The University of Virginia has tapped an Ivy League school department chairman to fill a new position: executive vice president for health affairs, a post officials described Wednesday as “part of a reorganization of the university’s health efforts.”
In the new job, Dr. Richard P. Shannon, 59, currently chairman of the Department of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, will report directly to UVa President Teresa A. Sullivan and serve as a member of her cabinet.
“The creation of this new position is an organizational change that reflects the importance of the Health System and the elevation of the leadership role as a direct report to me,” Sullivan said in a news release.
Shannon also will oversee the dean of the nursing school, the CEO of the Medical Center and the director of the Claude Moore Health Sciences Library. And he’ll work with the UVa Physicians Group. His position resulted from the consolidation of two vice president positions. His annual salary will be $700,000 with $100,000 per year in deferred compensation, officials said.
“I am delighted Dr. Shannon will be joining the university’s leadership team,” Rector George Keith Martin said in a news release. “Dr. Shannon’s experience working at complex academic health centers and his knowledge of the evolving health care environment will serve UVa well. I am confident he will help advance the strategic vision for the organization.”
The school hired Shannon after a search advisory committee reviewed a field of more than 50 candidates, the school said.
He takes over the Health System at a crucial point: Federal funding for medical centers is declining across the country, and UVa hasn’t been immune.
Grants from the National Institutes of Health have fallen steadily in the last five years — this year, the university took in just $89.6 million, compared to $161 million in 2009, according to an NIH database.
Shannon said he’d like to broaden the university’s research funding portfolio to include philanthropic foundations dedicated to particular diseases and commercial partnerships. UVa will have to find a way to rely less on federal funding, he said.
“A lot of academic medical centers … are heavily leveraged toward NIH funding,” Shannon said. “But the reality is, there are other sources of funding for research.”
Dr. Nancy Dunlap, the interim dean of the School of Medicine, said she already has been in talks with Shannon about alternate funding sources and more efficient uses for funding. One possibility is encouraging researchers to work in teams on projects with overlapping objectives.
“As we move forward … we’ll look to other ways to fund this research, like philanthropy or more team-based approaches to projects,” she said.
Like the rest of the university, the School of Medicine is in the middle of a strategic planning process examining where administrators should be focusing time and resources.
Shannon is a nationally recognized expert on patient safety, which he said would be a focus for him on when he begins work by Nov. 1. Improved patient safety brings the obvious benefits in care, but also for the bottom line — money saved from mistakes can go to better use, he said.
“We need to take those valuable resources and reinvest them,” he said.
The UVa Medical Center’s annual operating budget is $1.2 billion.