and thousands of lives by his contributions to clinical medicine. The chair celebrates those clinical contributions to humanity, and I don’t think it’s any more complicated than that.”

The Najarian controversy surfaced in 1992, when the U.S. Food and Drug Administration alleged the university’s surgery department had been inappropriately manufacturing and selling an anti-rejection drug called anti-lymphocyte globulin, or ALG, which had never received federal approval for mass production. Dr. Najarian, who was acquitted on federal charges, was later forced out of his position as chair of the surgery department but remained as a clinical professor.

In 1998 the university paid what was then the largest settlement of its kind — $32-million — to resolve charges of fraud and misuse of federal funds. —Goldie Blumenstyk

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