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By Ian Dillingham, Daily News Editor
Published March 17, 2014
Ora Pescovitz, CEO of the University of Michigan Health System and executive vice president for medical affairs, announced in a blog post Monday morning that she will step down after her five-year term ends on June 1.
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Pescovitz, the first woman to serve as the head of the health system, has worked in her current position since her 2009 appointment.
"I want to express my deep appreciation to Dr. Pescovitz for her commitment to Michigan and for ensuring that the Health System remains sound and strong, which is an enormous accomplishment given our complex environment and the changing national health care landscape," Coleman wrote in an e-mail to faculty and staff on Monday.
As EVPMA, Pescovitz oversaw the University’s medical operations — three main hospitals, 40 outpatient locations and more than 120 clinics around the state — as well as the Medical School, School of Nursing and various research initiatives through various departments and institutes.
Under Pescovitz’s tenure, UMHS has implemented major renovation projects, most notably the construction of the $754 million C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital and Women’s Hospital, completed in 2011. She also oversaw the transfer of several research departments from the medical campus to the North Campus Research Complex after the University purchased the former Pfizer property in 2009 at a cost of $108 million.
In a communication to the University’s Board of Regents, University President Mary Sue Coleman recommended Michael Johns, professor of otolaryngology and health policy at Emory University, to serve as interim EVPMA effective June 2.
A Detroit native, Johns graduated from the University’s medical school in 1969 after obtaining a bachelor’s and graduate degree in biology from Wayne State University.
“I look forward to the leadership, depth of experience, and vision that Dr. Johns will bring to the University,” Coleman wrote. “I appreciate his willingness to serve his alma mater and his home state in this important way.”
Johns formerly served as dean of the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and vice president of Medical Faculty from 1990 to 1996. He later became the executive vice president for health affairs at Emory before serving as chancellor from 2007 to 2012.
The recommendation will go before the Regents for approval at their next meeting this Thursday.
In recent years, the Health System faced scrutiny because of a series of internal controversies. In 2012, Stephen Jenson, a medical resident, was charged for possession of child pornography, which was found on a thumb drive plugged into a Health System computer. Slow response to the incident prompted the restructuring of the University’s Department of Public Safety, Housing Security and Hospitals & Health Centers Security into the Division of Public Safety and Security. Jenson was later sentenced to three years in prison.
Later in 2012, the U.S. Securities and Exchanges Commission sued Neurology Prof. Sidney Gilman in regards to a potential insider-trading scheme. The commission alleged that information provided by Gilman allowed Matthew Martoma, a portfolio manager at CR Intrinsic Investors, to profit $276 million. Gilman later admitted in court that he had provided information regarding an Alzheimer’s drug trial to Martoma before it was released to the public.
More recently, financial pressures from sequestration and expansion projects have caused the Health System to explore cost cutting measures, while steadily increasing patient demand has kept the majority of the health system operating at capacity.
Despite the pressure, Coleman said the Health System under Pescovitz has recorded “the highest-ever scores in patient satisfaction.” The University Hospital was rated as the number one hospital in the state, according to the U.S. News and World Report 2013 to 2014 rankings.
“I have relished my time here and will forever be grateful for the growth, experiences and relationships made possible by this opportunity,” Pescovitz wrote. “UMHS is a community of extraordinary people who do extraordinary work. I have been honored to lead this organization, which is what made this decision very difficult for me.”
Correction appended: A previous version of this article stated that Ora Pescovitz was retiring. She is not retiring in June; she is stepping down from her post.