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March 5, 1998

Faculty agree to revive FASM, seek meeting with chancellor

Some 70 medical faculty members met Feb. 26 at the Graduate School of Public Health to discuss alleged ills within the School of Medicine — among them, a deterioration in shared governance, threats to the school's academic mission related to the University of Pittsburgh Physicians (UPP) centralized practice plan, and the Pitt administration's failure to consult with faculty and keep them informed as the University negotiates a new financial relationship with UPP and the UPMC Health System.

No vote was taken, but the doctors generally agreed on a combination of treatments:

* Resuscitating the Faculty Association of the School of Medicine (FASM) to represent the interests of medical faculty. During the 1970s, the state labor relations board recognized FASM as the legal bargaining unit for Pitt medical faculty, but the association has been moribund for the last decade.

* Forming an ad hoc group of medical professors to request a private meeting with Chancellor Mark Nordenberg, during which members would share their colleagues' concerns about the changing UPP-Pitt-UPMC Health System relationship. Professors who have tentatively agreed to serve on the group include Nicholas G. Bircher (anesthesiology), Frank J. Bruns (medicine), Bruce S. Rabin (pathology), Ralph D. Siewers (surgery), Arnold Wald (medicine) and Ellen R. Wald (pediatrics).

* Continuing to press the administration for details on UPP and its planned absorption by UPMC Health System. A week earlier, Senior Vice Chancellor for Health Sciences Thomas Detre told medical professors he would talk with Chancellor Nordenberg and UPP officials about letting faculty see drafts of the UPP-Pitt-UPMC documents.

* Getting more involved in University Senate activities. Senate President Gordon MacLeod, who holds joint appointments in public health and the medical school, outlined a plan that would guarantee every Pitt school is represented on the Senate's Faculty Assembly. "The kinds of faculty governance problems we're seeing in the medical school could easily spread to other schools within the University," MacLeod said.

MacLeod moderated the Feb. 26 meeting in place of pediatrics professor Jack L. Paradise, who proposed the gathering but was out of town the day it was held.

The informal meeting did not have the blessing of the medical school administration. When Paradise proposed the get-together as a followup to a Feb. 19 official meeting of medical faculty, interim medical school Dean George Michalopoulos said he would neither encourage nor discourage Paradise's meeting.

"I will not sanction, condone or in any way support a parallel channel of communication with our faculty," said Michalopoulos, noting that professors have a direct communication line with medical administrators through the school's regular faculty meetings.

— Bruce Steele

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