Fresh on the heels of a patient-safety tragedy that drew international scrutiny to Duke University Health System, its top executive has announced plans to step down next year.
Ralph Snyderman, 62, will end 15 years as Duke University's chancellor for health affairs, dean of the School of Medicine and James B. Duke professor of medicine in June 2004, the three-hospital system said last week. He has been president and chief executive officer of the Durham, N.C.-based system since 1998. He also is immediate past chairman of the Association of American Medical Colleges.
Snyderman's announcement came less than two weeks after 17-year-old Jesica Santillan died following a botched heart-lung transplant at the system's flagship, 769-bed Duke University Medical Center. The organs that were transplanted Feb. 7 did not match Jesica's blood type, leading her body to reject the organs, according to the system. Jesica received a second set of organs with the correct blood type on Feb. 20, but died two days later.
In the statement, Snyderman said he decided to leave in September and spoke about his plans with the health system board at that time. Snyderman said the timing of the announcement was influenced by the announcement that Duke University President Nan Keohane plans to retire in June 2004. After Keohane gave notice last week, Snyderman said, "Some people asked about my intentions. I thought it best not to wait until the end of the semester, as I'd originally planned" to make an announcement.
During Snyderman's tenure, Duke University Medical Center became a system with the 1998 purchase of two hospitals, 217-bed Durham Regional Hospital and 205-bed Raleigh (N.C.) Community Hospital.
Durham Regional was cited for poor nursing care twice last year by state inspectors, but the hospital maintained its eligibility for government healthcare programs after follow-up inspections.
The system also sold its managed-care plan, WellPath Community Health Plans, for $25.5 million to Coventry Health Care, Be- thesda, Md., and discontinued its Medicaid HMO at the end of 2000 (July 17, 2000, p. 2).