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April 2, 1998

Pending approval, medical dean to give faculty draft papers on UPP

In response to faculty complaints that they've been kept in the dark about UPMC Health System's planned acquisition of the University of Pittsburgh Physicians (UPP) unified practice plan, interim medical school Dean George Michalopoulos has agreed to share the latest drafts of "all pertinent documents" related to UPP with a faculty committee.

But in a March 25 e-mail message to medical faculty, Michalopoulos said he first needs a go-ahead from Chancellor Mark Nordenberg before he can convey the documents to the committee. Pitt spokesperson Ken Service said yesterday: "The chancellor and interim Dean Michalopoulos have had an initial discussion concerning the resolution, but a number of issues have not been conclusively addressed." UPP is being formed through a merger of the 17 previously independent Pitt faculty practice plans of the School of Medicine plus the dental school's practice plan. Officials from Pitt, UPMC and UPP are negotiating a new financial relationship through which the health system would absorb UPP.

At a March 24 meeting, medical faculty approved the following motion proposed by neurology professor David Greenberg and seconded by Basil Zitelli of pediatrics: "That the most recent versions of all pertinent documents related to the proposed unified plan, including but not limited to bylaws, faculty employment contracts, planning book reports, and any other items that bear on the School of Medicine's academic mission, be provided forthwith to the interim dean of the School of Medicine, and conveyed promptly therefrom to a seven-member faculty committee, duly and expeditiously elected by the faculty in a timely manner, so that the faculty may provide advice on and, ultimately, approval of, a mutually acceptable proposal." The motion was passed with 97 affirmative votes from among the approximately 150 faculty members in attendance, Michalopoulos reported. Only a handful of attendees raised their hands to vote against the motion, according to two professors who attended the meeting.

In his e-mail to faculty, Michalopoulos said he would tell Chancellor Nordenberg about the motion. "Conditional upon the chancellor's approval of the conveyance of these documents, I will promptly activate the nominating process so that a slate of candidates becomes nominated by mail (print or electronic) through a process open to the entire faculty. The final committee will be elected from the nominated slate of candidates," Michalopoulos wrote.

Nicholas Bircher, a faculty member in anesthesiology, plans to ask his fellow Faculty Assembly members to endorse the medical faculty motion at the Assembly's April 7 meeting.

Pathology professor Bruce Rabin, one of nine members of a committee seeking to gauge interest in forming a faculty association in the medical school (see March 19 University Times) said of the motion: "I think it's excellent because it's the beginning of a process of re-involvement of faculty in critical issues of academic life. The faculty are anxious to participate in the changes which we all know must take place. But our exclusion from the process has had a very negative effect on the morale of the faculty, and this is a way to reverse that process.

"In addition, there are probably many excellent ideas which the faculty can offer to make the changes efficient but yet capable of preserving our high academic and clinical standards," Rabin said.

— Bruce Steele

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