In Jeff Balser, Vanderbilt University is getting a much more conventional vice chancellor for health affairs than the man he will replace, Harry Jacobson.
Vanderbilt execs legacy looms
Jacobson to explore his options when Balser takes over
During his 11-year run overseeing the universitys schools of medicine and nursing and as CEO of Vanderbilt University Medical Center, Jacobson straddled the academic and the entrepreneurial worlds. A nephrologist by training, Jacobson co-founded Renal Care Group, a dialysis provider, while he was on the faculty at Vanderbilt, but before he rose to its top healthcare job. Renal Care was sold to Fresenius Medical Care for $3.5 billion in 2006.
Balser, 47, has a more traditional background for running an academic medical center. Balser completed a dual program at Vanderbilt that combined medical school with a Ph.D. in pharmacology, and then completed his residency and served on the faculty at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in Baltimore.
Where Jacobson, 62, is a board member of pharmaceutical giant Merck & Co., Whitehouse Station, N.J., and was chairman of the Nashville Health Care Council from 2004 to 2006, Balser is active in the Association of American Medical Colleges and, in October, was elected a member of the Institute of Medicine.
I am less involved with entrepreneurial activitiesin fact, I am not in any way involved in those kinds of activities, Balser said last week in an interview.
Jacobson indicated that he is likely to spend more time with the for-profit side of healthcare. Hopefully, I can work out with Vanderbilt the relationship so I can be a bit more engaged in the healthcare industry world with regard to participating on some corporate boards as well as participating in the development and growth of companies in healthcare, Jacobson said. Jacobson said that he would like to continue to advise the university on healthcare matters and probably continue to teach in its business school. He added later, Nashville is a great environment for healthcare entrepreneurs. That may be something that I will pursue.
Jacobson lured Balser back to Vanderbilt in 1998 and proved a capable mentor, said Balser, who is moving up from his current job as dean of the medical school. He has been clear with me for a period of a few years that he and the chancellor were grooming me as his successor, Balser said. So this was very much an execution on a succession planning effort that had been going on for some time.
Jacobson said he was proud of boosting Vanderbilts ranking from 24th to 10th in National Institutes of Health research funding, opening a free-standing childrens hospital in 2004 and further integrating the academic side with the medical center.
Jacobson denied that the timinghe will step down on June 1was sudden. Anytime someone does that, they dont preannounce, Jacobson said. When youre ready, you go ahead and make the announcement.
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