University VP candidate: Fundraising is key

August 1, 2008

By Flinn Foundation

[Source: Arizona Republic, Ken Alltucker] – The University of Arizona’s top candidate for the position of vice president of health affairs said medical school campuses in both Tucson and Phoenix can thrive as long as administrators raise enough money from public and private sources.

William M. Crist acknowledged the Tucson medical school faculty’s concerns that the new Phoenix campus is draining resources are legitimate. But he said the answer lies in cooperation and the need to raise “buckets of money” to satisfy both campuses.

“The sky is the limit in Phoenix, and the sky is the limit in Tucson,” said Crist, who on Thursday answered questions from faculty and staff. “The amount of resources that are in Phoenix are enormous.”

Crist, dean of the University of Missouri-Columbia School of Medicine, is the sole finalist named from a short list compiled by UA President Robert Shelton and UA Executive Vice President and Provost Meredith Hay. Hay previously worked with Crist at the University of Missouri.

Shelton created the new position as part of a restructuring to provide oversight of the university’s health sciences center, including both medical school campuses, colleges of pharmacy, public health and nursing and Arizona Cancer Center.

The move follows reports of concern among faculty and staff over the roles of both medical school campuses and the resignation of medical school deans in Phoenix and Tucson.

The dean of the College of Medicine-Phoenix, Edward “Ted” Shortliffe, resigned this year after College of Medicine Dean Keith Joiner changed Shortliffe’s title from dean to vice dean. Last month, Shelton announced Joiner would resign, too.

Shelton and Hay want to hire Crist or another candidate by September. One of the incoming vice president’s first duties will be to hire deans for both medical school campuses.

The UA’s Phoenix medical school is considered an important part of the city’s downtown redevelopment plans and a trigger for a biomedical campus anchored by research groups such as the Translational Genomics Research Institute and the International Genomics Consortium.

Crist, who has already met with several Phoenix-area hospital executives and researchers such as TGen President Jeffrey Trent, said a key part of his job would be facilitating relationships and bolstering fundraising.

Since becoming Missouri’s medical-school dean in 2000, Crist raised more than $100 million in gifts and pledges, and the school’s endowment grew more than 150 percent, to $80 million.

“I’m a hard guy to say ‘no’ to,” Crist said of his fundraising track record.

Crist added that he doesn’t believe a new downtown Phoenix teaching hospital is critical to the success of the burgeoning medical school campus. Hospitals near downtown, such as St. Joseph’s Hospital & Medical Center, Banner Good Samaritan, Maricopa Medical Center and Phoenix Children’s Hospital, all can provide Phoenix medical students enough space to train and hone their skills.

“How many hospitals you build should be determined by what you need; that is determined by the patient population,” Crist said in an interview after speaking to staff and faculty. “The real question is whether you need a hospital. That should be the question, not because you need one for a medical school.”

Harvard Medical School, for example, sends its students to more than a half-dozen hospitals near its campus. He believes a similar model can be used in Phoenix.

Banner Health and UA struck a tentative pact to build a downtown hospital, but the deal fell apart over disagreements on the hospital’s size and who should pay the salaries of about 300 teaching physicians.

Maricopa Integrated Health Systems CEO Betsey Bayless said the county health district still needs to replace its aging Maricopa Medical Center, and she believes a partnership with UA is still possible.

“I think we are still open to building in conjunction with the university,” Bayless said. “We are also open to staying on our campus.”

Maricopa was an early, unsuccessful suitor to build a downtown hospital with UA. The Maricopa-UA deal fell apart after the university reached a tentative deal with Banner Health.