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Pieces of Eight


OSAT Team Presents Results

By Crystal Baity

A team examining the organizational structure of East Carolina University’s Division of Health Sciences submitted its final report to Interim Vice Chancellor Phyllis Horns on April 17.

Now the report will be reviewed by Horns and Chancellor Steve Ballard. Any action relative to the report will be decided by the chancellor, Horns said.

An 11-member Organizational Structure Assessment Team or OSAT was created to examine the division’s overall flowchart in response to recent leadership changes in the division and Brody School of Medicine.

In November, Dr. Michael Lewis, former vice chancellor of health sciences, was named executive assistant by Ballard. Dr. Cynda Johnson, former dean of the medical school, was named senior associate vice chancellor for clinical and translational research in the Division of Research and Graduate Studies.

OSAT, co-chaired by Drs. Kathy Previll and Stephen Thomas, has met weekly since January and compiled a five-page summary of comments heard at four open forums and by e-mail which outlines four governance models up for review.

Historically, the role of vice chancellor for the health sciences division was held by the dean of the medical school. In recent years the positions were separated and held by two different administrators. While some preferred one leader, many in the School of Allied Health Sciences, School of Nursing and Laupus Library believed they were better represented with a separate vice chancellor. The East Carolina Heart Institute and a planned School of Dentistry also will fall within the health sciences division.

Both governance models were listed as possibilities in the summary. A third model suggested that the health sciences division be dissolved and the School of Nursing and the School of Allied Health Sciences report to the provost. The dean of the medical school could become a vice chancellor for medicine and report directly to the chancellor. A fourth model would create a vice chancellor in charge of the division but would give the dean of medicine autonomy in decisions regarding the practice plan, the clinical arm of the medical school through which faculty members provide health care and services. A board could be created for the practice plan to include the vice chancellor as a voting member. The medical school dean then would report directly to the chancellor or to the vice chancellor for finance and administration.

Dr. Dorothy Spencer, Laupus Library director, said at the March 7 open forum that one person doesn’t have the time required to dedicate to both positions. “That is a reality. It is not intentional; it’s circumstantial,” she said. “Having seen wonderful progress in interdisciplinary health science endeavors, I’m concerned a merged model will disproportionately dominate interdisciplinary study and interdisciplinary practice and we will lose the momentum and some opportunity for research and creative exploration of the interdisciplinary function.”

The new health sciences building was built for collaboration, she added.

As part of its work, OSAT has surveyed other academic health center governance models and organizational structures and has interviewed Horns, Johnson, Lewis, Provost Jim Smith, financial officers Gary Vanderpool and Kevin Seitz, consultant and interim chief operating officer of the practice plan Chris Collins, Vice Chancellor for Research and Graduate Studies Deirdre Mageean, David Brody and Stephen Wartman of the Association of Academic Health Centers.

OSAT member Susan Simpson said she learned how there are similarities but important differences between ECU and other academic health centers. “One big thing is we don’t run the hospital,” Simpson said. “Our community is different.”

The team also discovered only 25 percent of academic health centers have a single person as vice chancellor and medical school dean, according to the Association of Academic Health Centers.

Currently, the vice chancellor’s office is funded by the practice plan, which requires a large amount of money. Also, the financial structure of the medical school has not been transparent. “Many don’t understand how it’s funded or run and therefore it’s not trusted. Many doctors at the medical school feel it should be more transparent,” said Previll, a pediatrician.

Another issue is whether the vice chancellor of health sciences should hold a medical degree. In a recent survey, the AAHC found that 87 percent of academic health center leaders are physicians with several holding both medical degrees and degrees in the sciences or public health. Non-physician academic health center chief executive officers include lawyers, Ph.D. scientists, pharmacists and dentists. The number of female administrators is about 6 percent.

To read the report, visit


OSAT team members

Stephen Thomas, co-chair, School of Allied Health Sciences

Kathy Previll, co-chair, Brody School of Medicine

Gregory Chadwick, School of Dentistry

Francis Eason and Martha Engelke, School of Nursing

Glen Gilbert, College of Health and Human Performance

Robert Kulesher, School of Allied Health Sciences

Daniel Moore, Jeffrey Smith and David Weismiller, Brody School of Medicine

Susan Simpson, Laupus Library




This page originally appeared in the April 27, 2007 issue of Pieces of Eight. Complete issue is archived at