University of Iowa suspends search for health care VP, medical college dean

The main entrance to the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics is shown alongside the new University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital in Iowa City in 2015. (The Gazette)

IOWA CITY — After bringing four finalists to campus in August for the massive role overseeing the University of Iowa Health Care enterprise and medical college, the UI is “temporarily suspending its search for a new vice president for medical affairs and dean of the Carver College of Medicine.“

Administrators did extend an offer to one of the finalists, according to the UI Office of Strategic Communication, after receiving “robust feedback from campus stakeholders regarding the candidates.”

That finalist, though, declined the offer “due to family obligations.”

“I am sorry that we could not come to an agreement, but we certainly respect the candidate’s decision,” UI Executive Vice President and Provost Kevin Kregel said in a statement. “We will re-evaluate the search process and launch it again as soon as possible. We are eager to find candidates who share our exciting vision for the growth of the university’s health care system and for the Carver College of Medicine.”

Kevin Kregel, named University of Iowa provost and executive vice president on Feb. 5, 2021. (University of Iowa photo, 2021)

Brooks Jackson, the university’s current vice president for medical affairs and medical college dean — who announced plans to resign in February — has agreed to continue serving at the helm until UI hires a successor.

Then Jackson will remain on the faculty as a professor and researcher — just not in the administrative role.

In a statement, UI President Barbara Wilson thanked Jackson for his willingness to stay on.

“Although it is disappointing to take a pause in our national search, we will use the time to ensure that we are poised to find an exceptional leader for our outstanding health care enterprise,” Wilson said.

The university launched a national search to replace Jackson in March, and produced four finalists, each of whom visited campus.

  • Sandra L. Wong, the first-named finalist, is a professor of surgery and chair of the Department of Surgery at the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth and Dartmouth Health. She also is a professor of the Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice.
  • Cristen P. Page, who visited campus second, is executive dean of the University of North Carolina School of Medicine, where she supervises a team of vice deans, chairmen and center directors. She also sits on the UNC Health Board of Directors and UNC Health Executive Council.
  • Selwyn O. Rogers Jr., who visited third, is a professor at the University of Chicago, founding director of the trauma center at University of Chicago Hospitals, executive vice president of community health engagement, and chief of the Section of Trauma and Acute Care Surgery.
  • Bradley E. Britigan, professor and dean of the University of Nebraska College of Medicine, also is responsible for the University of Nebraska Medical Center faculty practice plan in collaboration with the CEOs of Nebraska Medicine and Children’s Hospital and Medical Center in Omaha. He was a former UI Health Care professor and member of the UI Cancer Center.

The university offered the position to only one finalist, according to UI spokeswoman Tricia Brown.

Wilson and Kregel said they’ll spend the next several weeks listening to leaders and others within UI Health Care and the College of Medicine before resuming the search.

In response to a question from The Gazette about whether they might split the job into two positions going forward — one leading the health care enterprise and one atop the college of medicine — UI officials said they’re “unsure how the search might change as a result of these important conversations.”

But that dialogue will “inform our next steps forward.”

“We want to make sure we continue to seek candidates that meet the vision, goals, and expectations of our campus and of the patients we serve.”

University administrators committed to notifying the campus community before restarting the search “sometime this winter.”

For the search, UI compiled a 21-member committee and hired executive search firm Wittkieffer, which it to date has paid $293,000 — excluding travel expenses associated with bringing the finalists and consultant to campus.

Officials told The Gazette they haven’t yet decided whether to keep Wittkieffer as a consultant to help once the search restarts.

“Or the university may opt to use Wittkieffer for a different search in the future,” Brown said.

The university also isn’t sure whether it will keep the search committee together or compile a new group.

“Serving on a search committee is a considerable time commitment,” Brown said. “Some of the membership may remain the same, or some may change due to other commitments committee members have at this time.”

Jackson came to UI in 2017 as head of the university’s $1.2 billion health care operation, which includes 16,500 employees, students, and volunteers who care for more than 32,800 inpatients and thousands more outpatients annually.

The Carver College of Medicine, which Jackson also leads as dean, employs more than 1,000 faculty and teaches more than 600 medical students, 50 physician assistant students, 100-plus physical therapy students, 300-plus graduate students, and more than 5,000 undergraduates.

Vanessa Miller covers higher education for The Gazette.

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University of Iowa suspends search for health care VP, medical college dean