Medical School Dean Steven T. DeKosky to colleagues
As many of you already know, on Sunday June 10, the Rector Helen Dragas and Vice Rector Mark Kington met with the Vice Presidents and Deans of the University and announced that President Sullivan and the BOV agreed that she would resign as President effective August 15. At this meeting Rector Dragas read a statement of their announcement and a discussion ensued. Within the next several weeks, the BOV will name an Interim President. A full presidential search will be conducted over the next year. The Rector’s comments can be found at the following URL: http://www.virginia.edu/uvatoday/newsRelease.php?id=18791
This came as a surprise to the Vice Presidents and Deans, as it has to our faculty, staff, alumni, and friends of the University. The Vice Presidents and Deans were not involved in the decision. President Sullivan’s warm interpersonal style, her outreach–to the students, faculty, staff, alumni, and the community–has made her a popular president. Her successful search for a successor to the estimable Leonard Sandridge resulted in the appointment of Michael Strine, from Johns Hopkins. The new Provost, John Simon, was recruited from Duke and has articulated an academic oversight and interactions that have energized the faculty and the Council of Deans. And President Sullivan’s interest in the success and well-being of the Health System led to broadened attendance at the Medical Center Operating Board (MCOB) by BOV members and focused attention on both the Health System Strategic Plan and the successful transition to our Next Gen Curriculum.
In our meeting, the BOV leadership indicated that the Board had decided that the University requires more bold and assertive leadership, and that there existed a "philosophical difference” with President Sullivan regarding the best ways to deal with the issues confronting higher education and UVA in particular. The Rector and Vice Rector emphasized the need for a compelling vision that can drive fundraising and new revenues. They also discussed the need to make difficult resource allocation decisions in this time of great challenge and change for higher education, medical research, and health care in general. Terry’s approach was more incremental. During the discussion, the Rector focused on several issues that she believes are critical, including recruiting and retaining outstanding faculty and staff, the lag in compensation for faculty and staff, pressures on tuition and the overall financing of the University, and the use and expenses of new technology, including non-traditional methods of education. The issues themselves are ones that we all agree must be addressed.
All of you realize that the challenges and pressures on higher education and medical schools are immense, and that the pace of change is accelerating. The Rector’s comments mentioned specifically the pressures on the Health System. We have been and will continue to respond to this environment through innovation in our programs, the Strategic Plan, our new Centers of Excellence, engagement with other medical institutions, and other direct approaches. We will need to focus on these issues and position the School of Medicine and the Health System for continued growth and success, while assuring fiscal responsibility. We have much more to do, and we have the faculty, staff, students, and alumni to innovate and achieve continued excellence. We have selected recruitments to pursue as well.
At this time, I ask for your help and your reliance on our most important assets: our strong sense of community, trust, and collegiality. We are a large component of the University, and we need to work together to pursue our goals, be a leader on Grounds, and in healthcare.
I commit to working closely with Provost John Simon, COO Michael Strine, President Sullivan, and the Interim President, as well as with the Medical Center and UPG leadership, to forge ahead with our strategic plan and new activities. The BOV is looking for decisive and bold action, and we need to proceed with such. I ask that we all stay focused on the important tasks at hand and try not to engage in unhelpful speculation. I am telling you everything that I know about the situation, and I will keep you all informed on the evolving situation.
Please let me know if you have questions or concerns, and thank you for all that you do for the health system and the University.
Steven T. DeKosky, MD, FAAN, FACP
Vice President and Dean
University of Virginia School of Medicine