Two down and one to go.
This is the situation relative to interviews currently under way for the KU Medical Center’s executive vice chancellor. Two candidates have been interviewed, with one remaining before the name of the recommended candidate will be forwarded to KU Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little.
For some yet unexplained reason, the individual recommended for this job by the first search committee was rejected by the chancellor. Thus, the current second effort.
The first two interviewees are so-called “outside” candidates and the third candidate, who will be interviewed next week, is an “insider,” a current member of the Medical Center staff.
In a recent Saturday Column, this writer questioned the overall university policy of forcing individuals who are interested in a senior KU position to agree to have his or her name made public, thereby in a very clear way sending a message to his or her current employer that for one reason or another they are looking for another job. It might be because they are unhappy where they are; they don’t see much of a chance for a higher position at their present institution; they want a better-paying job; they want another job to use as a stepping stone for an even better, more prestigious job; or they could be a very talented individual who looks upon an opening at KU as a very attractive opportunity to show his or her skills in being able to turn an underperforming operation into a winner.
Or it could be a combination of all these reasons.
It would seem obvious those on the KUMC selection committee would be looking closely at the experience of those being interviewed; the excellence or ranking of the school or institution they would be leaving; the level of their leadership position, age and other important factors such as leadership skills, the ability to inspire, his or her communication skills, and the manner in which he or she would represent the school. Being an executive vice chancellor of a medical school, or a dean, is a tough, demanding job. Dealing with a group of doctors, both MDs and Ph.D.s, who have egos requires a leader who merits respect and is strong.
There probably are a number of medical schools currently looking for new leaders and it would appear there are many truly top-flight individuals seeking these jobs. Does KUMC present a picture of such great potential that it has attracted the cream of the crop of those interested in making a move to a senior position at one of the many schools now looking for new leadership?
Those invited in for an interview for the KUMC job are being paraded before a number of individuals and groups, and one of the first is a Kansas City dinner meeting with a group identified as “community leaders.”
They are indeed well-known and successful individuals, but in this grouping are some who may have reasons for not being overly enthusiastic about KUMC. Is this the type of person to interview, represent the school and try to sell the applicant on the strengths of KUMC? Also, it is hoped these observers will be tough, but fair, in their analysis of these three individuals.
Unfortunately, past KU search committees and those involved in the vetting of candidates have not done a sterling job, although there have been a couple of real winners. And let it go at that.
It would be interesting to know who Chancellor Gray-Little will listen to, or be influenced by, in her final selection of a new KUMC executive vice chancellor. Also, it will be interesting to see if the individual first recommended some months ago, but who was rejected by the chancellor, might end up getting the job. Is the chancellor more interested in the process and manner of a search rather than the outcome?
Another question: With the size of the KUMC operation and its importance to the entire state, does it seem reasonable someone from the Kansas Board of Regents would be involved in the search/selection exercise? Also, inasmuch as the Kansas Legislature plays a significant role in the funding for the operation of KUMC, does it seem reasonable a candidate might want to hear what legislators think about the importance of the center and the need for adequate funding?
Did those who put together the schedules for the candidates, particularly the “outsiders” who really don’t know much about Kansas, the Legislature, the role of the Regents, etc., fail to give the candidates any opportunity to hear concerns of those who want the best possible Medical Center but also will talk honestly and realistically about problems and challenges facing the institution? “In house” spokesmen may not always present an accurate or complete picture and/or analysis of the landscape.
This job of selecting an executive vice chancellor for the Medical Center was supposed to have been finalized long ago. It is hoped the end result of the second search will end up as a winner in every respect. Likewise the search for a new dean of the medical school.
With strong, visionary leadership of the Medical Center, along with far better relations and joint visions with the outstanding KU Hospital, there is every reason to believe the Medical Center and KU Hospital jointly can and will achieve even higher levels of excellence and national recognition.
KU Hospital and its record offer the best possible proof of what strong leadership can achieve. It’s something that has been missing at the Medical Center. KU officials and Regents allowed problems associated with that leadership void to fester and they refused for far too long to correct it.