Kaler Calls for External Review of U’s Health Center

The external review of the Academic Health Center, which will be led by Dr. Ken Kaushansky of Stony Brook University, comes on the heels of an internal review-which many in the university community found to be lacking.

University of Minnesota President Eric Kaler on Monday called for a small committee to complete an external review of the Academic Health Center (AHC).

The examination of the $1.2 billion enterprise follows an internal review that was completed last fall, which sought to explore the mission and value of the AHC, its administrative infrastructure, and what role it should play. After the review was released to the public, the U of M invited feedback from the university community; most of the 83 pages worth of comments on the report found it to be lacking.

“I heard repeatedly from many in the [School of Public Health] that because the report was produced internally principally by 'insiders' with potentially strong interest in maintaining status quo, an outside peer-review team would be necessary to give the report credibility,” John R. Finnegan, Jr., dean of the School of Public Health, wrote in his comment. He added that the draft does a “poor job” of identifying “critical and unique” functions of the AHC.

The AHC was founded in 1970 and includes six schools within the university-the School of Dentistry, the Medical School, the School of Nursing, the College of Pharmacy, the School of Public Health, and the College of Veterinary Medicine. Its mission is to educate the next generation of health care professionals; discover new treatments and cures; and enhance Minnesota's bioscience industries.

In a Monday letter to university faculty and staff, Kaler said that the internal review “made several meaningful recommendations but was not designed to answer larger questions about the vision and the future of the AHC.”

“The primary question for the external review committee to consider is whether the AHC is structured to ensure excellence in all of our health science schools,” Kaler added. “One of my strategic goals for the university is to strengthen the health sciences and improve the national reputation of the Medical School. It is critical to both the future of the university and the state of Minnesota that we improve our leadership position in the health sciences in order to meet work force needs, discover new cures and treatments, continue to provide high-quality clinical care, and support the biomedical industry. This requires an objective look at where we are and where we need to be to improve our position.”

Kaler said the external review committee will be chaired by Dr. Ken Kaushansky, dean of the School of Medicine and senior vice president for health sciences at Stony Brook University in New York-where Kaler served as provost before assuming his current post in July.

The review will begin after the Medical School accreditation team comes to the university in March.