Restructuring Medicine Forum

I must take issue with the spin evident in your report of the faculty leadership conference of May 3-4. Professor Meiselman was not a lone malcontent trying to spoil the party. I, too, joined the conference with grave misgivings about its timing, its composition, its organization, and its purpose.

I was pleased to add my voice to the conversation between the faculty and administration, but I insisted that I represented no one but myself. That “any faculty member who asked to attend was welcomed” does not legitimize the fact that most participants had been nominated by department chairs or senior administrators and that none had been elected by their peers.

Moreover, there was strong support for the position that any material emanating from the conference must be disseminated for thorough discussion and ratification by the entire faculty of the School of Medicine.

In this light, the conference’s early adjournment can not be portrayed as testimony to its efficiency and “upbeat” mood. Participants did not vote to forgo a report from the Budget Advisory Committee, a report which would surely have engendered intense discussion.

The other items dropped from the agenda were reviews of draft reports from small discussion groups and presentation of a final report. These would have been, at best, irrelevant; conference participants would not have taken votes to endorse such documents.

The conference was damaged by its structural shortcomings. I hope these can be corrected in the faculty’s discussion of the conference deliberations. The flaws include the ill-conceived session on programmatic budgeting, a topic which could not be discussed intelligently at the conference. They also include absence from the agenda of contentious issues of governance, such as accountability for budget commitments and unjust, vindictive treatment of the basic science faculty, and debatable issues of strategic planning, such as constructing space that will be taxed by the university and aggressively recruiting faculty in certain areas while “downsizing” the school.

One can hope these issues will receive the thorough and candid discussion they require, and that the discussion will not be beclouded by a contrived crisis atmosphere such as attended last year’s late-hour announcement of a structural budget deficit.

Austin K. Mircheff, Ph.D. Professor of Physiology and Biophysics As the chair of the Research Committee of the American Heart Association-Greater Los Angeles Affiliate (AHA-GLAA), I am writing to correct a serious error in the May 10, 1996, issue of the HSC Weekly. I trust this correction will be published in the next issue of the HSC Weekly, and that, in the future, you and your staff will contact the AHA-GLAA prior to publishing such negative statements about this local volunteer health organization.

On page four of the May 10 HSC Weekly, you indicated that at the May 3-4 retreat, the “Bench to Bedside” breakout group prompted a comment that “…grants from organizations such as the American Heart Association are going begging without USC applications.” This statement in quotes implies that the AHA-GLAA has excess money for supporting research, yet cannot award all of it due to a lack of applications from USC. As the reporter/recorder for this group, I can assure you that this statement was never made during the presentation from this group. The AHA-GLAA does its best to support high quality research, yet never has sufficient monies to fund all approved and highly-rated research grant applications.” Thus, to say that such grants are going “begging” is a disservice to both the AHA-GLAA and the Los Angeles research community.

In fact, the proportion of grant applications received by the AHA-GLAA from USC (HSC or UPC) is only a very small fraction of that from the other major Los Angeles research institutions. UCLA and its associated facilities, plus the California Institute of Technology, represent the largest applicant pool, and therefore are the institutions which receive the majority of money from the AHA-GLAA. As a member of the USC faculty, I would be most pleased if the AHA-GLAA received more applications from USC

I am sure that our research abilities match those of others in the Los Angeles area, yet USC investigators cannot expect AHA-GLAA funding if they do not apply for these funds!

Herbert J. Meiselman, ScD Professor of Physiology Biophysics Chair, AHA-GLAA Research Committee I would like to suggest some changes in the HSC Weekly:

I think there should be more “serious” journalism in the Weekly, and correspondingly less fluff. In last week’s issue, for example, the piece on the School of Medicine’s restructuring effort simply reiterated what went on at the weekend retreat.

The key issues which the administration and faculty have been at odds over-comparative faculty salaries at other medical schools, the real details of the budget and the budget deficit, etc.-were not delved into.

I am thinking of the type of analysis we get for example in the Los Angeles Times, where background or generally unknown information is brought out through investigative journalism.

It may be too much to ask for, but I would imagine that insightful and informative reporting would make the Weekly far more valuable to the Health Sciences Campus, and would result in more regular and serious readership. Why couldn’t the Weekly, for example, obtain from the administration the complete details of the Medical School’s budget and publish some analysis?

Make some phone calls, do some digging-there’s plenty of material out there. My feeling is that the Weekly now is more like a People magazine than a Newsweek, and is taken with the corresponding degree of seriousness.

Henry Sucov Department of Cell and Neurobiology The published summary of the Faculty Leadership Conference in the May 10 issue of the HSC Weekly suffered from the same limitation as conference itself: it was orchestrated by the administration without faculty input.

The Medical School Strategic Plan (March 26, 1993, pg. 30) states that the medical school has adopted a Governance Document that accords the faculty a meaningful role in the development of budgets, entitles the faculty to timely and accurate information regarding major programmatic goals and directions for the school and individual departments, and the opportunity for meaningful input and active participation in the planning process at all levels.

Nonetheless, the administration continues to subvert the role of the faculty, and the Medical Faculty Assembly, by ignoring their “input” and denying “active participation” in managing and correcting the ongoing budget crisis.

While the Faculty Leadership Conference may have been an eleventh hour attempt at compliance with this Governance Document, it was the administration that unilaterally: set the agenda, announced that the current budget “crisis” not be discussed, arranged the makeup of the 11 breakout groups (six to seven participants discussing one assigned topic for 90 minutes), and finally, gleaned and re-worded the report of the conference published in the HSC Weekly, all without faculty input.

The faculty participants are left to conclude: 1) that the meeting was organized as a knee-jerk response to the mandate from Provost Armstrong for faculty input into re-structuring the medical school, 2) that the administration was not so much interested in faculty input as in gleaning ammunition for their pre-determined re-structuring agenda, and 3) that the HSC Weekly is the propaganda organ for this re-structuring agenda. Why did the meeting end early? Not because “the group had agreed unanimously that there was no need for a Sunday morning session.” Rather, the administration truncated the agenda (distributed April 29) by deleting the report from the Budget Advisory Committee.

While the faculty was eager for meaningful dialogue, it was pointless to continue under the constraint that the current budget situation would not be a focus for discussion.

Alicia A. McDonough, Ph.D. Associate Professor Physiology and Biophysics