Nearly five years after accepting the position as the first executive vice president for medical affairs, Gil Omenn will step down this summer to work more closely with fellow faculty members.

“It would be nice to actually work with some of the excellent faculty here on projects, rather than as a senior official,” said Omenn, the highest paid employee on campus. “I”m just beginning to think seriously about what”s next. My aim is to be able to immerse myself in the life sciences, public policy and genetics.

“Here I am on vacation with my family and finishing a manuscript. It would be nice to be able to do that as a day job,” he added.

Omenn”s departure follows that of University President Lee Bollinger who left during winter break and will become chief executive at Columbia University in July and Provost Nancy Cantor, who is now chancellor of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Omenn said his decision to step down is not related to Bollinger”s departure.

“The EVPMA was a new position at the University and Gil helped to define it,” Bollinger said in a written statement. “He has devoted himself entirely to the University and to the Health System, a massive undertaking given the scope of our medical center. We are indebted to him for his dedication and his contributions.”

Medical School Dean Allen Lichter said of Omenn, “The best thing he did was to raise the standard of excellence in the Medical School and the medical centers. Gil sets high standards and lives excellence every day.”

Omenn worked extensively to integrate the University and the medical centers. He also improved the national and financial standing of the health centers, hospitals and Medical School, and helped start a decade-long capital expansion program for the medical facilities.

“Financial issues are a perennial problem,” Omenn said. “We have a train wreck with an aging population and exciting, new technologies on one side, and, on the other side, we have the people who pay for it.

“If you can displace new technologies or long stays with outpatient procedures and preventive medicine, that is real high-payoff stuff,” he added.

Omenn, a professor of internal medicine, genetics and public health, said he will continue to work with interim University President B. Joseph White until his term ends as EVPMA on July 31.

“I”m very keen to work with (White) during this period. I want the whole University to be in excellent shape come this summer when the regents appoint a new president,” Omenn said.

Omenn also chairs a federal committee that monitors and researches improvements in the quality of patient care.

“We”re focusing particular interest on what it means to make the patient the center of quality health care,” Omenn said.

“Most of the regulations about quality have to do with HMOs and most are having a hard time, so we”re determined to come up with particular applications of all types of care.”

Prior to becoming the EVPMA, a position created by Bollinger in 1997 to oversee operations at the health centers and Medical School, Omenn served as dean of public health at the University of Washington. He chaired the Presidential/Congressional Commission on Risk Assessment and Risk Management from 1994-97, and served as associate director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and the Office of Management and Budget during the Carter administration.

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