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  February 12, 2001

Plans for Health Center's New
Board of Directors Beginning to Take Shape

The governing unit of the UConn Health Center should be a board of directors consisting of 17 members, with a wide range of authority - but not the power to approve a capital or annual budget.

That recommendation - a revision of a more comprehensive proposal suggested by a working group looking at Health Center governance - is likely to be presented by the Health Affairs Committee to the University's Board of Trustees this spring.

The working group's recommendation provided for the board to have budget authority but members of the Health Affairs Committee were uncomfortable with the suggestion and altered it so that budget authority was retained by the Board of Trustees.

Nevertheless, the working group recommended wholesale changes in the way the Health Center's oversight and policy-making apparatus is constructed and functions; and by and large, the Health Affairs Committee agreed.

"I think the Health Affairs Committee clearly takes very seriously and attempts to weigh the need or desire to have a single university with the ultimate authority invested in the Board of Trustees, with the practical reality that we need to give the authority to the Health Center's Board of Directors in order to attract the best possible members," says Scott Wetstone, the working group chairman. "There was consensus, the Board of Directors of the Health Center needs to be an expanded body of people who are committed, knowledgeable and have the time and energy to address the diverse and complex issues of an academic health center."

Currently the Health Affairs Committee, a five-member subcommittee of the University's Board of Trustees, provides oversight. The suggested changes creating the new body would offer an opportunity to bring added diversity as well as new skills, insights and experiences to the panel. The proposal also expands the committee's role from that of only making recommendations to the full Board of Trustees to one with authority over many aspects of the Health Center's business. The idea is to better position the Health Center to be able to react, even anticipate, events that could and will affect it.

No vote was taken on the working group's revised recommendation - the committee wanted some time to digest the report and fine-tune it before presenting it to the Board of Trustees.

"This is a very good report," says Claire Leonardi, chair of the Health Affairs Committee. "The report reflects the talent, time and resources a board of directors would need."

In addition to the authority to approve oversight functions such as grants and contracts, compensation plans and labor contracts, promotion, tenure and reappointment, adjudication of faculty grievances, staffing levels and affiliations, the working group's report recommended that the new board would also act in a strong advisory capacity to the trustees on matters relating to the Health Center, including:

  • changes in the fundamental mission of the Health Center;

  • transfer or sale of any university property;

  • the development program;

  • declaration of fiscal exigency, closure of an academic department, or changes in policies related to tenure;

T he university president's role and responsibility for oversight of the Health Center would remain essentially unchanged, although the president would serve as a voting member on the new Board of Directors.

"We need great people dedicated to the Health Center," says Paul Johnson, a working group member and president and chief executive officer of Gaylord Hospital in Wallingford. "The oversight process has to be in the hands of people who understand the needs of the Health Center, and have the authority to make change."

The Board of Directors would consist of:

  • a chair appointed by the chair of the Board of Trustees;

  • two trustees appointed by the chair;

  • the university president;

  • three members appointed by the governor;

  • the secretary of the office of Policy and Management or a deputy under-secretary;

  • nine additional members to be selected by a nominating committee.

T he size of the proposed board was influenced by the working group's belief that a proper governing structure would use the committee system. A 17-member board would allow for a number of committees with a mix of members and a variety of skills.

"The types of people we want to get involved need the authority to keep them interested and have a meaningful say in what happens," says Bruce Chudwick, a working group member and member of the Farmington Town Council.

The working group reflected the varied skill set of the proposed board of directors. In addition to senior Health Center leadership, it was composed also of the executive directors of the state medical and dental societies, a hospital executive, a town council member, a former Health Center patient, a former medical school dean, a nurse, an employee, a student, and faculty members representing the medical and dental school councils.

The recommendations were presented to the Health Affairs Committee on Feb. 6.

Patrick Keefe