MUSC board votes in secret to hire president

By Ashley Barker
Published April 17, 2014

The next president of the Medical University of South Carolina will be Dr. David J. Cole.

The board of trustees chose Cole, current MUSC chairman of the Department of Surgery, instead of the other two finalists Dr. Joanne M. Conroy, chief health care officer for the Association of American Medical Colleges, and Dr. Ora H. Pescovitz, executive vice president for medical affairs at the University of Michigan.

Cole joined MUSC in 1994 as an assistant professor in the Division of General Surgery and became medical director of the MUSC Center for Cellular Therapy in 2006. He was appointed chairman of the Department of Surgery in 2007 and became president of MUSC Physicians last year.

Dr. David J. Cole

He is a member of the International Society of Surgery and is president-elect for the Southeastern Surgical Congress.

Cole earned his bachelor’s degree in biology from New Mexico State University and his medical degree from Cornell University Medical College. He was an intern and completed his residency in general surgery at Emory University Affiliated Hospitals. His surgical oncology fellowship was completed in 1994 at National Institutes of Health/National Cancer Institute’s surgery branch in Bethesda, Md.

Former President Dr. Raymond S. Greenberg left MUSC last year to become the executive vice chancellor for health affairs at the University of Texas System. Shortly after Greenberg announced his departure, the board unanimously appointed Mark Sothmann, MUSC vice president for academic affairs and provost, as interim president.

The research university’s board revised its bylaws on April 10 to allow voting for a new president by “secret ballot in person, a confidential conference call or other electronic confidential means.”

S.C. Press Association attorney Jay Bender said voting in secret by a public body is illegal in South Carolina and said the board was jeopardizing their decision by doing it behind closed doors.

“It’s an effort to institutionalize lawless behavior,” Bender said in a story published by the Charleston Regional Business Journal this morning.

MUSC spokeswoman Heather Woolwine said the process is perfectly legal.

“We had it validated through outside counsel,” she said.

Even though the majority of board members chose to vote confidentially, trustee William Bingham decided to make his vote for Cole known to the public. The other board members chose to keep their votes anonymous.

Board Chairman Tom Stephenson said the MUSC bylaws required them to vote with a secret ballot, and they’ve always held votes that way.

The vote was not initially unanimous, but the board voted during open session to unanimously support whoever won the majority.

Reach Ashley Barker at 843-849-3144 or @AshleyNBarker. Business Journal editorial assistant Chris McCandlish contributed to this report.

Previous coverage

MUSC president vote can’t be done in secret, attorney says

MUSC still taking applications for top job

MUSC casting broad net for next president

MUSC president stepping down

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