A commendable record in dealing with conflict of interest issues
I received the following message today from Bill Burton, Interim Associate Chancellor for Public Affairs at the University of Illinois, presumably in response to my blog post concerning the the propriety of the Dean of Medicine being on the board of Novartis, and specifically my question: How can this person exercise a proper duty of care and loyalty to both institutions, not only in terms of time commitment, but also in terms of the overlapping scientific research and clinical interests of the two organizations?The following statement is issued on behalf of the University:"Dean Dimitri Azar has adhered to various policies set out by the University and the state, including a University Policy on Conflicts of Commitment and Interest; a University Code of Conduct; and the Illinois Ethics Act (all online at www.uillinois.edu). Provisions are made within all these policies for active participation by academic staff members in external activities. The University of Illinois views Dean Azar’s service on the Board of Director of Novartis as appropriate, given that the conflict of interest and commitment is well-managed. The UIC leadership and Dean Azar have commendable records of integrity and in dealing with conflict of interest issues associated with external activities."This is a specially pertinent comment in light of the following excerpt from today's Chicago Tribune story:Benedetti, the head of surgery, sought advice and permission from Jerry Bauman, interim vice president for health affairs, and Dr. Dimitri Azar, dean of the College of Medicine, according to an Oct. 23 email obtained under the Freedom of Information Act."On one side it would be a lot of free publicity for our program, on the other side we could be criticized to be included in an industry generated campaign," Benedetti wrote. The two responded separately that the visibility would be good for the program.