Archive for Saturday, December 29, 2012

Simons’ Saturday Column: Despite odd search, KU makes strong Med Center hire

December 29, 2012


For the past 15 years, Kansas University Hospital has been on a roll and now is ranked as one of the nation’s outstanding university hospitals and the best in Kansas City.

Unfortunately, the KU Medical Center and its School of Medicine failed to keep pace. In fact, it declined in rankings of university medical schools.

However, with Wednesday’s announcement that Dr. Douglas Girod will become executive vice chancellor of the KU Medical Center, there is every reason to believe major improvements and advances are on the way at the center: improvements in faculty and staff morale, improvements in excellence and national rankings and improvements in the relationship with KU Hospital.

The next step in improving the medical center is the selection of a new dean for the School of Medicine, a process that is expected to be one of Girod’s first tasks.

With a new executive vice chancellor and a new dean, replacing Dr. Barbara Atkinson, who held both positions before her long-overdue departure earlier this year, the coming year is likely to be a historic time for the Kansas City, Kan., medical complex. The potential is almost unlimited — unless those who tried, unsuccessfully, several years ago to compromise the excellence and future of the two institutions try again to strengthen a Missouri hospital at the expense of KU Hospital and KU Medical Center.

• • •

The selection of Girod is a strange, puzzling story.

He is an outstanding surgeon and administrator at the medical center and was the initial choice of the search committee for the executive vice chancellor’s job. Committee members were enthusiastic in their selection, as were the majority of the KUMC staff and professionals. However, for some unexplained reason, Girod was rejected by KU Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little.

The chancellor ordered a new search process. This time, the chancellor was presented a slate of three candidates: one from Louisiana State University, one from the University of Washington and Girod. This time Girod got the nod from Gray-Little. He not only got a nod, but the chancellor could not have been more effusive and glowing in her comments about Girod.

What happened? Girod today is the same person he was months ago when he was rejected. Were the two “outsider” finalists used merely as stalking horses or window dressing? Was it fair to them to make them believe they would be able to compete for the KU position on an equal footing with Girod? Were either of these two men considered during the original search effort?

Did something in December make Girod a much better candidate than he was last summer? Did the Kansas Board of Regents get involved in the search process or selection of Girod?

Unfortunately, KU has not distinguished itself on a number of major selections in recent years, but this time, it appears they have a real winner in Girod. Hopefully, he will play the central role in the selection of a new medical school dean.

The combination of Girod and a top-flight dean will invigorate and stimulate the entire institution. Gov. Sam Brownback has made it clear he wants to see improvements at KUMC, and Girod’s appointment is a major step in bringing about positive changes.

It is unfortunate KU officials were not more open in explaining why Girod initially was rejected. Likewise, it is unfortunate and disappointing two other individuals were invited to Kansas City and Wichita to be interviewed for the job IF Girod already was the top choice.

Inasmuch as it took so long for Gray-Little to announce her selection for the top Medical Center position, with Girod already on the school’s faculty, with few if any roadblocks to him moving immediately into his new office, is there the possibility one of the two “outsider” candidates actually was Gray-Little’s first choice and she was unable to negotiate a winning offer to him? Or were there major negotiating roadblocks with Girod that delayed the public announcement of his hiring?

With all the talk these days about the lack of transparency in Washington, D.C., the troubling, confusing manner in which the new executive vice chancellor was selected gives reason to question the openness, transparency, fairness and honesty of the just-completed search for the top official at a state-supported, taxpayer-supported institution.

This said, KU and the state have a winner in Doug Girod.


Jack Martin 5 years, 5 months ago

The National Institutes of Health ranking of the School of Medicine rose to 60th in 2011 from 75th in 2006. And in U.S. News rankings for specialties, rural medicine has risen, primary care has risen, family medicine has risen…you get the point. Your claim to the contrary is false.

Additionally, this hopefully is the last time you will subject your readers to the fantasy of there being two searches. You have been told repeatedly there were not, including by the chair of the search committee, Dr. Ellerbeck. You also besmirch the reputation of Dr. Girod by persisting in this falsehood.

We conducted a national search because an institution that aspires to further increase its national stature must provide itself every opportunity to attract the best talent available from the broadest and deepest pool possible. To not conduct a national search would have been shortsighted, even if ultimately we found the best candidate right here at the university.

The only “openness, transparency, fairness and honesty” that should be questioned is that of this newspaper’s opinion pieces given their tendency to use anonymous “sources” and unsubstantiated claims to spread rumors and outright falsehoods.

LJD230 5 years, 5 months ago

The medical school is the weakest component of KUMC and will remain so until the PRIMARY mission of the school is the education of clinical scientists at all three stages of medical education: undergraduate, residency and fellowship. This will require enhanced clinical resources(expanded patient volume) and formal academic affiliations and alliances with all hospitals where KU students, residents and fellows are trained.

Great medical schools are defined by the geographic diversity of their residency and fellowship programs and the medical centers where KU grads choose to continue their medical education.

There is no compelling reason why KC MO hospitals cannot have formalized alliances with KU. There is no compelling reason for the hospitals in Wichita not to be branded as "teaching hospitals of the KU School of Medicine."

Primary care needs of rural Kansas can be met in Wichita and Salina.

The KCK campus must concentrate on becoming a national center for residency and fellowship education. Achievement of that goal will require fostering relationships with hospitals on the other side of the border.


yourworstnightmare 5 years, 5 months ago

Agreed, but what really attracts residencies and fellows is strong, cutting edge research. Research hospitals (e.g. UW, UCSF, Mass General) are the best places for residences and fellows and are the most desired.

KU Med needs to build its research enterprise to make it much stronger than it is now. Only then will it have a chance to become a destination or residencies and fellows.

Bob_Keeshan 5 years, 5 months ago

The two faces of Dolph Simons...

His 12/29/2012 face --- "... gives reason to question the openness, transparency, fairness and honesty of the just-completed search..."

His 11/10/2012 face (a mere month and a half ago) --- A long screed against the public naming of candidates, i.e. criticizing all KU searches for being too transparent

Given the complete lack of attention he pays to his past columns, one must assume Dolph doesn't think anyone is reading them...

Jonathan Becker 5 years, 5 months ago

You give Dolf too much credit, assuming he can read.

yourworstnightmare 5 years, 5 months ago

It is also possible that the two outside candidates turned down offers.

Uhlrick_Hetfield_III 5 years, 5 months ago

The good news is that that idiot Atkinson is gone. What a waste of oxygen. As for Dolph, whatever he may be, he bleeds Crimson and Blue and his editorials served to foil the attempt by KCMO to loot KU Med's profit centers. keep up the good work Mr. Simons.

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