July 1, 2008

NEOUCOM Leader to Step Down: President/Dean Plans to Stay Through ’09, Says Job Should Be Restructured

By Carol Biliczky, The Akron Beacon Journal, Ohio

Jul. 1--Dr. Lois Margaret Nora announced Monday that she will step down as president and dean of the Northeastern Ohio Universities Colleges of Medicine and Pharmacy when her contract expires Dec. 31, 2009.

In written remarks, Nora, 53, said: "This is the best move at the best time."

She said the "brutal fact" is that the responsibilities for her job have grown so much that NEOUCOM should have both a president and medical dean, but it would be awkward for her to stay in one of the positions.

"As I look at other situations, it often causes problems to have an incumbent in one of the positions," she said. "This is the right thing to do."

Nora joined the consortium of the University of Akron, Kent State University and Youngstown State University in 2002.

Since then, the campus in Portage County's Rootstown Township has doubled in size, a College of Pharmacy has been added and the institution's financial health has improved, according to the news release.

NEOUCOM also has been the subject of intense scrutiny over the past year as state and local officials sought to retool higher education to improve Ohio's economy.

Eric Fingerhut, chancellor of the Ohio Board of Regents, has recommended changes that include adding medical campuses to Akron and Cleveland. "If it [NEOUCOM] stays the way it is now, it will die," he told the Akron Roundtable in March.

Last month, the Ohio General Assembly approved recommendations regarding NEOUCOM made by a panel of university and civic leaders and endorsed by Fingerhut.

These were to remove the presidents of the three consortium universities from the NEOUCOM board in favor of independent trustees, and to add Cleveland State University to the partnership.

CSU already had been added to NEOUCOM's fledgling pharmacy program last fall.

NEOUCOM, UA and Akron's three hospital systems also have had preliminary talks about bringing a multimillion-dollar medical training center to the city.

That would take NEOUCOM a step closer to establishing an academic health center with UA, Summa Health System, Akron General Medical Center and Akron Children's Hospital.

In March, Nora said she was cautiously optimistic about the changes that seemed to be in store for NEOUCOM.

"I am very hopeful because we need more physicians and we need to serve Cleveland in a new way," she said at the time. "But clearly this cannot happen if there [are] not additional resources."

On Monday, she said Cleveland State may begin to accept students for the medical program in the fall of 2010. But to bring them to Rootstown two years later for four years of medical training would require more funds, she said.

She said she had had no conflicts with her board.

In NEOUCOM's news release, board Chairman Steven P. Cress said the medical school has "had the good fortune to be led by a remarkable visionary in health professions education." He could not be reached for additional comment.

Spokesmen said KSU President Lester Lefton and UA President Luis Proenza were both on vacation and could not be reached for comment.

Nora makes $320,000 a year as president and medical dean. She has a medical degree, a law degree and a master's degree in business administration.

Before joining NEOUCOM, she was a medical professor, associate dean of academic affairs and administration at the University of Kentucky College of Medicine and a law professor. She is a neurologist.

On Monday, she said she has not decided what she will do after she steps down at NEOUCOM, but may remain on campus as a professor.

NEOUCOM students spend the first two years at a consortium university and four years at the Rootstown campus.

The program has eight teaching hospitals and 10 associated hospitals. Carol Biliczky can be reached at 330-996-3729 or [email protected]


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