Letter to the Editor
Déjà vu All Over Again?
Will Temple History Repeat Itself At The Health Sciences Center?
By Michael Sirover
“The trick in life is not to make mistakes, The trick in life is not to make the same mistake twice.” Anonymous
One of the virtues of age and of being at Temple University for a long time (since 1977) is that you have a sense of its history: the advantages and disadvantages of various policies as they have been implemented, and the subsequent consequences of those implementations. Recently, the Executive Committee of the Board of Trustees named Larry Kaiser, M.D., as the Senior Executive Vice President for Health Sciences, the Chief Executive Officer of the Temple University Health System and the Dean of the Temple University School of Medicine. Although the current faculty and the current Administration may consider this as a new and original type of appointment, in actuality it is virtually identical to that of Leon Malmud, M.D., to a similar position in 1988 by the Board of Trustees of that time.
Leon remains a personable individual, a delightful companion for lunch at a “faculty table” in the hospital cafeteria and a dedicated physician still on staff across the street. As such, he is one of our “old Temple hands” continuing a tradition where many individuals join this University in their youth, remain at Temple spending their careers making major contributions to its mission. That being said, Leon’s tenure in Dr. Kaiser’s position was mixed. Leon did a tremendous job with respect to the management of the Hospital and the Health System. Indeed, he was instrumental in the birth of the latter. In contrast, his efforts as Dean of the Medical School were not as stellar. As is the case today, there were major issues within the School at that time which demanded his full attention. Regrettably, they were dealt with inadequately with results that still echo today.
In Leon’s defense, the Hospital and the Health System have been continually in peril financially and each has required Herculean efforts by those in charge to maintain their viability. Those of us with institutional memory recall many such instances, most notably when the present hospital building was simply a hole in the ground for an extended time as repeatedly winter gave way to spring and to summer and when summer gave way to fall and to winter. At other times, they required a bailout from the coffers of the Main Campus. Leon’s tenure was no exception, requiring him to spend the vast majority of his time and effort on issues across the street. That the Hospital and Health System survived and prospered is a testimony to those efforts.
Thus, no matter how well intentioned, no matter how well meaning, no matter how much he may wish to perform each task well, Dr. Kaiser may need to prioritize his time, his efforts and his funds, i.e., Dr. Kaiser will need to wear one of his hat’s to a far greater degree than the others. It is reasonable to suggest that this will require his focus primarily on the Hospital and the Health System. Indeed, it has been mentioned that the reason why he was named to the Deanship was that, in order to deal effectively with the financial crisis across the street, it was necessary for him to be so named. If this assertion is true, that decision may come as a surprise to our medical students, who pay some $30 million annually in tuition ($40,000/student X 200 students/class X 4 classes) and whom graduate with significant debt, that they are a secondary priority for their current Dean. It would seem, given that investment of money, they would deserve a full time Dean. In that regard, although this writer disagreed (and continues to disagree strongly) with some of the previous Dean’s policies, John Daly, M.D., was first and foremost the Dean of the School of Medicine. His first priority was, as he saw it, the education of our students as well as the needs of our faculty so that they may fulfill their teaching, scholarship and service responsibilities.
As Daniel Patrick Moynihan noted a generation ago, benign neglect is not an effective strategy for dealing with institutional crises. Although, for the Medical School, it may be argued that the latter may be ameliorated by the appointment of a capable and outstanding deputy, that individual by definition will be a lieutenant whose requests would be balanced by other demands by the Senior Executive Vice President for Health Sciences (as a captain or general does routinely in the armed services or as a President of a University does with respect to the various colleges within it).
Why should Main Campus faculty be concerned with events up here? Again, historically, the Medical School has been viewed with circumspection: our faculty is geographically isolated, does not participate to a great degree in undergraduate education, is not, for the most part, is not concerned with faculty issues and are not TAUP members. There are perhaps two main reasons for such a concern. First, if the Medical School will be a secondary priority for Dr. Kaiser, it’s reasonable to suggest that other schools within his portfolio will be tertiary priorities. The latter include the Schools of Nursing, Allied Health and Pharmacy. Each is intimately involved in undergraduate education, concerned with faculty issues and are TAUP affiliated. Second, Dr. Kaiser was appointed as Dean without using the customary
mechanism for such an appointment. CATA was not consulted; a Search Committee including appropriate faculty representatives was not formed, nor was an open search conducted. When questioned at a Faculty Senate Steering Committee meeting, President Hart cited her authority to name Dr. Kaiser as an “extraordinary circumstance”, i.e. his needing the position as current Dean to be able to effectively devise strategies to ameliorate the financial crisis at the Hospital (my explanation). There is an old saying, “If it
can happen up there, it can happen down here.” Accordingly, the appointment of Dr. Kaiser, as a special circumstance, nevertheless establishes a precedent for other searches on other campuses. As main campus faculty express concern with respect to the presumed hidden agenda of the Huron Group, the former could be viewed as an early warning sign. As Ronald Reagan so famously noted, “Trust but verify.”
Dr. Michael Sirover is a Professor of Pharmacology at the School of Medicine, a member of the Faculty Herald Editorial Board, a Past President of the Medical Faculty Senate, a Former Secretary of the All University Faculty Senate and has the privilege of serving as the Chair of a National Cancer Institute Special Advisory Committee on Cancer Prevention.