Hopkins to name president Ex-department head Dr. William R. Brody to return from Minn.

'Guy for all seasons'

Health care expertise of new leader noted by school's trustees

April 07, 1996|By David Folkenflik | David Folkenflik,SUN STAFF

If all goes as planned tomorrow, the trustees of the Johns Hopkins University will name Dr. William R. Brody, a 52-year-old biomedical engineer, entrepreneur and former Hopkins department chairman, as president.

The move will end the 15-month odyssey to determine who would guide the campus into the 21st century.

Dr. Brody, currently provost of the University of Minnesota Academic Health Center, will bring a deep knowledge of health care administration to Hopkins at a time when the East Baltimore medical campus is changing the way it is financed and operated.

Colleagues said Dr. Brody gained insight into the issues facing the non-medical side of the university while chairman of radiology at Hopkins from 1987 to 1994. Dr. Brody also led a strategic planning committee, which devised 23 recommendations for the university.

"I've not had the experience of seeing a man with the strategic vision that he had," said Dr. Elias A. Zerhouni, who now holds the radiology department chairmanship and endowed professorship once occupied by Dr. Brody. "Wherever I went, he always seemed to leave a trail of excellence."

Faculty members said they were excited by the choice, and also relieved: The university lacks a permanent provost, medical school dean and medical chancellor, so naming the next president offers a sense of stability during a time of transition.

University trustee chairman Morris W. Offit, who led the search panel that sifted through candidates, said the costs and technology involved with higher education would force change in the nation's campuses. And Dr. Brody, who led a controversial plan to overhaul the Minnesota health center, has the right perspective to lead fundamental change, Mr. Offit said.

"He's a guy for all seasons for Hopkins," Mr. Offit said yesterday. In an interview, Mr. Offit confirmed the disclosures by three other senior Hopkins officials who said Dr. Brody would be the university's 13th president.

Dr. Brody left Baltimore in the summer of 1994 to take the position in the Twin Cities, where he oversees a $750 million center with 5,000 students, 14,600 faculty members and staff, seven professional schools, and a hospital and health system.

In Hopkins, Dr. Brody will command the nation's largest research university, with 16,000 students, a $1.5 billion operating budget, XTC 22,000 faculty members and staff, eight schools, the Applied Physics Laboratory in Howard County, and a health division that includes two health systems.

Some students have expressed fears that the new president would ignore the undergraduates, who have long felt overshadowed by the medical half of the campus.

"The biggest problem with this university is inattention to undergraduates," said Sona Aggarwal, a pre-med student from New City, New York, who is president of the junior class. "My concern with a medical doctor as president is that the problem may get worse." But several professors said Dr. Brody's varied interests would prevent that.

Robert Sirota, director of Hopkins' Peabody Institute, noted that Dr. Brody was a classical pianist and said he had talked convincingly about issues facing the music school. "I get the sense that he really would see himself as the president of the entire university," Dr. Sirota said.

And Mr. Offit said that Dr. Brody did not intend to micromanage medical affairs at the university, which have consumed much of the attention of acting President Daniel Nathans in the past year. Dr. Nathans, a Nobel prize-winning molecular biologist, was named in the wake of the December 1994 resignation of Hopkins President William C. Richardson.

In the 15 months since Dr. Richardson's resignation, tensions between the medical school and the hospital flared into the open, exacerbated by sharp cuts in payments for patient care from the government and insurers.

Trustees for the hospital and university, separate corporations since their founding more than a century ago, stepped in several times to smooth the waters. This winter, the trustees placed the hospital beneath the university president and a board of trustees representing both institutions.

A month ago, Dr. Brody visited Baltimore for interviews and impressed many of the professors he met.

On March 28, the search committee uniformly approved Dr. Brody's nomination, and a special meeting of the full trustee board was called for tomorrow, the three officials said. Trustee bylaws require a 10-day period to elapse between the announcement of an unscheduled meeting and its occurrence.

Dr. Brody will assume office by Sept. 1, Mr. Offit said. Through a Hopkins spokesman, Dr. Brody said yesterday that he did not consider it appropriate to comment yet.

The appointment will end an arduous process in which the university appeared to have been manipulated by its first choice, John V. Lombardi.

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