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U. of Colorado medical school in turmoil

As an alumnus, I've been keeping my eye on the controversies that seem to plague the University of Colorado School of Medicine:

[T]his school has been in a state of internal strife and turmoil for so long that the national medical community must wonder what's next - pistols at high noon?
While waiting for the answer - and perhaps signs of life from the regents - a national accrediting panel has put the school's neurosurgery residency program on probation. In doing so, it cited extraordinary conflict surrounding Dr. Issam Awad, the former chairman of neurosurgery, and other problems.

Turmoil at the school has not been confined to the saga involving Awad, however. A year ago, for example, the faculty erupted in protest when Dr. Robert Schrier was fired as chairman of the Department of Medicine by the Dean, Dr. Richard Krugman. Schrier responded with a lawsuit (the school's doctors seem to hate lawsuits only when they're not filing one themselves) and a nasty court case ensued in which the university prevailed.

So just what is going on, and is the present medical school leadership up to the task of restoring the institution's reputation?(emphasis mine)

The turmoil over the medicine and neurosurgery programs doesn't exhaust the range of controversies facing the school. The M.D. curriculum, for example, has come under intense scrutiny by the national board responsible for accrediting medical schools, and has been, essentially, given a unanimous thumbs-down by the members of the Faculty Senate:

The Liaison Committee on Medical Education, the nation's major accreditor of medical schools, said too many topics are repeated and too many ignored because CU's departments don't talk to each other.

The committee agreed to continue CU's accreditation, but will be back in 18 months to make sure things are improving.

. . . .

Dr. Gerald Merenstein, CU's senior associate dean for education, noted that while CU's incoming students have higher scores than medical students nationally, they rank right in the middle when they leave CU.

"We're adequate, but is mediocrity our goal?" Merenstein asked. "At the end of the third year, there were a lot of things our students couldn't do."

He noted that students are taught about HIV before they're taught about AIDS, about chemotherapy before they're taught about cancer. Second-year students last week were given the almost identical lecture twice in three days. "The lack of integration drives our students nuts."

In the face of this upheaval, we shouldn't forget that CU's medical school is full of dedicated and inspiring faculty members like Drs. Deterding and Merenstein. These people teach basic science, supervise clinical instruction, and serve as members of the administration. They make the school an excellent place to learn medicine. If they are given the support they need from the top leadership, I'm confident that the medical school will thrive.

If not, I'm not sure when the turmoil will end, or what might be the cost to the school's reputation.

More on the Awad controversy can be found here, in an excellent example of sustained investigative journalism by the Rocky Mountain News.

Follow-up articles are here and here.