Wednesday, July 31, 2013

An Institution Adrift Part II

The Strategic Planning Committee recently released its Plan for the U of M Medical School. It is clear that there is a lot of work to do at the Medical School. Here are some of the "key initiatives" in the Plan to enable the Medical School "to regain its position of excellence" by 2025:

Recruit a new Dean who is committed to long-term support for cultural transformation (p. 5). 
Develop metrics of excellence to measure program and department performance to prioritize investment (p.6). 
Hold all levels of leadership accountable for achieving the metrics of excellence (p. 5). 
Report financial results and hold leadership accountable for sharing with faculty (p. 6).


Substantial investment for recruitment of early career faculty with demonstrated potential for excellence in research in targeted areas (p. 7).
Recognition and allocation of resources to mid-career faculty (p. 8) 
Strategically build technological infrastructure and operational services (p.8).


Support exemplary educational practices through a series of certification programs (p. 10). 
Strengthen curricuum changes related to the future of health care delivery (p. 11). 
Improve relationships with health care partners to ensure a comprehensive learning experience (p. 10).

Clinical Care

Create an academy of master clinicians (p. 12).
Improve the clinical scholar track (p. 12).
Support UMP patient care strategies (p. 13).

See the strategic plan

The Medical School Faculty Advisory Council submitted a report to the Strategic Planning Committee. The Committee does not refer to the Report nor did it attach the Report as an appendix to the Strategic Plan. Yet the Report describes major obstacles to meeting the "key initiatives" of the Plan:

The lack of a sustained vision for "what we want to be" has resulted in haphazard additions of new buildings without any way to maintain their infrastructure, faculty hiring without clear reasons for increasing the number of faculty members in a particular area, and insufficient long term planning to sustain the growth that comes with the building of buildings and the hiring of faculty.

We are a large research university with an aging, inadequately funded and maintained infrastructure that makes it increasingly difficult for faculty to maintain cutting edge research programs.

Faculty are frustrated due to (1) lack of their input in decision making, (2) lack of transparency in finances and decision making at the top, and (3) token solicitation of and lack of responsiveness to their input in all matters.

There is universal concern about leadership in the Medical School at all levels, from division chiefs and chairs in clinical departments up to and including the dean's office. In order to address these concerns we believe significant change in leadership must occur.

See the Faculty Advisory Council Report (emphasis added).

This Report is not an indictment of leadership by a couple of disgruntled faculty members. The Council includes three dozen members who are elected by their peers in the Medical School as representatives to the All University Senate.

A final, personal comment on the cost of medical education: our oldest daughter graduated from the U of M Medical School in 2008 with medical school debt in excess of $200,000. (She is now serving as an OB-GYN physician for a non-profit organization that serves migrant farm workers and their families.) The Strategic Plan recommends increasing scholarship aid for medical students. This is not a solution. The "high tuition high financial aid" experiment has been a disaster for students and their parents as well as for our society that will depend on well-educated young persons for its future.

Michael W. McNabb

University of Minnesota B.A. 1971; J.D. 1974

University of Minnesota Alumni Association life member

1 comment:

Michele Manion said...

I am neither a clinician nor a scientist, but work with physicians and researchers everyday in my role as an officer in a disease-specific nonprofit. I also have significant interaction with leaders from other patient groups that sponsor research--both large and small. What I hear from these colleagues about the U of MN is generally far from flattering. Two themes emerge:

1.) The U of MN medical school is seriously stuck in the past with an antiquated hierarchy of ego-driven leadership who treat students and residents like a source of cheap labor. Some of that is probably common everywhere, but more than one clinician I know who did their residency at the U of MN describes it like a sentence to be served and the phrase 'couldn't wait to get out of there' comes up often. It will be hard to implement the goal of bringing in and nurturing young talent when such talent just can't wait to escape.

2.) The U of MN operates like a wholly-owned subsidiary of pharma when it comes to research and their over-riding interest is in maintaining steady cash flow and pleasing their deep pocket masters (experienced this one myself in a disagreement with some U of MN researchers). It is beyond irritating that individuals taking actual risks in research can't legally be 'induced' through financial incentives to participate (because paying people to put themselves at risk is wrong), but researchers and their institutions can be induced all over the place (because paying people to put OTHER people at risk is perfectly fine) and not only is that legal, it is 'privileged' information that participants aren't allowed to know about. There is something seriously off-balance about this risk/reward equation and the U of MN is a big offender by anyone's calculation.