The criminal investigation into DaVitas pharmaceutical billing practices in Nevada may subject yet another healthcare luminary to questions about serving as a paid director on the board of an outside healthcare company.
Physician William Roper, chief executive officer of the University of North Carolina Health System, Chapel Hill, dean of the UNC School of Medicine and vice chancellor for medical affairs at UNC, has been a board member of publicly traded DaVita, the El Segundo, Calif.-based renal-care provider, since May 2001. Before joining UNC in 2004, Roper was a senior vice president at Prudential HealthCare. His other healthcare experience includes his services as director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from 1990 to 1993, and as administrator of the Health Care Financing Administrationnow the CMSfrom May 1986 until February 1989. Currently, Roper serves as chairman of the 25-member board of trustees of the National Quality Forum, the Washington-based organization that establishes standardized patient-quality and safety measures. And he is also a member of the board of trustees of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the Princeton, N.J.-based healthcare philanthropy that reported more than $9 billion in total assets in 2005.
When asked whether his paid directorship at DaVita posed any potential conflicts of interest with his other positions, Roper said, I disagree with the premise of your question. He denied that the multiple roles posed any problems.
Its (DaVita) a company that is very devoted to observing the needs of patients with end-stage renal disease, and I believe it to be very well-run, Roper said, adding that he chairs the clinical performance committee of the board.
At least one attorney didnt see a problem with Ropers dual roles. Jim Schwartz, a partner at Manatt, Phelps & Phillips in Los Angeles, said its fairly common for leaders to sit on multiple boards. The simple fact that someone sits on boards does not make it a conflict.
As a DaVita board member, Roper received more than $380,000 last year in total compensation, including cash, stock and option awards, according to a Securities and Exchange Commission filing. As a RWJF board member, Roper received $26,000 for his 3.5-hour-per-week service in 2005, according to the foundations Form 990.
The foundations 2006 Form 990 is not yet available.
Separately, Roper serves on the board of the Delhaize Group, a Brussels, Belgium-based food retailer, where he received 75,000 euros, or about $110,000, in compensation for fiscal 2006, according to an SEC filing.