Next president needs medical, hospital experience, UCF medical staff say

Stephen Lambert, a professor at UCF's College of Medicine, speaks at the fourth installment of Presidential Search Listening Sessions. Presidential Search Listening Session, Jan. 11, 2018. Photo by Layla Ferris.

Faculty from UCF’s College of Medicine say UCF’s next president should have experience with medical schools and a background in research.

Around 50 people gathered in the Lewis Auditorium at the College of Medicine in Lake Nona for the fourth UCF Presidential Search Listening Session Thursday evening, the largest turnout of all the listening sessions.

More than 15 people participated in the session, which was guided by talking points focused on what challenges the next president should address and qualifications and characteristics the president should embody. The session also focused on why someone should want to be UCF’s next president.

Six members from the Presidential Search Committee listen to concerns and suggestions from the UCF community at the College of Medicine. Presidential Search Listening Session, Jan. 11, 2018. Photo by Layla Ferris.

Juan Cendán, chairman of the Department of Medical Education and professor of surgery at the College of Medicine, questioned the committee’s consideration of candidates who have experience with a medical school and teaching hospital. UCF’s teaching hospital is set to open by the end of 2020, according to a release on the College of Medicine’s website.

“The business side of a medical school is quite complicated, so the experiences that a president would bring to that role could be critically important,” Cendán said.

The complexities that stem from the different sectors of UCF such as the College of Medicine and UCF downtown should lead to well-rounded candidates, UCF Presidential Search Committee Chairman David Walsh said.

“There’s kind of a multi-variable, kind of experiential situation going on,” Walsh said. “There’s going to be quite a bit of experience.”

Juan Cendán speaks at the forum. Presidential Search Listening Session, Jan. 11, 2018. Photo by Layla Ferris.

Stephen Lambert, a self-described “scruffy, old faculty member” of the College of Medicine, said the faculty is the backbone of UCF.

Lambert said the next president should be someone who understands and has a passion for research and scholarly activity.

“I would like to see such an individual — somebody who we can hang out with, have a beer and go over our research with — be brought to UCF,” Lambert said.

Dean of the College of Medicine Deborah German said she hoped to see three things in UCF’s next president: vision, strategy and opportunity.

German said she hopes the next president will be a visionary with an identity that can take UCF’s success even further.

“I hope that this next president will be able to think strategically about that vision,” German said. “I hope and everyone in this room hopes that that vision will prominently feature the College of Medicine and the Academic Health Science center that includes the hospital and other things that will come here.”

Deborah German speaks at the listening session. Presidential Search Listening Session, Jan. 11, 2018. Photo by Layla Ferris.

Although multiple speakers explained the importance of a president with a background in medicine and research, German said the ability to embrace opportunity is the most essential characteristic to her.

“Whether the person has had experience with a medical school and an academic health science center or not, is not as important to me as a person who is willing to seize opportunity and to listen to the people that are on the ground and recognize when something needs to be taken on even though it’s not part of the strategic plan,” German said.

Although German didn’t prioritize a medical background, a College of Medicine student emphasized the need for a president who is an academic and researches several areas, especially medicine.

Marcia Verduin, associate dean for students at the College of Medicine, was one of several people who praised UCF President John C. Hitt, making characteristic comparisons between him and the incoming president.

Verduin said Hitt’s collaborative leadership style has led to progress.

Marcia Verduin discusses the need for collaborative leadership at the forum. Presidential Search Listening Session, Jan. 11, 2018. Photo by Layla Ferris.

“I can tell you that our faculty practice wouldn’t exist if Dr. Hitt wasn’t willing to seize an opportunity that was not part of his original vision and was not part of his strategic plan,” German said.

Verduin also pointed out Hitt’s sincerity. Although UCF is a large institution, Hitt makes an effort to learn faculty names, she said.

“He [Hitt] takes the time to get to know them and to let people feel valued and feel like their contribution to the university is meaningful, and I hope that we can find someone who has many of those same characteristics,” Verduin said.

The forum briefly had a Q&A format until committee member Manoj Chopra told speakers to phrase their comments as statements rather than questions.

The conversation shifted from the past to the future as Dinese Kay expressed concerns about a new president joining UCF just two years before the UCF Collective Impact Strategic Plan ends in 2020. The plan set a series of goals and benchmarks for degree attainment and research engagement, among other areas.

Dinese Kay speaks at the fourth listening session. Presidential Search Listening Session, Jan. 11, 2018. Photo by Layla Ferris.

“The complication of managing the current trajectory that we’re on while also trying to figure out where we’re supposed to go after that, and there’s so much growth taking place,” said Kay, an assistant professor for medical education and a counseling and educational psychologist at the College of Medicine.

Kay also suggested the committee look into what universities and people the candidates respect for better insight of their values.

“I’d be curious as to what are the five top programs that they respect and why,” Kay said.

Walsh said all of the sessions were extremely insightful, but the one held at the College of Medicine was particularly enriching.

“So this is exactly what you want in these kinds of sessions … new thinking on qualifications and the kinds of credentials a person should have to be optimized for the role,” Walsh said.