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School of Medicine has new governance structure

by Pat Keefe - January 23, 2006

The governance of the School of Medicine has recently been reorganized, with six specialized groups replacing two general governance committees.

“I’m very pleased,” says Mary Casey Jacob, a professor of psychiatry and obstetrics and gynecology and associate dean for faculty affairs at the Health Center. Casey Jacob was chair of the Guidelines Revision Committee, the main committee planning and coordinating school governance reorganization.

The idea behind the governance reorganization of the School of Medicine was to better comply with national accreditation standards on faculty governance, and to engage the faculty in creative problem solving.

The six councils now responsible for governing the school are education, research, public issues, clinical affairs, the Dean’s Council, and the oversight committee. Membership on the committees was determined by vote of the faculty. Some 140 nominees vied for 44 elected faculty positions.

The faculty turnout rate was 43 percent. Prior to the reorganization, elections yielded participatory rates of 10 percent, 13 percent, and 11 percent.

“We have very broad participation in terms of faculty members running and percentages voting,” says Casey Jacob.

“We have good, hard-working people participating who represent a wide range of interests and expertise.”

Dr. Peter J. Deckers, executive vice president for health affairs and dean of the School of Medicine, concurs. “I’m gratified with the response of the School of Medicine faculty,” he says.

“Governance of the school is an evolutionary process that’s dependent on faculty participation. Everyone understands the cost of that participation in terms of work, workload, and commitment, but the reward for those shouldering those burdens is real authority to positively effect change.

“The model is also highly dependent on collaboration and effective communication between the committees and the administration,” Deckers adds. “I emphatically support the governance process and am deeply appreciative of those who agreed to work harder to ultimately improve our medical school.”

The new process is designed to enhance decision-making and be more inclusive, involving various faculty committees in the development of policies and plans at an early stage. The goal is to achieve greater integration of education, research, and clinical activity at the medical school – activities that traditionally have operated in parallel.

Elections were designed to maximize participation. An outside company was hired to run the elections electronically, to ensure accuracy and allow for an automatic run-off to eliminate run-off elections, which typically have low rates of participation.

The former School of Medicine Council and Dean’s Advisory Committee were dissolved and their work – in whatever stage – was passed on to the appropriate committees. The orientation for all the new councils was held Jan. 10, and focused on how the new structure will work and what can be done to facilitate collaboration between the elected faculty and the communities they represent, and also between the committees and the School of Medicine.

“This situation is so different from the School of Medicine Council model of governance, in that this emphasizes collaborative decision-making between administration and elected faculty,” says Casey Jacob. “The faculty will have to work on considering the best interests of the school as well as the best interests of the faculty or one department or center.”

And, she adds, “they’ll also have to work hard and put time in on understanding just how complex policy development and planning can be. We believe our new governance structure is well suited to collaborative decision making and to having elected faculty included at the highest levels of policy development. It is a historic culture change.”

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