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May 25, 1995


Do we need a senior vice chancellor for Health Sciences?

To the editor:

With the recent announcement by the chancellor that the search for a new senior vice chancellor for Health Sciences has been aborted, and with the preceding search for an individual to fill that position having been unsuccessful, it appears appropriate to consider the question of whether there is any particular reason to maintain that position within the University administrative structure. At a hearing conducted by some members of the recent search committee I expressed the view that there was no need to fill the position; that it was possible to allocate the functions and duties of the position to others, primarily the provost, and to the president of the UPMC and the dean of the School of Medicine, and thereby permit elimination of the position and its support personnel. I indicated that the provost might need some additional personnel and other resources if this were done, but the additional expense to the Provost's office would be far less than the costs of maintaining the position of senior vice chancellor and its acolytes.

Briefly, the structure that I envision in the absence of the senior vice chancellor would mean recognizing some facts of life; that the School of Medicine, specifically its faculty, is the engine for the operation of the UPMC, and that its finances are intimately tied to the hospitals and other ventures of the UPMC. Right now it is fiscally under the domain of the president of the UPMC, who also serves as senior vice chancellor for Health Administration (that post having been established to permit Mr. Romoff to function in both the UPMC and the University structures), thus emphasizing the essential link between the School of Medicine and the UPMC.

Furthermore, I see no reason why the dean of the School of Medicine could not also serve as his or her own senior vice chancellor, in the sense that the dean would report directly to the chancellor on all matters except promotion and tenure which, according to the current structure, even now formally go through the Office of the Provost to the chancellor.

As to the other schools of the Health Sciences, since they are not engines for generating revenue from the provision of health services but, rather, are primarily concerned with conducting educational programs and relevant research, they appropriately belong within the realm of the provost. While assigning those schools to the provost for all administrative matters handled above the level of the deans, the major difference for these schools would be that the University transfer fund allocations would flow from the provost, rather than the senior vice chancellor for Health Sciences as is currently the case, to the schools. With respect to academic matters, such as promotion and tenure, one step in the current process, namely transmittal through the Office of the Senior Vice Chancellor, would be eliminated.

Those functions now located in the Senior Vice Chancellor's office that are more of a business, rather that academic, nature, would be assigned to the UPMC. All other functions are those recognized as within the domain of a provost.

In an era marked by corporate reorganization, the University's Board of Trustees should take a good look at the position of senior vice chancellor for the Health Sciences, given the expense associated with it and the opportunity to allocate its functions to other administrative entities.

Nathan Hershey

Professor of Health Law

Health Services Administration

Graduate School of Public Health

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