Medical Center to begin second phase of reorganization

The GW Medical Center will adopt a new management structure by early summer geared toward streamlining academic and professional functions of the body that oversees medicine at the University, part of the second phase of a broad reorganization of the Medical Center.

For the past 11 months, the Medical Center has undergone a review by an advisory committee in order to transform its current three-school structure into a more cohesive, single unit.

“Our overall goal is to create a new structure for the entire health-related enterprise at GW, including education, research and clinical services,” Provost Steven Lerman said.

To analyze the Medical Center’s organizational structure, the University’s Board of Trustees asked GW senior administrators to engage in a year-long review of the Medical Center beginning in May 2010.

As the first of three major phases, an external health care services consultant provided “a preliminary study of the opportunities and options for GW’s health and medicine teaching and research” in August of last year, Lerman said.

During the now-underway second phase, which began in December, an advisory committee composed of faculty, staff and students is studying possible structural models, with the aim of implementing a new “three-dean model” in the final phase.

Under the new model, each of the deans for the School of Public Health and Health Services, the School of Medicine and Health Sciences and the School of Nursing would report directly to the Office of the Provost instead of the current model, which has the schools reporting to the vice president for medical affairs.

The change will make the schools’ reporting relationship with the provost the same as with the other schools of the University. Lerman will also control the budgets for the three schools, though the process for setting budgets has not yet been determined.

Management of the relationship between the schools and their clinical and hospital counterparts would fall mainly under the responsibility of the dean of the school of medicine.

Lerman explained that SMHS has “the closest ties to the hospital and the [GW] Medical Faculty Associates, so it makes the most sense for that dean to also have primary responsibility for managing GW’s relationship with our clinical partners.”

The deans of the three schools declined to comment.

As the review continues, the school of medicine will begin searching for a new dean to replace Dean James Scott, who stepped down in November 2010. Jeffrey Akman, former chair of the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, has been serving as the interim dean during the review process.

Under the current structure, Akman’s role as interim dean means he is responsible for both the Medical Center and the school of medicine, while the school of public health and the nursing school report to him in his capacity as interim vice provost for health affairs.

When the three-dean model is enacted, the Medical Center will no longer exist, so Akman will head only the school of medicine. The other two schools will report directly to the provost.

Lerman said the evaluation of the medical school dean’s role will inform the search for the school’s next permanent leader.

In the coming months, Lerman and University President Steven Knapp will hold town hall meetings with faculty members and other stakeholders to discuss qualifications for the new dean of the school of medicine, as well as broader goals for the future of medicine at the University.

“The new structure will better position GW to meet the challenges of health care in this country and enable all three of the schools to be national leaders in their respective domains,” Lerman said.

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