Archive for Thursday, November 10, 2011

Barbara Atkinson stepping down from leadership roles at KU medical school, medical center

November 10, 2011, 4:44 p.m. Updated November 10, 2011, 8:18 p.m.


Barbara Atkinson, who serves as executive dean of Kansas University’s School of Medicine and as executive vice chancellor of KU Medical Center, has announced her intention to step down from those roles.

“As we complete the finishing touches to our yearlong strategic planning process, the chancellor and I have agreed that I will step down as dean of the School of Medicine,” Atkinson wrote in a message to faculty and staff Thursday. “In an effort to provide a seamless transition and a thoughtful succession plan, I have agreed to serve as the (executive vice chancellor) for another two years until December 2013. The process for selecting the new dean will begin immediately.”

As executive vice chancellor, Atkinson oversaw all of the schools housed at KU Medical Center, including the School of Medicine, the School of Health Professions (formerly known as the School of Allied Health) and the School of Nursing, in addition to her role as dean of the medical school. Plans are under way at the Med Center to add a new School of Public Health.

“I just had another birthday, so it was time to think about a transition,” said Atkinson, who is 69.

She will remain in both roles until a new dean of the medical school is selected. KU Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little said a search committee is being formed to find a new dean, and she said she hoped to fill the position by next summer. She added that a search for a new executive vice chancellor for the Medical Center will begin in about a year.

Atkinson said that both she and Gray-Little would be involved in the hiring of the new dean — “it has to be the both of us,” Atkinson said.

Gray-Little said she and Atkinson had been in discussions about a plan to separate the two positions, and the discussion of the timetable for Atkinson’s retirement came up more recently.

“I think it would be very hard for someone to just step into both roles,” Atkinson said. “They are two very big jobs.”

Gray-Little said she was impressed with the things Atkinson has been able to accomplish during her tenure at KU Medical Center, including providing resources for National Cancer Institute designation, increasing the level of federally funded research on campus, leading changes to the medical curriculum and making improvements to facilities on the campus.

“She’s accomplished a great deal, and I think the Medical Center is far ahead of where it was when she came there,” Gray-Little said.

Atkinson said she was also pleased to lead the expansion of medical school education in Wichita and Salina.

Atkinson joined the KU medical school in 2000 to lead the department of pathology and laboratory medicine. She was named executive dean of the medical school in 2002, and has led the campuses in Wichita and Kansas City since then. She added the executive vice chancellor role in 2005.

“That’s a pretty long time for someone to serve in those two roles,” Gray-Little said.

The decision to separate Atkinson’s two roles also means that the university will get another seat on the KU Hospital Authority Board, as the hospital’s bylaws provide for seats for both the executive vice chancellor and the dean of the medical school. Once a new dean is named, that person will also become a voting member of the board, along with the executive vice chancellor’s position.

Both Gray-Little and Atkinson said the transition should not have a significant impact on KU’s ongoing efforts to achieve National Cancer Institute designation.

“I think that it should not affect it at all,” Gray-Little said.

If KU hears whether its application had been approved by next summer as it expects to, Atkinson will have remained on during the entire time, Gray-Little said, especially during an upcoming site visit and review by the NCI scheduled for February.

There is still work to be done, both Gray-Little and Atkinson said. In her message to faculty and staff, Atkinson outlined four measures that she would be working on during the remainder of her term as executive vice chancellor: achieving NCI designation, opening the new public health school, expanding the class size of the Kansas City medical school by 50 students, and strengthening KUMC’s ties to Wyandotte County and improving the health of the community.

“I’ve got the next two years to work on my next top priorities,” Atkinson said. “Then after that, I’m going to retire.”


KU_cynic 6 years, 6 months ago

Interim dean will be who?

Good luck hiring a new dean who will have to report to Atkinson for his/her first year-and-a-half on the job, given the cloud she is under. And good luck hiring new med school faculty in the interim, as well.

Prediction: the process of showing Atkinson the door will be revised and accelerated.

firstjayhawk 6 years, 6 months ago

Thank God that Barbara Atkinson was requested to step down from SOM. After those damages that she created to the institution and to people for years, she is finally gone. Great decision Chancellor! This removes the major barrier to the application of a cancer center, and hopefully research excellence will soon come back to our institution.

kuprof54 6 years, 6 months ago

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topeka411 6 years, 6 months ago

It is a great opportunity for KU to recruit a world class leader to this position. I hope the naysayers about our state will put their sharp pencils down just long enough to give success a chance. KU is a great example of an institution poised to move from good to great. With the right attitude, it can happen.

squawkhawk 6 years, 6 months ago

I hear Turner Gill might be available soon.

JSpizias 6 years, 6 months ago

I just heard from a KUMC employee that Dr. Curt Klaassen, University Distinguished Professor, Professor of Pharmacology, and former Chair, Department of Pharmacology who was fired by Atkinson in the spring was escorted from his office by campus police and forbidden to return to campus. One hopes the LJWorld and Board of Regents will take a closer look at what has been and is being done to KUMC. A solution like that taken at Penn State would appear to be in order (and I think Paterno was treated very poorly).

fu7il3 6 years, 6 months ago

You are comparing a coach harboring a pedophile to what exactly?

JSpizias 6 years, 6 months ago

I am comparing nothing. To put it more simply for you, the EVC should be fired immediately, as was done for the President of Penn State. Moreover, I am not the only one who thinks Paterno was treated poorly. Pennsylvania's attorney general has voiced "concern" over Penn State University's firing of legendary football coach Joe Paterno and the treatment of other witnesses and officials involved in a child sexual abuse case. Nils Hagen-Frederiksen, a spokesman for the Pennsylvania attorney general's office, noted that the two officials charged with perjury and failure to report the abuse are being defended by the university, while Paterno was fired. "We have a cooperating witness [Paterno], an individual who testified, provided truthful testimony," Hagen-Frederiksen told, "but two others who were found by a grand jury to commit perjury whose legal expenses are being paid for university. One is on administrative leave. Very interesting development."

Kendall Simmons 6 years, 6 months ago

Uh...this is old news. Dolph already reported on it (and complained about it) in his Saturday column.

JSpizias 6 years, 6 months ago

I wonder what topeka411 has been smoking! Possibly making too many trips to Colorado? One doesn't build a great institution by firing people like Curt Klaassen. The KU hospital has had great leadership and is still going great. For this we can thank Irene Cumming, former KU Hospital CEO who was ousted by "the powers that be" (and her successor who has helped continue the excellence ). Other good people at KUMC will scatter like a fall covey of quail if two more years of this "leadership" continues.

KUfan1990 6 years, 6 months ago

I am thankful the chancellor has recognized the cause of the sepsis in the body of KU Medical Center, but delaying surgery for two years doesn't give way to a positive prognosis. Is the chancellor giving Atkinson time to continue her revenge against those who risked their careers to speak the truth?

xyz 6 years, 6 months ago

The timeframe will give Jim Mann enuf time to get his MD from University of Devonshire and return to Kansas.

Seriously, BGL, have you forgotten how disastrous things turned out the last time you let someone--that'd be your buddy Lew--have time to phase in their retirement???? Get rid of Atkinson now!!

Phillbert 6 years, 6 months ago

Comments by general KU haters - Check

Comments by specific Atkinson haters - Check

Comments from rare voices of reason - Check

Cue Dolph-o-Gram both taking false credit and complaining in 3...2...1...

Kendall Simmons 6 years, 6 months ago

Yup. Either this Saturday or next, he'll write another anti-KU diatribe in which he'll damn Gray-Little with faint praise for doing 'something', but will complain vociferously that she 1) shouldn't have taken so long and 2) should have been more forceful and not allowed Atkinson to stay on for 2 more years.

ExcellenceKU 6 years, 6 months ago

It is great news for our institution KUMC that Barbara Atkinson is removed from Dean of SOM. She is completely unethical, malignant, and destructive. Let's refresh our memories of what happened in the past few years, and especially in the past 6 months. So many signed letters from department chairs, KU empoloyees, students and postdocs who criticized her leadership. Her stepping down is the will of the majority of people, and her stepping down should be celebrated for the sake of research excellence in KUMC.
In addition, I don't understand why she should still deserve the seat as the EVC. Her problem is equally significant as the EVC. Stepping down till 2013? How about stepping down by Thanksgiving 2011 for a change, so we have one more thing to be thankful for?

Uhlrick_Hetfield_III 6 years, 6 months ago

What's disgusting is that we have to give this despicable woman such a huge golden parachute. The damage this woman did to both the med school and the hospital makes one yearn for the days of tar and feathers, a far more appropriate way to give Ms Atkinson the boot. Instead she'll apparently cost us almost a million dollars more. Kansas' premier welfare queen.

OlayKU 6 years, 6 months ago

Yes, Barbara Atkinson's "golden parachute" is indeed disgusting. She deserves everything else except for praises. This tyrant should be fired from EVC too. Now, while acknowledging the chancellor's decision to remove her as dean of SOM, the real question is how long will her hidden power still wander around KU and continue the damage in our institution? Right before she was fired, she desparately called the policemen and Paul Terranova to destroy Curtis Klaassen, who did nothing wrong but spoke the truth bravely regarding her power abuse and other unethical issues of her leadership. Now she hides behind the curtain and continues to pull the strings of her puppet. She has gathered a few followers to search for whatever evidence they could find to destroy Curtis Klaassen and the students in his lab. In addition, she has a list of other people that she plans to attack. How many more good people will be destroyed? Who should be repsonsbile for the damage that she already created? These serious issues must be addressed.

crystall 6 years, 6 months ago

Barbara Atkinson should be fired from E.V.C. as well. She is a hard-to-get-rid-of nightmare and a complete disaster. Why wasting 2 more years of tax payers' money to support her further damage to KUMC???

Jessicacarlson 6 years, 6 months ago

I just noticed from google that Barbara Atkinson became Dean of Hahnemann School of Medicine in 1996, and bankrupted it in 1998. She became the dean of SOM in 2002, and EVC in 2005. She is bankrupting the KU Medical Center. During her tenure, she fired, forced to "resign" or marginalized at least 12 center directors, well established professors, and department chairs. Because these people question about her financial solvency, leadership transparency and democracy. Why should she still be the E.V.C?

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