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.
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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.