Hopkins eyes new president candidate Brody, physician and entrepreneur, works in Minnesota

March 11, 1996|By David Folkenflik | David Folkenflik,SUN STAFF

Dr. William R. Brody, a physician and entrepreneur who oversees the University of Minnesota health care center, has emerged as a leading candidate to become the president of the Johns Hopkins University.

Appointed to head Hopkins Medical School's radiology department in 1987, Dr. Brody left Baltimore in the summer of 1994 to become provost for health sciences at the University of Minnesota health center in Minneapolis. He is scheduled to visit the Hopkins campus this month for several days for in-depth interviews with faculty members, administrators and trustees, several physicians at Hopkins said.

A senior Hopkins administrator who asked not to be named confirmed the visit and said Dr. Brody appeared to be the most serious candidate since the university was rebuffed in December in wooing John V. Lombardi, president of the University of Florida at Gainesville. Morris W. Offit, chairman of Hopkins University's board of trustees, declined to confirm or deny whether Dr. Brody was a contender for the presidency. "This isn't really newsworthy at this time," Mr. Offit said yesterday. "You're not giving us the chance to do our homework."

Mr. Offit said the search committee would continue talking to several candidates.

The university, a $1.4 billion-a-year enterprise which includes some of the world's most advanced research, has been looking for a president since December 1994, when William C. Richardson announced his resignation. Trustees said they were seeking someone with either the experience or the ability to handle the financial challenges facing the medical center as insurers and government programs reduce the amounts they are willing to pay for medical procedures.

Dr. Brody is an expert in magnetic resonance imaging, a high-tech diagnostic technique. In 1984, he left Stanford University to run his own company, called Resonex Inc., a maker of MRI devices. He holds a doctorate in electrical engineering as well as his medical degree.

As Minnesota's provost for health sciences, Dr. Brody is in command of the university's hospital and its medical school. He reports only to the university president and holds a position nearly identical to a job created this winter by Hopkins trustees.

Traditionally separate entities, Hopkins university and Hopkins hospital have been forced closer together to face the changing realities of the health care market.

But relations between officials and physicians at the East Baltimore medical complex have been strained by disagreements about how best to strike the balance between patient care and cutting-edge research. Similar tensions have affected the University of Minnesota hospital in a market more tightly controlled by cost-conscious health maintenance companies than in Maryland.

"Naturally, I'm very pleased that somebody who knows East Baltimore is willing to consider taking the whole thing over," said Dr. Paul R. McHugh, chief of psychiatry at Hopkins. "He's a man of the most remarkable experiences in life -- he's had surgical training, he's run his own business, and he raised himself up to be chairman of a Hopkins department."

While chairman of the Hopkins radiology department, Dr. Brody encouraged research that cut across several specialties, his former colleagues said.

"He really developed a first-rate research program in radiology, and he fostered the one in biomedical engineering," said Dr. Richard J. Johns, a senior Hopkins professor of medicine and biomedical engineering.

Reached by telephone yesterday at his home in a Minneapolis suburb, Dr. Brody would not comment on his visit later this month or his candidacy. "I hear the same rumors, is all I can say," Dr. Brody said.

No other candidate appears to be as far along as Dr. Brody, people knowledgeable with the search said. In December, the University of Florida's Dr. Lombardi appeared poised to return to Hopkins. But after a week of frantic politicking by Florida government and university officials, Dr. Lombardi announced he would stay.

Although they had set an initial deadline of January, Hopkins trustees now say they will take as long as it is necessary to find a worthy president for the university. Dr. Richardson left campus in June to become president of the W. K. Kellogg Foundation, one of the nation's largest philanthropies. Since then, Daniel Nathans, a Nobel Prize-winning geneticist, has held the post on a temporary basis.

Pub Date: 3/11/96

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