Friday, August 24, 2007

Another Academic Year at the BigU MedSchool

Mr. B. was not surprised to see the chickens coming home to roost in the form of a blanket email by the Dean, oddly enough called Dialog with the Dean.

Wherein it is related:

"In sum, this class is mainly Minnesotan, performed even better than past years on GPAs and MCATs, and is about 10 percent larger than our usual number."

Interesting. As Saul Alinsky once said (approximately): "If you can't get them to do the right thing for the right reasons, then get them to do it for the wrong ones." Thank you Allina/St. Thomas. Does this mean that from somewhere came twenty million dollars? The cost per medical student, according to Dr. Cerra, is about a million a head. Dr. Frank Cerra is the VP of the AHC at the University of Minnesota, a surgeon, and a former BigU MedSchool Dean.

"Our educational leaders already are talking about how to make the larger class size work two years from now. We may be seeking more clerkship sites in the Twin Cities and Duluth and recruiting more preceptors for the Rural Physician Associate Program. We don't have all the answers today. Yet I am glad we have such a talented and diverse new class, one that responds to community concerns about a potential shortage of physicians."

But, again according to Dr. Cerra, I thought that there wasn't a shortage? (It's all the fault of those darned, agitating, osteopaths.) To repeat: Thank you Allina/St. Thomas.

"While each of you as faculty, center directors, and department heads is keenly aware of budgetary challenges in your own area, when we look at the Medical School as a whole, we recognize a structural deficit of $29 million over the next three years. To deal with this looming deficit, and to address our goals of moving the Medical School into the top 20 in NIH funding and the University into the top ranks of public research universities, we must develop an ambitious work plan, and we must explore new models as well."

Hmm.. According to Dr. Cerra we were to be in the top 20. I don't remember the part about "in NIH funding." But OK. We are now 31 and there are a lot of good schools ahead of us. How is this going to happen? {See recent post on the Red Queen Effect.}

"To develop the strategies that will move us where we need to be, I recently established a Medical School Advancement Project steering committee, chaired by Roby Thompson, and including Tim Ebner and Terry Bock from Dr. Cerra's office. The project also has three subcommittees: financing, chaired by Leo Furcht; clinical alignment, chaired by Selwyn Vickers; and, research, chaired by Harry Orr."

That's an interesting lineup. The immortal phrase, the usual suspects, comes to mind. With the exception of Dr. Vickers, these are all familiar faces – the Old Guard, so to speak. The people who have gotten us to where we are today. Why Dr. Furcht was even involved in the ill-fated attempt to do away with tenure during his VP for reengineering days. Fortunately, this consultant-driven effort was a failure, but it started the decline of the med school - along with the consequences of NIH-related malfeasance. Maybe it is time for some of these old timers to move on and be replaced by younger people with new ideas and a little more idealism? We keep hearing that change is good. But if you are a BigU administrator? As Lotte Lenya would say: "Guess not.."

"These leaders and the more than 30 faculty and staff serving on these task forces are taking on a great deal of intense effort in a short period of time. Our deadline for reports is Oct. 15. I recognize that everyone involved already is very busy and I am grateful for their commitment to the future of this Medical School. We hope that the University might consider a major request to the legislature on behalf of the Medical School. That's an opportunity we have to seize."

My, my… Things have been going downhill for years and we are just going to knock out something by the 15th of October to fix them. Isn't that interesting? If it were so easy to do, one might ask why this has not been taken care of a lot earlier. Another example of the good old BigU "make it so, Spock" attitude.

"In a Dialogue earlier this year, I mentioned the need for a conflict of interest task force. Thank you to each of you who expressed an interest in serving. This month, I named as co-chairs for this task force Leo Furcht and Denis Clohisy. In the coming weeks, I expect them to call a committee who will address the weighty and complex issues of conflict of interest in academic medicine. Their discussions will impact our faculty, students, and patients, as well as our friends and advocates in the wider community."

I hope that this group looks into conflict of interest of all types, including Dean Deborah Powell's board of directors membership with Pepsi. To anyone who has been around BigU's med school for any length of time, this last paragraph is telling. I certainly hope that the mystery of the photoshopped figures at the U of M is cleared up soon, before anyone does too much pontificating.

Ciao, Bonzo

No comments: