Chapter 11: Institutional Reorganization and Becoming Vice President of Academic Affairs

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Chapter 11: Institutional Reorganization and Becoming Vice President of Academic Affairs

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Dr. Tomasovic begins this segment by sketching the administrative restructuring that occurred when Dr. John Mendelsohn arrived as institution president. He also described Dr. Margaret Kripke's [Oral History Interview] plans for restructuring Academic Affairs' and his role in this process. Dr. Tomasovic notes that Dr. Kripke expected him to iron out a range of difficulties arising among faculty.

Identifier

Tomasovic,SP_02_20110801_S11

Publication Date

8-1-2011

Publisher

The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center

Topics Covered

Building the Institution; Building/Transforming the Institution; Understanding the Institution; On Leadership; Professional Practice; The Professional at Work

Disciplines

History of Science, Technology, and Medicine | Oncology | Oral History

Transcript

Stephen Tomasovic, PhD:

Yeah. At that point we were much larger than we used to be. In many areas of the institution we grew so rapidly that we were left with mom-and-pop systems of various types and processes and workflows and responses that were built for a much smaller organization, much smaller institution, and never had been tested in crisis or for a certain set of circumstances. And as that happened we realized we had to change things. And sometimes it took a while for us. And we're still catching up in some regards with the very rapid growth of the institution.

Tacey A. Rosolowski, Ph.D:

There's always the challenge of certain resistances to that change as well. Would you like to go back to some of that dramatic moment of the mid '90s?

Stephen Tomasovic, PhD:

Yeah. As I said, at that point I was acting department chair. Dr. Bowen was visualizing me as someone who could take on his position someday. We had a new president coming in in '96. And Dr. Becker leaving, Dr. Bowen leaving over a period of several years. And Dr. Mendelsohn trying to find the right executives to fit with him, and the right organizational structure. And so that was a time of change and opportunity in the institution. And he ultimately decided that he wouldn't have a vice president for research, and ultimately decided that he would have a chief academic officer type of structure. The chief academic officer would be responsible for research and academics.

Tacey A. Rosolowski, Ph.D:

What was his reasoning there?

Stephen Tomasovic, PhD:

I didn't participate in the conversations. I'm not sure what the reasoning was. I think Dr. Becker wasn't a good fit for him. I think the basic science departments reported to Dr. Becker, and they wanted a more direct reporting relationship. They weren't -- many of the new chairmen weren't very comfortable with Dr. Becker as the strategist and the leader for the research area. And so I think there was a certain amount of lobbying to try to get more direct interaction with the president, or at least not to have Dr. Becker in that role.

Tacey A. Rosolowski, Ph.D:

Did that serve the long term needs of the institution you think?

Stephen Tomasovic, PhD:

Well, that's a question that we may still be trying to search out. And we've almost come back full circle to that again, because now we have a vice president for basic research, Mien-Chie Hung [Oral History Interview]. But with less authority than Fred Becker had. I can talk about that more in a few minutes if you like. Anyway, what was happening was that they were trying to figure out. So Bowen left, and then Fred Becker was still there. And they went through some processes of trying to find a replacement for Bowen. And in fact I applied for the position. They had a temporary, one of his associate vice presidents, Gene McKelvey, was the ad interim vice president for academic affairs. Then I think Andy von Eschenbach was given that job. And I believe that he was the one that was the chief academic officer for a year or so. And I'm a little fuzzy about that timeline. But between 1996 and '98 was when McKelvey was the acting vice president for academic affairs. Fred Becker was still the vice president for research. Then I think Andy von Eschenbach became the VP for academic affairs. Fred Becker was still there. Then Dr. Mendelsohn eased Fred Becker out. And Andy von Eschenbach wasn't working out well with him either. He left ultimately to take the job at the NCI. And in that period of time I applied for the vice president for academic affairs, didn't get the job. Margaret Kripke was head of the search committee and ultimately she was asked to take the job. So Margaret Kripke became the senior vice president and chief academic officer. And she took on the academic role. And when Fred Becker left the basic science chairs reported to her rather than through a vice president for research. And I had been made an associate vice president for educational programs by Dr. von Eschenbach because they wanted to take me out of the role of department chair ad interim. They wanted to retain Mien-Chie Hung. And they wanted to give him the department chair. He was much better qualified to be a research department chair than I, because he's a much stronger researcher. They wanted to retain him in the institution. But they at that point felt I had administrative strengths that they wanted to use. So in 1998 I moved out of the department chair ad interim. Mien-Chie Hung [Oral History Interview] became the chairman of the Department of Tumor Biology. And shortly thereafter changed its name to molecular and cellular oncology. And I became an associate vice president for educational programs under I think Andy von Eschenbach initially. And then Margaret Kripke. And Margaret within a couple of years promoted me to the vice president for educational programs. I can come back here a bit to the history with Garth Nicholson. I mentioned that within a couple of years after Garth Nicholson was recruited here Dr. LeMaistre recruited Josh Fidler and his wife Margaret Kripke. He was given the chairmanship of cancer biology. She was given the chairmanship of immunology. They were good friends with Garth. They were living in Kingwood as was I and was Garth. And so there was some socialization. I saw them occasionally. I knew them but was not close friends with them. During the period that Garth lost his balance and very severely damaged his relationship with them, Josh Fidler and probably Margaret as well probably gained some respect for me as an individual because of the position they saw me put in and the way that I managed that. And I remember Dr. Fidler, who's of Jewish ancestry and practices that religion, referred to me by the Jewish term for a man, a mensch.

Tacey A. Rosolowski, Ph.D:

Mensch.

Stephen Tomasovic, PhD:

And I think he saw me in the way that Jewish people use the terminology. It's a pretty respectful kind of a term as I understand it.

Tacey A. Rosolowski, Ph.D:

You're a real decent human being, yeah.

Stephen Tomasovic, PhD:

Yeah, and so I think he and Margaret [Kripke, PhD [Oral History Interview]] shared that view of me. And Margaret also got to see me talk about academic affairs because she chaired the search committee until she actually got the job herself, they weren't satisfied with the other candidates, including myself. But I put some effort into that. Jim Bowen had prepared me for many of the roles. I thought about it. Somewhere around here I even -- I don't know if I still have it. I had a binder that I used to put together my thoughts and to prepare for that role. So I think she may have had a favorable impression of me as a mensch. And then she saw me applying for this position. So I think when she got this role as the senior vice president and chief academic officer, she had a good impression of me. She continued me then as the vice president for educational programs. And promoted me within a couple years to the vice president for educational programs, and was satisfied with my performance in that role. I did that for about three years. And we were a good fit. These executive positions all serve at the will of the president, or the will of the next highest person that you report to. I was and still am a tenured professor in the University of Texas system. But the provost or the president could call me today and say you no longer have that job. And that's what happened to my chairman when I got the job as the chairman ad interim of tumor biology. You have no recourse, you serve at the will of. And so they have to be good matches in terms of performance but also other more intangible kinds of things. Personalities, characteristics that make you a good interpersonal match. So over that period of 2000 to 2003 I had that good match with her. And she I think felt comfortable with the role I was doing as the vice president for educational programs.

Tacey A. Rosolowski, Ph.D:

What were a couple of the things that you accomplished during that period that were very significant to you?

Stephen Tomasovic, PhD:

Well, I changed -- the Office of Education was the predecessor to trainee and alumni affairs. And that office itself went through a couple name changes after Office of Education. But the leader of the Office of Education wasn't a good match with me. And I wasn't satisfied with the performance of that. So I created -- I terminated the director. I had a review done, as it turns out by the current leader of the department, of the department's functions to try to improve it. And then I terminated its director and hired Toya Candelari, who was a dean at the University of Texas School of Public Health, to be my associate vice president and to run that office. So that was one thing that I did there. I'm trying to remember when Margaret and I created the education council.

Tacey A. Rosolowski, Ph.D:

Yeah, that's on my list of --

Stephen Tomasovic, PhD:

Let me look at that for a moment and see where that landed in that period of 2000 to 2003.

Tacey A. Rosolowski, Ph.D:

And it wasn't clear to me. I was interested in what the role of the council was and also where it was located in the institutional structure.

Stephen Tomasovic, PhD:

Let me see if I can find where I set that up. Where am I looking for? 2000 to 2003. Yeah, that was 2001. So if you look at those institutional committees. So 2000 to 2003 was when I was the vice president for educational programs. And in that period I participated in an education strategic planning committee with Margaret. We looked at various leadership forums. We created a trainee recognition day. We did some education strategic planning. And I came up with the idea of -- or Margaret and I, sometimes I can't remember who suggested these things. But there was a research council and a clinical council. And council has gotten to be used a little bit more loosely now. And the reason is people view the council as something important. And so we did at that time as well recognize that there was a research council, there was a clinical council, but there wasn't a similar unit that had that level of visibility in the institution to deal with education. And so she and I came up with the idea of forming this education council. And we cochaired it. But in some respects it was very similar to what I did with Garth Nicholson on the interdisciplinary studies in cancer biology. I did a lot of the work in leadership for it, and used her stature and prestige to help give the council initial credibility. And technically I still cochair it with Ray DuBois but I'm the one that runs the education council. And I can give you the charge of the education council. But the intent was -- and prior to that I had resurrected an old committee of Jim Bowen's. He had a kind of educational resources committee that was used to think about education in the institution. I resurrected that and it became eventually a committee of the council. So the council was to bring together senior leadership at the institution that had educational programs across the institution. So I dealt with academic education with the exception of nursing programs. I got the chief nursing officer on the education council so that she and I were on a leadership group that talked about education and education needs in the institution. I got Steve Stuyck, who's the vice president for public affairs, which had all the patient education and public education activities. I got the leader of the human resources area that dealt with trainee -- employee development. So I tried to get -- I got Lew Foxhall, who's the public policy VP who dealt a lot with education out in the community in a different way -- professional education in the community. Steve Stuyck dealt with public education in the community. So brought together the vice presidents, very senior leaders, to think about education in broad terms across the institution. How do we continue to maintain the importance of education as a component of the institutional mission? How do we raise the visibility of education in the institution? How do we recognize and reward individuals' contributions to education, whether they were staff or faculty? And various things came out of that over time. An education strategy retreat that generated the graduate education committee for example that works with Dr. DuBois. Education Week, which is held every year with a bunch of events for faculty and staff. Staff Educator of the Year, to help balance the faculty education awards that I helped create when I was in the faculty senate. And we talked about -- created standards for the conference meeting rooms so that when a faculty member came in and stepped up to the podium the electronic interfaces were the same, didn't matter what room you went into. Tried to make sure we conserved education space, when they built new buildings. Tried to build education space into it. Tried to make sure we had enough meeting space as the institution grew. Tried to make sure we had enough resources and that we didn't get lost in the press to push research or push hospital and clinic operations or clinical research. And so it was that kind of an effort. So I think you had that on your list. The education council I think was -- creating the education council was one of those important strategies I believe that I was primarily responsible for. Other things I think that happened during that time was the elevation of faculty development in the institution. That was a nascent effort when I took over the role as vice president for educational programs. And Janis Apted was here or came here shortly thereafter. But she and I worked to create faculty development in the institution in a bigger way than it had been previously. And I want to come back to that. Another leadership lesson related to the faculty leadership academy. So you may want to prompt me if I don't get back to that again. Of course I was involved in a gazillion institutional committees of all types all during that period of time. During the period of 2000 to 2003 Dr. Kripke felt a need for a vice president for faculty affairs. She did a search for that. She settled on Kathleen Sazama. But Dr. Sazama as it turned out made some mistakes. And I think the key one was she took over a department that wasn't functioning very well.

Stephen Tomasovic, PhD:

During the period of 2000 to 2003 Dr. Kripke felt a need for a vice president for faculty affairs. She did a search for that. She settled on Kathleen Sazama. But Dr. Sazama as it turned out made some mistakes. And I think the key one was she took over a department that wasn't functioning very well.

Tacey A. Rosolowski, Ph.D:

Which department is this?

Stephen Tomasovic, PhD:

The faculty academic affairs. And I've told you what that department does. But that department wasn't functioning particularly well. And it was a very important department to Dr. Kripke because it touched faculty a lot. And if you make a lot of mistakes when you're dealing with faculty, a lot of complaints start landing in the president's office and the chief academic officer's office. They were dealing with faculty contracts, with appointments that had commitments of significant dollars. And so they were doing a lot of things that had important consequences. And they were making a lot of mistakes. And Dr. Sazama took over that leadership role. But she made one really bad mistake. I can't recall if her office director -- she had a director level person who managed the day-to-day activities and the people in the department. I can't remember if she hired him or if he was there when she arrived. But he was really bad. Really bad. And all the problems that they had only got worse. And they had some bad individuals in that department. Underperforming, poorly performing. Even shady in some respects as it turned out. But Dr. Kripke ultimately realized that Dr. Sazama would not be able to fix the problem for her. And I was asked to take on that vice presidency. So I became the vice president for academic affairs in 2003. And then I had those two roles then. Education affairs, faculty academic affairs. So that's where I was taking on two vice presidential jobs in 2003.

Tacey A. Rosolowski, Ph.D:

It seems as though they're very intersecting in a certain way in terms of the issues that they're dealing with. And did that change your understanding of how to manage the situation?

Stephen Tomasovic, PhD:

Yeah. It was now instead of dealing with educational programs and only from the aspect of faculty how they touch, intersect with trainees, now I was dealing with an increasingly large faculty population. And this is where my attention to detail and some skill in getting the right people in the right jobs and recognizing that served me well. Dr. Sazama had realized her fundamental problem but too late. She had gotten rid of this guy and had placed Dana Kurtin into the role. But it was too late. So I came in and now Dana Kurtin was relatively new to the job. We still had quite a few dysfunctional people. Dr. Kripke expected me to fix it. And that department not only had credibility problems with Dr. Kripke, but because it interacts constantly with all the other departments in the institution, all the departments that have faculty work with that office constantly to get their faculty appointed, to get them promoted, get them evaluated, whatever problem they have with faculty, that's the department they interact with. And so it had a lack of credibility with her and a lack of credibility with many of those departments. So Dana and I worked for several years to try and fix that, to get rid of people who weren't doing the job, and get new people in. And I did that successfully, realized Dana could do the job, kept her in the role. And we straightened out that department. And by and large it has a good reputation now. Still makes mistakes. But was able to figure out how to get that department back on the right path. And again Dr. Kripke I think's confidence in me as being able to be a problem solver rather than a problem creator was increased. And so when she had another problem in the area of global -- of extramural programs -- the vice president for extramural programs made a personal mistake and had to step down from that job. And she again turned to me to take that on because I had this history with her and her confidence that I could solve that problem for her and she could rely on me to do that. And she turned it over to me.

Chapter 11: Institutional Reorganization and Becoming Vice President of Academic Affairs

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