Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Another Academic Medical Leader (This Time at Vanderbilt) Named Corporate Director (This Time at Merck)

We have previously blogged about the apparently major conflicts of interest generated when a leader of an academic medical institution is also simultaneously on the board of directors of one or more for-profit health care corporations.

The Associated Press (here via the Houston Chronicle) just reported that Dr Harry Jacobson has been appointed to the board of directors of Merck and Co. The AP report also noted that Jacobson is on the board of Kinetic Concepts Inc. A cursory Google search revealed Dr Jacobson is a founder of Radiation Oncology Services of America (via the Nashville Business Journal) and was formerly on the board of the Renal Care Group (via PRNewsire).

Meanwhile, Dr Jacobson's day job is to be Vice-Chancellor of Health Affairs of Vanderbilt University. So here is yet another example of a top leader of an academic health care institution who is also on the board of directors of in this case three for-profit health care corporations, including one of the largest pharmaceutical companies in the world, plus two smaller local companies.

According to the Third Edition of Corporate Governance by RAG Monks and N Minow, a member of the board of directors of a public, for-profit company must "demonstrate unyielding loyalty to the company's stockholders." So it would appear that Dr Jacobson, like other top leaders of academic medical institutions who serve on the boards of for-profit health care corporations, has quite some conflicts of interest. How can he simultaneously demonstrate "unyielding loyalty" to a pharmaceutical company, a company that produces wound care therapeutics products, and a company that provides outpatient radiology services, and meanwhile be devoted to the health care mission of Vanderbilt University? But at the moment, nobody at the University seems concerned about it. And these kinds of conflict of interest have excited little interest, while many bytes and much ink and paper address the conflicts generated when medical students, interns and residents, or practicing physicians receive pens or mugs with corporate logos, or free pizzas (see this post). Go figure, and let the good times roll....

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Doctors--who have more 'power' than we mere mortals--should be outraged that this sort of conflict continues, and work diligently to thwart such misconduct. Don't they realize that this diminishes the regard in which they are held; or do they merely see that they offer 'the only game in town' and thus, while they may be looked at with less esteem--their (collective) bottom lines won't suffer. Is it easier to go along to get along, rather than make waves and demand/work for a higher moral/ethical standard?