Crist to be VP of health affairs at Arizona

Thursday, August 14, 2008 | 9:38 p.m. CDT

COLUMBIA - Bill Crist, dean of the MU School of Medicine, has landed a job with the University of Arizona.

He begins his position there Oct. 31.

Arizona's Board of Regents met Thursday and approved Crist's appointment to the position of vice president of health affairs - a new position designed to better link the school's medical center in Tuscon, Ariz., with an extension of the program in Phoenix.

Crist will supervise all academic and medical services within the Arizona College of Medicine and will oversee Arizona's colleges of pharmacy, public health and nursing, the Arizona Cancer Center, all agreements with the University Medical Center, University Physicians Health Care and University Physicians Hospital at Kino, Ariz.

"It's an excellent opportunity or I wouldn't make the change," Crist said.

"The size of the job is enormous in comparison to what I'm doing now. It's a daunting task I face, but I like challenges, and that's why I'm making this move."

In his new post, Crist will net $650,000 a year, almost double his current salary of $345,291 a year at MU.

Crist visited the Arizona campus last month and participated in a forum in front of nearly 200 people. He was the only finalist for the job, though he wasn't the only applicant.

Before becoming dean in 2000, Crist graduated from the MU School of Medicine in 1969. He also served as the chair of pediatric and adolescent medicine at the Mayo Medical School in Rochester, Minn. In addition, he led pediatric hematology and oncology teams at St. Jude Children's Hospital in Memphis, as well as at the University of Alabama in Birmingham, Ala.

Crist said he isn't leaving MU because of any problems at the school. Instead, he said he's leaving because he'll have more opportunities at Arizona.

"Making decisions about the future is a long and complex process," Crist said. "It's all about looking at the positive and negative of where you are going and where you are leaving. The major thing to me is that there is not any one event here but the opportunity there."

The announcement that Crist will be leaving MU is the most recent in a string of departures.

MU's chief of sports medicine, Dr. Steven Kane, left the university in July, and the orthopedic chair, Dr. Jason Calhoun, will leave in January. MU also filled the Sinclair College of Nursing's dean position earlier this summer after Rose Porter retired, with Judith Miller taking her place. Porter was then hired as the interim dean for the College of Education while the university searches to fill that position.

Despite the recent departure of some prominent faculty, Chancellor Brady Deaton said it's a normal process for a large institution to lose some top deans and professors.

"It's a reflection of the tremendous strength we have here," Deaton said. "They've earned the top positions across the country. We just have to move on."

Deaton said many people who leave the university are getting high-paying offers, but he doesn't think that's the main reason they're leaving.

"We consider that in all cases," Deaton said. "Quite honestly, I don't think it's a big issue. We're doing what we can to ensure we're competitive with faculty salaries."

Deaton said Crist will be tough to replace.

"Certainly, it's a loss for us," Deaton said. "We're going to have to work hard to replace him and continue the kind of path he set. It puts us in a stronger position to attract someone strong because of the position he's put us in. We're a much stronger medical school because of his work."


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