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Posted on October 16, 2015 at 5:10 AM

I have a riddle for you.  Start with six attorneys; add three management consultants, three financial executives/advisors and a couple of bankers. Sprinkle in, one each, clothing store chain CEO and entertainment retail chain CEO. Add executives from a supermarket chain, a construction company, and a paper products company. Fold in a hedge fund manager, real estate executive, and an accountant. Finish with a reputation management expert and exactly one educator and one physician. What have you got? Perhaps you have the membership of an exclusive club, perhaps a class reunion of an exclusive prep school. No not these.  I will not make you guess any more. What you have is the Board of Directors of a large academic medical center which includes a major teaching hospital and a medical school. This academic medical center educates medical students and physicians, graduate students in science and other health professions. This teaching hospital is a major health care provider in the state capital of a large northeastern state. The academic medical center is the leading biomedical research organization in the region.

The Board of Directors is fully responsible for the governance of this large and complex organization. This organization has a mission to educate, to conduct biomedical research, and to provide patient care services. I was expecting to see that this list of directors would include expertise from renowned educators with national reputations. I was expecting to see a list containing outstanding biomedical researchers who discovered knowledge which made the world a better place. I was expecting leaders from the field of healthcare and medicine. But that is not what I found. I was surprised.

I do not want to be perceived as criticizing this group of people. They are outstandingly accomplished in their respective fields of endeavor.  They are dedicated to the medical center giving generously of their time expertise and probably money. All objective evidence is that the organization is working well under their governance. I know some of them and I appreciate what they do.

So why am I writing this? I am writing this to say that if I was recruiting a board of directors I would include individuals with expertise in the tripartite mission of the academic medical center. I would include individuals with outstanding accomplishments and experience in education, research and patient care. I would probably also include some individuals with the types of expertise this board does have but not nearly to this extent. 

Maybe I am wrong. Perhaps expertise in law, financial matters, and business operations is the right way to compose such a board.  But I think we do need expertise on teaching, research, and medical care.

The Alden March Bioethics Institute offers a Master of Science in Bioethics, a Doctorate of Professional Studies in Bioethics, and Graduate Certificates in Clinical Ethics and Clinical Ethics Consultation. For more information on AMBI’s online graduate programs, please visit our website.

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