Brody sees new era ahead for Hopkins President-designate says school may need to revamp strategies

April 09, 1996|By David Folkenflik | David Folkenflik,SUN STAFF

In his first public comments as the president-designate of the Johns Hopkins University, Dr. William R. Brody said yesterday the campus may see as much of a revolution in teaching students as it has in treating patients.

Dr. Brody, a Stanford-trained physician and electrical engineer who was a Hopkins department chairman for seven years, will be the university's 13th president. Now provost at the University of Minnesota's Academic Health Center, he is expected to assume the Hopkins presidency by Sept. 1.

The trustees' anticipated approval of Dr. Brody's appointment was greeted with praise by faculty members and administrators, who called him a straight-shooting and decisive academic executive. They also said they were pleased that the 15-month search for a president had concluded successfully. The university's first choice, University of Florida at Gainesville President John V. Lombardi, backed out in December after being all but offered the job.

"Bill Brody has a reputation for being a strategic thinker and an innovator," said Steven Knapp, Hopkins' acting provost. "His arrival here will be a great boost for morale for the faculty."

"He's an outstanding choice," said Don P. Giddens, dean of Hopkins' engineering college.

Former Hopkins President William C. Richardson told trustees in December 1994 that he would leave the campus to become president of the W. K. Kellogg Foundation. Acting President Daniel Nathans took over the campus post in the summer.

Although he said he wanted to get a better sense of the university before taking action, Dr. Brody said rising tuitions and new technology may cause Hopkins to rethink fundamentally what kind of education it offers. In recasting the campus, he said, Hopkins will probably build on its experience with continuing education -- already half of the university's 16,000 student body.

"I'm sure that there will be certain [initiatives] that people will view as radical change," said Dr. Brody, whose plans to revamp the demoralized Minnesota center drew both praise and deep skepticism. But the 52-year-old administrator said Hopkins was already on the right track.

Both Dr. Brody and administrators interviewed said the university had already put in place several proposals to improve student life by a strategic planning panel he led in 1994. Dr. Brody, then chairman of the radiology department, left for Minnesota that summer.

While he has spent his career as a medical educator, inventor and administrator, Dr. Brody said he will work hard to overcome student reservations that a physician would not be attentive to undergraduate concerns.

Yet Hopkins' East Baltimore medical campus, a constant concern for university leaders over the past year, may require immediate attention. Dr. Brody pledged that one of his first moves in Baltimore would be to appoint a senior medical official, a new position created to oversee both the medical school and Johns Hopkins Hospital. That official would deal with most major policy issues, he said.

"If I have to spend a significant proportion of my time in East Baltimore, I won't be serving the university well," Dr. Brody said.

Major health care centers like Hopkins have suffered declines in expected health care payments from the federal government and private insurers.

Hopkins' medical campus has seen warring among administrators, as it seeks to remain financially viable while retaining its research renown.

"The issues at Hopkins are going on all over the country, as academic health care centers are deemed irrelevant," Dr. Brody said. "It's one of the tragedies of health care reform."

Dr. Brody said one of his primary concerns would be to wrap up successfully the Johns Hopkins Initiative, a $900 million drive seeking to increase the university's holdings. He also pledged to continue the tradition of Hopkins presidents in Washington, promoting the university and the role that the nation's research campuses play in making scientific discoveries.

Pub Date: 4/09/96

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