Thursday, July 22, 2010

(click to enlarge)

Shootout at the University of Minnesota Informatics Corral

Double Dipper Winged

Note: The new director of the Biomedical Health Informatics operation is also the acting director of the Institute for Health Informatics (IHI). The previous IHI director (aka "lead faculty") is none other than one of the famous U of M double dippers.

From Dave Durenberger's Newsletter:

August 18, 2008

UNIVERSITY OF MINNESOTA ACADEMIC HEALTH CENTER maintains its silence on the allegations that two new professors have been double-dipping pay and expense reimbursement as employees of Georgia Tech and UMN. Francois Sainfort was recruited from Georgia Tech to head up the Division of Health Policy and Management in the AHC's School of Public Health. Sainfort and his wife, Julie Jacko, were signed to UMN employment contracts October 1, 2007 at $285,000 and $216,000 respectively or $99,000 over their GA Tech pay. Georgia Tech alleges they were still employed and paid there through the first of 2008.

After the story broke locally in April, Sainfort was pressed by his new faculty to go on leave from the directorship (for which $20,000 of his annual comp was allotted). In August, he informed faculty that he was asking Dean of Public Health John Finnegan to replace him as division director, the job the UMN went looking to fill 2 years ago. He calls the Georgia Tech charges "unexpected and unfair."

His wife Julie was also on the Georgia Tech faculty in information technology. The UMN's price to get a new division head in public health was to take both Sainforts, creating a dual position in Nursing and in Health Policy and Management for Julie, and giving Francois their Mayo chair and authority to hire additional faculty. AHC head Dr. Frank Cerra was quoted then as saying, "This is all part of the 'medical arms race' for research talent among universities."

And what will it cost us to keep Sainfort-Jacko around the campus doing what?

[As of 2008: $474,169]

(2009 figures not available yet)


When later asked about why Dr. Jacko was being asked to head the Institute for Health Informatics despite these serious and as yet unresolved double dipping allegations, Dr. Cerra responded:

"I have asked Prof Julie Jacko to serve as lead faculty for the Institute for Health Informatcs (IHI). I believe IHI needs to move forward and continue its development." Frank Cerra [21 July 2008]

"I think people will think what they want to think,"
Cerra said, in response to possible criticisms of appointing someone who is under investigation. [Daily: 30 July 2008]

The reshuffling of the informatics deck at the U of M no doubt has something to do with the latest failure of the U's proposal to the NIH for a clinical and translational research grant that is of utmost importance to our survival as an Academic Health Center of note. Copies of the critique of the proposal have been floating around the electronic grapevine at the University for some time.

I don't believe this is an accident..

And Frank, if you are going to play in the medical arms race, you had better know what you are doing, or at least consult some people - faculty - who do. As a famous philosopher once said:

If you don't know where you are going,
you might wind up someplace else.

There is this process called vetting. Did the lure of potential grant money drive this, or did achievement in the field for which recruitment was ostensibly done? Who, exactly, was responsible for these hires?


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