Med Center Sees Administrative Changes

November 18, 1999

Judith Zwolak

Citing his commitment to eliminating redundant effort and expense while investing as much as possible in the academic enterprise, President Scott Cowen last month reorganized the administrative structure of the medical center, creating a new position in lieu of the chancellor's position, changing administrative reporting relationships and eliminating the jobs of two upper-level administrative officers.

The new position, senior vice president for the health sciences, is more than just a change in name, Cowen told a packed house at a town meeting in the School of Medicine auditorium on Wednesday, Aug. 18. Also speaking at the meeting was the interim senior vice president, Paul Whelton, dean of the School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine.

The substantive difference, said Cowen, is in the reporting relationships on the administrative side, which includes the areas of finance, administration, legal affairs, planning and development. The senior vice president for the health sciences will report directly to the president, as outlined in a job description Cowen distributed earlier last month.

Cowen stressed that the academic aspects of the job, such as deciding how the medical school distributes graduate student stipends, will not change. "My position is that academic decisions are best left to people at the medical center," he said. "Changing the title of the position also makes it consistent with other senior officers at the university and at other private, research universities," Cowen said.

In related administrative restructuring, Cowen eliminated the positions of vice chancellor and associate vice chancellor for finance and administration at the medical center. Administrative units that reported to these offices, as well as other units, will now report directly to either Tony Lorino, senior vice president for operations and chief financial officer, or Yvette Jones, senior vice president for planning and administration.

These units include finance, administration, planning, public relations and legal affairs. Inside Tulane will publish more information on the new organizational structure in a future issue. Another change is the reporting relationship of Pat Mason, vice president for medical center advancement. Mason, who formerly reported to the chancellor, will report directly to the president for the foreseeable future.

Cowen stressed that the medical center would remain Mason's sole responsibility. "Support staff members whose positions were eliminated by the administrative changes are not more than a handful," Cowen said. "The Office of Human Resources is assisting them in finding other positions in the university," he added.

Although he doesn't anticipate eliminating more jobs, Cowen reported that Tulane would provide laid-off employees with severance packages similar to those offered in the past. He also said that the changes should not result in the elimination of any administrative services. "We want to streamline the operation and make it work more efficiently," he said. "There is no attempt to take away services."

Savings from the administrative restructuring could be substantial over time, Cowen told the group. "Tulane will form a search committee to fill the senior vice president's position early this month," Cowen said. "The committee-composed of representatives from the faculty, administrative staff and medical center's Board of Governors-will spend the first 30 to 90 days searching for an internal candidate. If no appropriate candidate is identified, the search will extend outside Tulane and could last up to 18 months," he said.

During the search, Cowen will take the chancellor's former seat on the Board of Trustees of the Tulane Hospital and Clinic. Whelton, as interim senior vice president, will also attend all board meetings. In his new interim position, Whelton said he will direct the academic, research and clinical activities of the medical center while remaining the dean of the public health school.

"I hope it will be a constructive interim during which we will marshal the forces of the entire university to stimulate activities at the medical center," Whelton said. "The key is strategic planning. I will be active in helping put the strategic plan in place. It's the model through which we move forward."

In response to questions about the integrity of the medical center as a unit within the entire university, Cowen stressed the importance of cooperation between all units of Tulane to ensure the effective operation of the university as a whole. "If the overall institution is not healthy, no unit-no matter how well off-will stay well off for very long," he said.

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