Archive for Thursday, September 19, 2002

Med Center loses researcher

Vice chancellor is latest in string of officials to leave school in past year

September 19, 2002

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The head of research at the Kansas University Medical Center announced Wednesday he was leaving for another job.

Michael Welch, vice chancellor for research, will become president and CEO of the Finch University of Health Sciences/Chicago Medical School.

Welch said KU, where he's been since 1998 and in his current position since 1999, offered him no position for upward advancement.

"This is a step up, an opportunity to be in a leadership position," Welch said. "I need to grab the moment."

Welch also said he would get a "sizable increase" over his $265,674 KU salary. He receives more state money than any other KU employee. Other employees are paid more, but their salaries are supplemented with endowment or grant money.

Welch is the latest in a string of prominent KU Medical Center researchers and officials to leave in the past year. Bill Hudson, a kidney researcher, and S.K. Dey, a reproductive biology researcher, left for Vanderbilt University. Deborah Powell, executive dean of the School of Medicine, left for a similar position at the University of Minnesota.

"We have lost some leading investigators in recent months," Welch said. "But we want good people, and good people are going to receive offers. And some will move."

Donald Hagen, executive vice chancellor for the Medical Center, said Welch's departure wasn't related to anyone else leaving KU.

"It has nothing to do with anybody else," Hagen said. "It's a purely personal decision on Mike's part. He's doing the right thing for him. We hate to see him go."

Welch, a brain researcher who specializes in migraine headaches, plans to start his new job in November. Finch/CMS has 1,600 students and is located on a 90-acre campus in north Chicago.

"We feel extremely fortunate Mike Welch accepted our offer," said Marshall Falk, Finch/CMS board chairman. "In addition to his broad expertise in health care, education and research, and as a clinician, he has had remarkable success in securing funds and grants for the University of Kansas."

Research expenditures at the KU Medical Center have increased 33 percent since 1998, the year before Welch became vice chancellor. The expenditures went from $54 million to $72 million.

Welch came to KU in 1998 as senior associate dean of research and graduate studies. His career includes time at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston and the Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit.

Hagen said he had expected Welch to spend a short time at KU.

"When you have somebody like Mike Welch working for the university, you know you only have him for a short period of time," Hagen said. "Somebody's going to snatch him up."

Hagen said Welch had served as a coordinator for KU on the Life Sciences Initiative, a collaboration of Kansas City-area research groups. But Hagen said Welch's departure wouldn't imperil the effort.

"Mike isn't doing the research," Hagen said. "Other scientists were doing the research. Mike was telling the story."

Hagen also credited Welch with securing the funds and faculty for the Hoglund Brain Imaging Center, which is under construction at the Kansas City, Kan., campus.

Robert Barnhill, vice provost for research at the Lawrence campus, said Welch had a knack for explaining research. He gave KU's presentation at the Legislative Research Day last winter in Manhattan, which led to approval of $120 million in bonds for research facilities at KU, Kansas State University and Wichita State University.

"Research is pretty complex," Barnhill said. "He's a tremendous explainer of things. Mike puts a human face on things."

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