The University of Minnesota's Academic Health Center will get an external review, U President Eric Kaler announced Monday.

The AHC -- an amalgam of six schools, including the Medical School, formed in 1970 -- was the subject of an internal report completed in November. Many comments on the report found it to be lacking.

"I have heard repeatedly ... that because the report was produced internally principally by 'insiders' with potentially strong interest in maintaining the status quo, an outside peer-review team would be necessary to give the report credibility," wrote Prof. John Finnegan, dean of the School of Public Health.

Kaler announced in December the possibility of an external review. In an email to AHC faculty and staff on Monday, he made it official. "The primary question for the external review committee to consider is whether the AHC is structured to ensure excellence in all of our health science schools," he wrote.

He announced that the review committee will be headed by Dr. Ken Kaushansky, a senior VP at Stony Brook University, where Kaler was provost before taking the Minnesota gig. The review will start following the Medical School's accreditation team's visit in March. Kaler's email contains more details: 

January 30, 2012

Dear AHC colleagues,

This fall the Academic Health Center Review Executive Steering Committee, chaired by Vice President and Dean Friedman and Vice President Mulcahy, completed a review of the AHC mission, structure and centers. This review was an instructive self-study and was consistent with the charge issued by President Bruininks.

As I noted upon receiving the report, it made several meaningful recommendations but was not designed to answer larger questions about the vision and the future of the AHC. I believe those are important questions and for that reason, I am charging a small committee to complete an external review. This external committee will be chaired by Dr. Ken Kaushansky, a member of the Institute on Medicine, dean of the School of Medicine, and senior vice president for the Health Sciences at Stony Brook University.

The primary question for the external review committee to consider is whether the AHC is structured to ensure excellence in all of our health science schools. One of my strategic goals for the University is to strengthen the health sciences and improve the national reputation of the Medical School. It is critical to both the future of the University and the state of Minnesota that we improve our leadership position in the health sciences in order to meet workforce needs, discover new cures and treatments, continue to provide high-quality clinical care, and support the biomedical industry. This requires an objective look at where we are and where we need to be to improve our position.

The recent self-study, along with many internal and external reviews and strategic plans that outline the strengths and challenges of our health science enterprise, will provide a valuable starting point for the external reviewers. In addition, the committee will visit campus to interview leaders and have the discussions necessary to fully understand and assess our needs.

As you may know, the Medical School accreditation team will be here in March. The external review team will visit as soon thereafter as is practical.

The mission of the AHC—to train the next generation of health professionals, to discover new cures and treatments and to enhance the economic vitality of our health industries—has never been more important. We need to ensure that we are positioned to meet that mission to the fullest.

Thank you for all you do to make the AHC and the University successful. I look forward to working with you to continue to build on the strengths of the Academic Health Center.

Eric W. Kaler