UC-IRVINE I: ‘Scandal-Plagued’ School Takes Preventive Measures
To "strengthen oversight and tighten management" against further scandals like those that have plagued it since 1995, the University of California-Irvine medical school announced yesterday a series of cautious moves. The school will implement an external review panel, appoint a new associate dean for administration, conduct periodic, unannounced reviews and make department heads' evaluations and reappointments contingent on academic achievement as well as management ability. The Los Angeles Times reports that Chancellor Ralph Cicerone detailed the changes in a letter to the College of Medicine faculty and staff, noting, "there is much at stake in these efforts." Cicerone also admitted that the latest scandal, in which Christopher Brown, the director of the Willed Body program allegedly "pocketed the payment for body parts the program sold," could have been prevented "if we had more of us looking over each other's shoulders." Further, Cicerone and medical school Dean Dr. Thomas Cesario said "the medical school had not been paying enough attention to administration." The new associate dean for administration will take charge of turning department chairs into managers and "serve as the place where people can report wrongdoing." Another "key" reform is the "external review group," consisting of 5 to 10 people from within and outside UCI, that will "advise the administration on additional steps UCI should take to improve oversight and 'whether there are any underlying, systemic impediments' at the medical school."
What It Means
The Times interprets the letter as an "admission that after four scandals since 1995, the medical school cannot afford another misstep that could affect its reputation and ability to attract top-flight students and professors." Tony Mazzaschi, the assistant vice president of the Association of American Medical Colleges, said that "department heads will have to walk a delicate line between regulation and academic freedom." He noted, "It isn't like a factory where you have cars going down an assembly line. There is only so much a chair can do to monitor faculty. But there are things you can do, and by making this explicit, it certainly sends a message to faculty." The Times reports that reaction on campus was "favorable" and the changes were "applauded" by those in the Orange County medical community. Dr. Michael Prislin, a family medicine professor and associate dean for student affairs said, "Everyone should be able to tolerate scrutiny and if it improves things, so much the better" (Warren/Gottlieb, 10/1).