August 5, 2008

Top Health Post at UA Could Go to Mo. Finalist

By Aaron Mackey, The Arizona Daily Star, Tucson

Aug. 5--UA officials appear close to hiring the dean of the University of Missouri's medical school for a newly created position that will oversee growth of the Arizona Health Sciences Center.

William Crist, a pediatrician who has been the Missouri medical school's dean since 2000, has been named the sole finalist to become the University of Arizona's vice president for health affairs, a position created about a month ago.

The position will report to UA President Robert Shelton and oversee the development of the UA's medical school campus in downtown Phoenix while working with health sciences academics in Tucson to establish a greater focus on teaching patient care.

The position also would oversee the UA's partnership with University Medical Center and University Physicians Healthcare, which manages the doctors' practices.

For Crist, the opportunity to help create a new health sciences center in the Phoenix area while also nurturing growth at the Tucson campus would be a unique challenge.

"There's a wonderful opportunity to develop a new health science center, and that includes new efforts in patient care, teaching and research," he said.

While UA officials stopped short of naming Crist to the job, he is the only finalist and met with health science faculty and staff members during a forum last week.

Officials have no timetable on when they will announce who will get the job, said Johnny Cruz, the UA's spokesman.

If selected, Crist will come to the university with some knowledge of Tucson.

He spent six years of his childhood in the city while his father served at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, and he has returned on several occasions for medical conferences.

After receiving his medical degree from Missouri, Crist followed in his father's footsteps to serve in the Air Force before developing a deep passion for children's medicine.

He has been recognized for working with researchers to develop treatments for children with leukemia that significantly increased their survival rates.

Crist held various posts at hospitals and universities throughout the Midwest before returning to the University of Missouri.

Given the evolving nature of health care, where patients are living longer and increasingly suffer from chronic diseases, it's important that health-science education fosters better teamwork among doctors, nurses, pharmacists and health-care workers, Crist said.

"It's no longer the doctor just writing a prescription," he said. "Instead it takes a team of people to deliver the most economical and complete care for patients."

Having the UA's Phoenix medical school campus located under the same roof as other health science disciplines such as pharmacy should help put the patient at the center of students' education, Crist said.

"Because the schools are in a single building in Phoenix, you can promote that kind of collaborative education and graduate students who already work together," he said.

--Contact reporter Aaron Mackey at 807-8012 or at [email protected] Get all the latest UA news by visiting correspondent.


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