Amid roiling faculty anger over drastic budget cuts, the University of Miami announced that the No. 2 executive at the Miller School of Medicine, Jack Lord, is “stepping down.”
The change, announced by Dean Pascal Goldschmidt, comes as a petition circulates among tenured medical school faculty expressing no confidence in both Goldschmidt and Lord.
In a statement Thursday, Goldschmidt defended his administration’s performance: “Last year we had many challenging issues to fix, as do many medical schools in the U.S. Thanks to Jack Lord’s leadership and hard work by everyone at the Miller School, we have met those challenges and turned things around financially.”The announcement comes after a tumultuous year in which the medical school suffered a severe financial crisis and its leaders responded with a major overhaul that included the layoffs last spring of over 900 full-time and part-time employees — moves that angered many professors.
In a letter to faculty sent on Wednesday, Goldschmidt insisted the problems have been fixed.Goldschmidt credited Lord for helping improve the medical school’s finances, which showed a surplus of about $9 million for the first six months of this fiscal year — compared to a $24 million loss for the first six months of the previous fiscal year.
Lord, a physician who had been an executive at Humana, became chief operating officer last March, as the restructuring plans started. He will be temporarily replaced by Joe Natoli, UM’s chief financial officer. The shakeup continued on Thursday when the medical school also announced that Sheri Keitz, the chief human resources officer during the layoff decisions, was being assigned to other duties.
Many faculty members, who had spent decades at the medical school without seeing mass layoffs, were angry that the cuts were made without consulting them. A report by a faculty senate committee said medical school professors described the layoffs as “unprofessional,” “graceless” and “heartless.”
The report contended that the internal turmoil had prompted some faculty members to consider leaving and that “fear is widespread.” It also cited instances of employees suffering retribution for criticizing the administration.
UM did not respond to a request for comment about the report on Thursday. Last May, President Donna Shalala, a veteran administrator at several universities, said tradition-bound faculty often complained when tough changes needed to be made.
Associate Professor Sam Terilli, head of the committee that wrote the interim report in late August, said last week that a follow-up report is being prepared, but said it was too soon to offer details of what it would say.
Meanwhile, several sources sent The Herald a copy of a petition being circulated among school faculty members who “wish to express, in the strongest possible terms, the concern we feel for the future for our school of medicine.” The petition blamed “the failed leadership of Pascal Goldschmidt and Jack Lord. ... We want to make clear that the faculty has lost confidence in the ability of these men to lead the school.”
The petition also complained that “the deterioration of the relationship with Jackson Memorial Hospital fundamentally threatens” education programs.
A half-dozen people closely connected to the medical school who requested anonymity told The Herald that they’ve heard that between 400 and 600 of the school’s 1,200 faculty have added their names to individual copies of the petition.
The petitions are addressed to the chair of the faculty senate, Richard L. Williamson, a law professor. Williamson said last week he would not comment on how many had signed the petition because it was “an internal matter” and may never become public. He said the number of those who know how many have signed is “extremely small and none of them will talk.”
Three sources told the Herald that faculty are sending individually signed copies of the petition to the senate chair with the understanding that Williamson would not reveal their names to UM administrators.
In his letter to faculty, Goldschmidt wrote: “It is important to note that we made our painful changes last year with no negative impact on our patient care. If anything, the quality of our care has continued to improve. We are building and enhancing our world-class health system, and our relationship with Jackson Memorial Hospital is stronger than ever.”
But last month, Jackson Board Chair Marcos Lapciuc said the UM relationship in recent years has “created irreparable harm” to Jackson and has “hurt the poor” that Jackson serves — an accusation that Goldschmidt at the time called “strange.”
Lord will be leaving at the end of January. For the rest of the month, he will be working with Natoli, a former Herald executive, to make for a smooth transition while there’s a national search for a new chief operating officer, Goldschmidt said.
On Thursday, Norman Braman, a Miami civic activist who owns car dealerships, denied a rumor he was thinking of rejoining the UM board of trustees. He said he was still irate that leaders responsible for the medical school’s financial crisis have not been held accountable. “The buck doesn’t stop anywhere.”
Goldschmidt has had his eight-bedroom South Dade house on the market for the past several months. He and wife Emily paid $3.4 million for the property in 2006; they’re asking $3.6 million. County property records indicate it has a market value of $2.2 million.
“The sale of the house is a private matter,” UM spokeswoman Lisa Worley said. “They’re trying to move his mother-in-law to Miami.”