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April 17, 1997

Senate committee to examine relationship between School of Medicine and UPMCS

Is the academic mission of Pitt's School of Medicine compatible with the business goals of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center System (UPMCS)? University Senate leaders have formed a committee of seven senior Pitt professors to examine that question.

"It's not that we're assuming they [Pitt and UPMCS] are incompatible," said Senate Vice President Nathan Hershey, who chairs the committee. "What we will be doing is looking into the subject and trying to draw attention to indications that the educational mission of the University and its medical school may be being sacrificed somewhat to the goal of creating the most powerful health provider network in the area." UPMCS is a separate corporate entity from the University, yet the two share much more than the "University of Pittsburgh" name.

Many of Pitt's 1,300 medical school faculty members treat patients, teach students, do research and work as administrators at UPMCS. Medical students learn clinical skills there. Pitt appoints nearly half of the directors on the UPMCS board. And the UPMCS president, Jeffrey Romoff, also serves as Pitt's senior vice chancellor for Health Administration.

Senate President Keith McDuffie said he asked Hershey to form the new committee in order to gather and assess information on the Pitt-UPMCS relationship. He and Hershey said they don't know yet when the committee will finish its assignment.

McDuffie said: "With the search for a new senior vice chancellor for Health Sciences [to succeed Thomas Detre] getting underway, it appears timely to explore these issues now. Perhaps it will also encourage the University administration to look more closely at the UPMCS-University relationship and its long-range implications." In addition to Hershey, who is a professor of health law in the Graduate School of Public Health, the new ad hoc committee includes Jacob Birnberg and Carrie R. Leana of the Katz Graduate School of Business, Thomas A. Medsger and Bruce S. Rabin of the School of Medicine, Morton Coleman of the School of Social Work, and Sharon Nelson-Le Gall of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences' psychology department.

Committee members are all senior, tenured faculty who share a high degree of job security, making them relatively immune to pressure from the Pitt and UPMCS administrations, Hershey told Council last week.

After Hershey explained his rationale for the committee's membership, Staff Association Council President Brian Hart protested: "That position strikes me as being somewhat insular." Staff has a "tremendous interest" in the Pitt-UPMCS relationship, Hart said, especially because so many staff have been transferred between the two entities. Hart said he planned to write to Hershey and McDuffie, urging staff representation.

McDuffie and Hershey said they would not rule out adding staff or additional faculty members to the committee after it has begun its work.

– Bruce Steele

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