Shelton Responds to Committee of Eleven Report on COM Issues

Shelton Responds to Committee of Eleven Report on COM Issues

By Ellen MossUniversity Communications
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The University of Arizona College of Medicine plays a critical role in the UA's national reputation, President Robert N. Shelton told members of the Faculty Senate on Monday, while acknowledging that its unique relationship with University Physicians Healthcare and University Medical Center has created a number of challenges that need to be addressed.

Shelton's comments came during discussion of a report from the Senate's Committee of Eleven that details faculty issues at the college, including morale and faculty governance.

The committee's report found that clinical faculty find it "essentially impossible" to effectively teach under the current COM-UPH-UMC structure.

Faculty members, who also are employees of UPH, have to teach as well as work 10-hour days performing clinical duties, according to the report. Other UPH/UMC issues cited in the report were questions about whether tenured faculty can be terminated by UPH and whether UPH can transfer faculty members from one campus to another.

The committee's report also stated that significant changes being made in the college are "causing considerable discomfort" among faculty members, including changes in the medical curriculum, the assignment of research space and faculty salaries. While most faculty members agree that those issues need to be addressed, they feel that changes are being made without their input, the report noted.

Shelton thanked the committee for its work and said the report "clearly raises some critical issues."

"For this University to move up in the rankings, the College of Medicine is absolutely critical," Shelton said.

Shelton also said that the leaders of the college, UPH and UMC are coming together to see what can be done about the relationship of the three institutions, and said he and College of Medicine Dean Keith Joiner are planning gatherings with faculty to discuss their issues.

Joiner said today that he has spoken with most of the department heads and many faculty members about the report.

"They feel, as do I, that the report does not reflect the current situation at the medical school, which is undergoing historic growth to address Arizona's spiraling health care crisis and great need for more physicians. Our medical school is simply too small and we must grow quickly to meet our statewide mission."

The rapid growth during a time of limited resources causes understandable stress, he added.

Within a very short time, "we have expanded the medical school to downtown Phoenix, in a historic partnership with ASU; added a world-class research facility, the Medical Research Building; and developed an innovative new curriculum that is receiving national attention," Joiner said. "We also have expanded programs to University Physicians Hospital at Kino Campus and recruited renowned biomedical research faculty, as well as excellent new department heads and center directors, among many other achievements."

A firm has been engaged to help "develop a plan for the medical school, University Medical Center and University Physicians Healthcare to function together more strategically," he said. "We certainly will be sensitive to the issues raised in the report, but truly believe the College of Medicine is on the right path."

The Committee of Eleven, which aims to "initiate, promote, and stimulate study and action dealing with and looking toward solution of situations and problems of interest and concern to the faculty and the University," began conducting a study of the college in September after being made aware of faculty concerns in the summer of 2007.

According to its report, the committee attended 17 meetings with individuals, groups of faculty and/or department administrators and received input from over 130 faculty members for its study.

The committee concluded, among other things, that faculty input and shared governance need to be increased within the college and climate issues "urgently require attention."

"There need to be open and honest discussions," said Senator John Ulreich, a professor of English. "And we must support our colleagues in the College of Medicine."

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