Riddle me this: why would a group of directors of for-profit corporations that provide health care goods and services. plus a director of a leading biotechnology trade group, and the director of a leading mutual fund family band together to support this demand, thus to push for bigger pensions for these top managers of the University of California system?
Here is a list of the directors, and their corporations:
- Mark R Laret, director of Varian Medical Systems and Nuance Communications Inc, which provides numerous health care products
- Dr David Feinberg, director of OSI Systems, whose Spacelabs Healthcare subsidiary manufactures medical devices
- Steven C Currall, director of Leadership in Medicine Inc, which claims to be a leading provider of intelligence about key opinion leaders (KOLs) in medicine and health care. Its web-site asserts, "IF YOU NEED TO KNOW who are the most prominent, admired, and influential actors in healthcare, how they are interconnected, and why, you need our expertise. Given how vastly complex are the relationships among providers, researchers, and other significant actors in healthcare, it is vital to focus on key opinion leaders (KOLs) at local, regional, and global levels, and to understand the ties among them." (Note that we have often discussed how KOLs function as stealth marketers for pharmaceuticals and devices.)
- Robert S Sullivan, PhD - director of BIOCOM, whose web-site asserts it is the" largest regional life science association in the world, representing more than 550 member companies in Southern California."
- Richard K Lyons, director of iShares, a leading provider of mutual funds.
The answer is simple. All the corporate directors listed above are also members of the group of 36 litigious executives. See their name on the list of 36 here in the San Francisco Chronicle.
- Mark R Laret, director of Varian Medical Systems and Nuance Communications Inc, which provides numerous health care products, is also CEO of UCSF Medical Center.
- Dr David Feinberg, director of OSI Systems, whose Spacelabs Healthcare subsidiary manufactures medical devices, is also CEO of the UCLA Hospital System
- Steven C Currall, director of Leadership in Medicine Inc, which claims to be a leading provider of intelligence about key opinion leaders (KOLs) in medicine and health care, is also Dean, and Professor of Management of the University of California - Davis Graduate School of Management.
Robert S Sullivan, PhD - director of BIOCOM, whose web-site asserts it is the" largest regional life science association in the world, representing more than 550 member companies in Southern California, is also Dean of the University of California - San Diego Rady School of Management.
- Richard K Lyons, director of iShares, a leading provider of mutual funds, is also Bank of America Dean and Professor of Business, University of California - Berkeley Haas School of Business.
Their inclusion within the larger group seems ironic, at best. As corporate directors, they have outside income and have accumulated assets that will likely keep them out of poverty in their old age. For example, Mr Laret had accumulated the equivalent of 37,168 shares of Varian, and was paid $267,300 a year for his services according to the company's 2010 proxy statement.
Furthermore, for those who directly lead health care institutions, Mr Laret and Dr Feinberg, their memberships on the boards of health care corporations, which imply fiduciary responsibilities to the companies and their stock-holders, conflict with their duties as leaders of academic health care to uphold teaching, research and patient care. Dean Currall's responsibilities to an organization which seems entirely dedicated to helping drug, device, and biotechnology companies turn health care professionals and academics into stealth marketers at least seems unseemly given that his school is part of a university which also includes a medical school and academic medical center.
Since our earlier post, it appears that the University of California president will not accede to the demands of the 36, as noted in the San Francisco Chronicle. Their demands have continued to provoke outrage. A recent discussion in Inside Higher Ed interviewed Emeritus Professor Helen Henry, a member of the University's Academic Senate, who posited:
the debate as part of a fundamental philosophical disagreement within the university. The signatories to the letter, many of whom are based in medicine or management, have a different view of the university than faculty from other disciplines, she said.
'I don’t think there’s any question but that there are these two different mindsets that are fighting for what the university should be. It’s transparent in this letter,' said Henry, a professor emeritus of biochemistry at the Riverside campus. 'They are running businesses. But there are those of us that don’t feel this is what the university should be.'
'This is absolutely a manifestation of that clash between the people who see UC as their business … and the people who see UC’s mission as teaching, and research and service to the state. That’s a dual personality that the university always has to live with.'
Five of the university leaders demanding higher pensions for themselves have responsibilities as directors of corporations that may conflict with their academic institutions' missions, while these corporate positions ought to insulate them from financial concerns about their retirement. This corroborates Prof Henry's notion that they see themselves as businesspeople whose role is separate from, and not necessarily supportive of the university mission.
I disagree, however, with Prof Henry's implication that the University has to live with such a split among its leadership. People who lead academic institutions have a primary responsibility to support the academic mission. Their goals should not be to maximize profits, much less to enrich themselves. Letting academia, and academic medicine be lead by leaders out to make money and line their own pockets will lead to just that, but hardly better teaching, research, and patient care.