Statement by UCSF and University of California Office of General Counsel concerning the leadership of the UCSF School of Medicine

By Corinna Kaarlela

On December 14, UCSF Chancellor J. Michael Bishop, MD, announced that Professor David Kessler, MD, had left office as Dean of the UCSF School of Medicine and Vice Chancellor for Medical Affairs. He also announced that Professor Sam Hawgood, MB, BS, had been named as Interim Dean of the UCSF School of Medicine.

In June of this year, Chancellor Bishop asked Dr. Kessler for his resignation no later than January 1, 2008, and invited Dr. Kessler to work with the University on an amicable resolution. The position of Dean of the UCSF Medical School is an at-will appointment, meaning the appointee serves only so long as he has the confidence of the University’s leadership. Dr. Kessler did not relinquish his position, causing the Chancellor to formally dismiss him, which was done on December 13. Simultaneously, University of California President Robert Dynes formally dismissed Dr. Kessler as Vice Chancellor of Medical Affairs at UCSF, as required by the standing orders of the Regents. Dr. Kessler remains on the tenured faculty of UCSF as a Professor of Pediatrics/Epidemiology and Biostatistics.

## Retaliation claims are groundless

Dr. Kessler has publicly implied that he was dismissed in retaliation for his allegations about financial irregularities in the UCSF School of Medicine. The University categorically denies this. UC General Counsel Charles F. Robinson, who reports directly to the UC Regents, reviewed the matter and stated, “I personally reviewed the facts and circumstances underlying the dismissal of Dr. Kessler. I can state unequivocally that I would have intervened to prevent his dismissal had I concluded the decision was motivated by retaliation for Dr. Kessler’s prior complaints about the School of Medicine’s finances.”

The reasons for Dr. Kessler’s dismissal as Dean by Chancellor Bishop and as Vice Chancellor for Medical Affairs by President Dynes cannot be discussed, as they represent personnel matters that are held
confidential in compliance with University policy and state law.

## School of Medicine and its Dean’s funds are strong; no findings of financial irregularities

It must be emphasized that, from the outset, the University took Dr. Kessler’s allegations seriously. The allegations were disclosed promptly to The Regents of the University. The finances of the School of Medicine were then reviewed by three separate parties over the course of more than two years—the University Auditor, a group of senior UCSF financial officers, and an independent, outside accounting firm. All of these reviews found the School of Medicine to be in sound financial condition, and none uncovered evidence of financial irregularities.

University Auditor Patrick Reed stated that his review “found no evidence of wrongdoing or financial irregularities.” Eugene Washington, MD, UCSF Executive Vice Chancellor/Provost, chaired the review by senior UCSF financial officers, and stated that a “historical analysis also showed that the Central Medical School was in sound financial condition, with substantial year-end balances, each year of the six-year period examined, and uncovered no financial irregularities.”

## UCSF’s financial controls

It must also be emphasized that UCSF has a strong system of both centralized and decentralized financial controls. Each Vice Chancellor, Dean and the CEO of the Clinical Enterprise are responsible for implementing established policies so that UCSF is in compliance and in sound fiscal condition.

In addition, UCSF has compliance and internal control oversight committees and workgroups from all key areas across the academic enterprise to promote accountability and improve controls. Over the years, UCSF has implemented many internal controls and compliance program initiatives, ranging from risk assessments and control scanning surveys to ethics and financial training and control monitoring. This year, in response to Statement on Auditing Standards (SAS) No. 112 implementation, UCSF documented and evaluated 30 financial controls on the key business processes and found no significant control weaknesses.

Further, the UCSF Internal Audit department annually conducts numerous control reviews. Internal Audits’ most recent annual report of UCSF concluded it did not find any material control weaknesses. However, it did find that there were opportunities to implement more weaknesses. However, it did find that there were opportunities to implement more effective monitoring and oversight practices across UCSF, which UCSF is doing.

## No promises of revenue

Dr. Kessler has contended with University officials that he was promised a set amount of revenue during his tenure as Dean. The University strongly denies this claim. The School of Medicine is a public medical school, subject to annual state appropriations, and the concept that any UCSF official would, or could, have an entitlement to future revenue is untenable. “It would be irresponsible stewardship for UCSF to have ‘promised’ any future level of funding, much less over a continuous period, into the next decade,” University of California Counsel Jeffrey Blair, who is independent of the UCSF campus, wrote to Dr. Kessler’s attorneys in May 2006. “Dean Kessler’s demand for guaranteed funding is neither reasonable nor realistic and is rejected by UCSF.”

## Interim Dean Sam Hawgood

Interim Dean Hawgood is chair of the Department of Pediatrics in the UCSF School of Medicine and physician in chief of UCSF Children’s Hospital. He is also president of the UCSF Medical Group, which represents more than 900 physicians at UCSF.