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for Med School and Health System
is a job made in heaven
for me, said Dr. Arthur Rubenstein, the newly appointed dean of the School
of Medicine and the Universitys executive vice president for the Health
System. I love universities; I love academic medicine. Besides, he added:
This is a special university, and an important health system, and a great
medical system, and its just an honor for me to come in and be part of
Given the turmoil
that the Health System recently went through, the Made in Heaven label
might strike the casual observer as a stretch. But in a quiet, gentle
way, the 63-year-old South African native made a convincing case for his
delightabove and beyond the fact that he is arriving at a time when the
Health System is back in the black and the medical school and hospital
components are very highly ranked.
started at Penn on September 1, spent the last four years as dean of the
Mt. Sinai School of Medicine in New York and the previous 30 years on
the faculty of the University of Chicago, including 16 as chair of the
Department of Medicine. At Chicago, he said, the relationship between
the medical school and hospital were very similar to the set-up at Penn,
and he regards that relationship as very, very special.
Dr. Judith Rodin
CW66, president of the University, described Rubenstein as a seasoned
pro as well as an exceptional educator and an accomplished physician,
scientist, and leader who possesses the experience and skills necessary
to lead Penns Health System into the future. Moreover, she added: He
is committed to closely coordinating the medical schools education and
research mission with the clinical care offered by Penns specialists,
primary-care doctors, and other health-care providers. He brings both
a practical and erudite vision to ensure the continuing viability of our
biomedical-sciences efforts, which we have established as crucial to the
Universitys strategic ambitions.
Dr. William N.
Kelley, the former medical dean and Health System CEO (now a professor
of medicine), told The Philadelphia Inquirer that Rubenstein is
an outstanding choice and one of the top people in the country. Kelley
was ousted in February 2000 after the Health System lost nearly $300 million
in fiscal 1998 and 1999 and was forced to cut some 2,800 positions, approximately
20 percent of its workforce.
By the time Kelley
was replaced by Dr. Peter G. Traber who resigned four months later to
take a position with
the pharmaceutical firm GlaxoSmithKlinethe financial turnaround had begun.
In fiscal 2000, the operating loss was down to $30 million, and the unaudited
results for the first three-quarters of fiscal 2001 showed the Health
System posting a $24 million operating profit. Still, the earlier losses
affected Penns bond rating as well as that of the Health System, and
shook the Universitys financial confidence.
While the turnaround
has been truly amazing, Rubenstein said, one has to be absolutely sure
this never happens again, within whatever power one has. And Ive tried
to study why it happened, and Ive tried to learn from any mistakes that
might have been made. He was reluctant to second-guess any of the decisions
made by his predecessor, though, noting that many of the nations academic
hospitals are losing money, thanks in part to changing marketplace pressures,
the need to provide indigent care, and underpayment by insurers.
appointment last month, Dr. Arthur Asbury was serving as interim dean
of the medical school, while Dr. Robert D. Martin had risen from chief
operating officer of the Health System to interim CEO to permanent CEO
[Gazetteer, July/August]. In that position, Martin will report to Rubenstein,
who, in turn, will report to Rodin (in his capacity as executive vice
president of the Health System) and to Provost Robert Barchi Gr72 M72
GM73 (as dean of the medical school).
Saying that Martin
has done an outstanding job in righting the Health Systems financial
ship, Rubenstein added: I look forward to working with him very closely
as a partner, because this [Health System] is a huge thing. Im hoping
that we will complement each other in a way that will bring real value
After the financial
losses, a joint committee of medical faculty and University trustees recommended
creating a separate, not-for-profit 501(c)(3) organization for the Health
System and its components, which would provide some financial protection
to the University. That recommendation, which has not yet been acted upon,
came after Penn had been considering selling off part or all of the Health
System. Rubenstein said he would have an open mind about the final structure
of the organization.
Im going to
work with my colleagues in the medical center, with Dr. Rodin, with the
board, to try to find exactly the right structure over the next several
months. The opportunity actually to do that is a very interesting challenge
Asked about the
immediate challenges at the medical school and the Health System, Rubenstein
Well, Dr. Rodins
putting them back together again, as they were originally under Kelley.
And Im really, really pleased about that, because it allows the clinical
mission of the institution to be aligned in a way that is just very special.
Its consistent, I think, with other great medical centers that are really
successful at this time: Hopkins, Duke, UCLA, and Michigan, among others.
And I think Penn in a sense always was a leader in that kind of creative
was a lot of review and evaluation of it, he said, I still do believeand
I think this university now still believesthat thats the appropriate
On the other
hand, I think we need to be creative and be sure that the Health System
and the medical-school conglomerations dont negatively impact a great
university, because these things are so big now, and they are so driven
by marketplace issues, that you want to shield academic university issues
from it as much as is reasonablebecause universities are there forever,
and health systems deal with the vagaries of this year and that year.
that it must have been painful and horrible to make the personnel cuts,
Rubenstein said he thought they had been made judiciously, and as proof
of that cited the remarkable faith in the institution displayed by the
faculty. Unlike some medical centers, where cutbacks have prompted the
best people to bail out, Rubenstein said he has seen no serious disaffection
of the senior faculty at Penn.
admirer of the noted physician and teacher William Osler (chairman of
clinical medicine at Penn from 1884 to 1889), stressed his fondness for
teaching. I wouldnt have come if I couldnt teach, he said. I love
to teach. Its in my bones and my bloodand thats why I love universities.
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