The transition to a new chancellor at the University of Nebraska Medical Center gives the community a chance to decide where it's at, where it has been and where it wants to go, according to a man who wants to become the next chancellor.
Dr. Fred Meyers told a group of about 80 people Tuesday that such transitions can create huge anxieties: “What's the next leader going to look like? Is he going to be able to carry on the successes of the previous leader? Will he or she take us in new directions? What are we in for, and what's going to happen?”
Given that, he said, all players must work together to decide the institution's direction.
“We can't just say, 'We want to be more highly ranked in research.' Everybody wants to be more highly ranked in research. How will Nebraska outcompete Northwestern or UCLA or Harvard or (Johns) Hopkins?
“What do you have that's special that will attract and retain investigators so that your research mission will continue to grow?”
Meyers, 62, is executive associate dean at the University of California-Davis School of Medicine.
He is the first of four finalists to visit the UNMC campus for interviews. The four are seeking to replace Dr. Harold Maurer, chancellor since 1998, who is shifting to a fundraising role at the end of this month.
In remarks to faculty and staff at the Durham Research Center auditorium, Meyers credited the institution's leadership and the overall organization for developing “just a stunningly beautiful campus.” He said the leaders know that they must fill the buildings with “cutting-edge, high-impact, leading-the-nation programs.”
As far as health care reform is concerned, Meyers said, leaders must ask whether health care is being delivered in the most efficient and effective way and whether care is organized for the benefit of the doctors or the patients.
“I actually know the answer to that question,” he said. “That's not so rhetorical.”
Meyers said he wants to maintain and enhance the culture of philanthropy and community support enjoyed by UNMC.
“It is a national model,” he said. “You all and your leadership have done a fantastic job of engaging Nebraskans and particularly people in Omaha to understand the value of an academic medical center. That is not true at all areas of this country, and especially not true in California.”
Both in his talk Tuesday and in a newspaper interview Monday, Meyers said a medical center chancellor must be able to speak the language of researchers, hospital administrators, educators and community members. He said he enjoys and is successful at dealing with such diverse groups.
In response to questions, Meyers discussed the need to tap various sources of research funding, including academic-industry partnerships; the best ways to encourage recent graduates to support their school and to reward faculty; the difficulty medical students can have being placed in residencies; and the need to serve as advocates for disadvantaged groups that lack access to health care.
A chancellor's job, Meyers said, is to encourage collaboration and help people on campus be more effective at what they do.
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