January 28, 2005

Med. Col. Accused of Stealing Faculty

Print More

A tug-of-war for faculty members between Baylor College of Medicine and Methodist Hospital has Weill Medical College caught up as well.

Cornell’s New York City institution replaced Baylor as Methodist’s primary medical school affiliate after the two Houston institutions ended a 50-year relationship last spring. Methodist partnered with Cornell and N.Y. Presbyterian and Baylor with St. Luke’s Episocal Hospital.

Doctors with Baylor faculty appointments worked at the hospital as academic physicians, teaching and researching as well as treating patients. In addition, they had access to Baylor’s vast pool of resources and research and enjoyed the prestige of belonging to its faculty.

The roughly 300 members who still practice at the hospital are the subject of debate.

“Cornell Medical School has been actively involved in trying to convince Baylor Faculty members to leave the College,” stated Baylor President Dr. Peter Traber in a Jan. 4 letter to faculty. “The Dean of Cornell has personally visited with and/or contacted Baylor Faculty members in an attempt to recruit them to the Methodist Physician Organization and Cornell Faculty appointments.”

Cornell medical school dean Dr. Antonio Gotto said the accusations were “totally false.”

“I’ve had contact with Baylor faculty but I’ve not set private visits,” he said. “I visit Houston frequently and run into people at professional and social meetings. During these meetings, questions will come up about what an affiliation with Weill Cornell will mean.”

At the core of the debate is what will be best for these academic physicians. “Many physicians have practiced here their entire careers,” said Methodist senior vice president and chief operating officer Marc Boom. “Now they’re being told by Baylor that ‘Hey, we want you to pick up everything you’ve worked on for 25 years and move.'”

However, Claire Basset, vice president of public affairs at Baylor, stated in an e-mail that “a faculty member can have a Baylor appointment and still practice at Methodist.”

“Baylor College of Medicine wants these faculty members to also have the freedom to practice at St. Luke’s Hospital,” she continued.

As for resolving the dispute, Gotto believes giving physicians joint faculty appointments at both Baylor and Cornell would provide an answer. He has suggested this to Baylor without success.

“I can only speculate that they want to do all they can to move these faculty,” he said.

However, Baylor senior vice president and dean of research Dr. James Patrick does not see joint appointments as a good solution.

“I can imagine special situations where it can be beneficial but in the general case I don’t see the utility of it,” he said.

He continued, “We have faculty here and they work really hard to establish a reputation…It’s in our best interests to continue to focus our efforts on having as many accomplishments associated with the Baylor College of Medicine [as possible].”

Eight former Baylor faculty members have joined Cornell so far, and over 50 applications are being reviewed, according to Gotto.

Archived article by Xiaowei Cathy Tang
Sun Staff Writer