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University of Arkansas System President Donald Bobbitt named on Friday a second pair of finalists vying for the chancellorship at the system’s academic medical center after the withdrawal of the first two.

The finalists for the next leader of the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, Little Rock are Stephanie Gardner, 53, who before becoming interim chancellor at UAMS was the senior vice chancellor for academic affairs and provost; and Dr. Cam Patterson, 54, senior vice president and chief operating officer at New York-Presbyterian/Weill-Cornell Medical Center.

The two will meet with the campus community next week — Gardner on Monday and Tuesday, and Patterson on Wednesday and Thursday.

“I’m confident that both of our finalists have the skills and experience to thrive as our next chancellor, and I believe both understand and appreciate the important role UAMS plays as the state’s only academic health center,” Bobbitt said in a prepared statement. “These are unique times for academic health centers across the country and it’s critical that we have a leader who can help ensure a bright future for UAMS moving forward. I’m pleased that both of these individuals are excited about pursuing this opportunity.”

The winning candidate would replace Dr. Dan Rahn, who retired in July after eight years at its helm. He earned an annual salary of $630,000, along with $270,000 in annual deferred compensation, which is set aside for his retirement, from the UAMS foundation.

The state has allocated a maximum of $375,000 for this fiscal year for the position, but Arkansas Code Annotated 6-63-309 states that a limited percentage of exceptionally qualified people can earn up to 25 percent more than the line-item appropriated amount. Institutions can supplement salaries through private funds as well.

Neither finalist would be the youngest leader of UAMS, as Dr. Harry Ward started as chancellor at age 46 in 1979, said Leslie Taylor, vice chancellor for the Office of Communications & Marketing at UAMS.

The next chancellor will take charge of the academic medical center at a time when UAMS is staunchly sticking to its three-pronged mission — educating health care professionals, providing patient-centered health care and advancing research — when the industry’s future is uncertain.

UAMS has an annual budget of $1.4 billion, increased in recent years in part because of reduced uncompensated care, a result of Arkansas Works, the state’s expanded Medicaid program. But, Gov. Asa Hutchinson has requested federal approval to move about 60,000 people off the program by limiting eligibility to people with incomes up to the poverty level, instead of 138 percent of the poverty level, and to impose a work requirement on many of those remaining.

As of Friday, a decision on the state’s request hasn’t been announced.

The academic medical center is currently reviewing cost-saving measures for what administrators there are estimating could be a deficit of more than $72 million, nearly half of what it anticipated.

UAMS is also the largest public employer in the state with more than 10,000 workers throughout multiple campuses and sites. It educates the 3,000 students a year and oversees seven specialty institutes, including those in cancer, aging and psychiatric research.

Gardner and Patterson were among six new applicants for the position since the system reopened the search for a new chancellor in August. At the time, the system had also named two finalists, both of whom visited UAMS campuses in Little Rock and Fayetteville, interviewed with the faculty and the staff at UAMS, UA System administration and trustees — and withdrew from the race.

Dr. Jeannette Shorey, who is leading a 17-member search committee appointed by Bobbitt, said Friday that the last two finalists’ home institutions valued them so much that they put together retention offers, which the finalists both accepted.

From there, the group — along with search firm Isaacson, Miller, which the University of Arkansas Foundation, Inc. hired for a fixed fee of $180,000 — reviewed the job listing and determined they were “right on course,” she said. They then went back to the original pool of candidates and revisited others who had looked at the opening earlier but decided it wasn’t the right time for a move.

And the two finalists rose to the top, Shorey said.

Gardner has worked at UAMS since 1991, when she started as an assistant professor in the Department of Pharmacy Practice. She quickly rose through the ranks; five years later, she became head of that department within the College of Pharmacy, and in 2004, she went on to lead the college.

In that role, she expanded class sizes from 90 to 120 students and added pharmacy education to the Northwest Arkansas regional campus, increasing the college’s overall enrollment by nearly 42 percent from 335 in 2003 to 475 in 2015, UAMS has said.

In 2015, Gardner began serving as senior vice chancellor for academic affairs and provost, leading 73 academic programs across UAMS’ five colleges and graduate school.

And since August, she has taken on leadership of UAMS in an interim capacity, steering the academic medical center through new initiatives, such as the accountable care organization in partnership with Baptist Health, and through familiar trials, including UAMS’ fiscal woes.

Gardner received her bachelor’s and doctorate degree in pharmacy at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She later received a second doctorate in education from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock.

A famed cardiologist, Patterson got his undergraduate training from Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn., and studied medicine at Emory University in Atlanta. He also holds a master’s in business administration, according to his resume.

He worked as chief of the Cardiology Division at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill starting in 2005, inheriting a division that was running a deficit in years prior. Patterson said in his cover letter that through restructuring, improving efficiencies and increases in research-related activities, he was able to submit a balanced budget just one year later.

Also at UNC, Patterson founded the Office of Medical Student Research — which provides research training to medical students who are not part of the federally funded UNC Medical Scientist Training Program — and its McAllister Heart Institute, according to his resume.

In 2014, he was recruited away from UNC to his current position at the nation’s largest nonprofit hospital. In that role, Patterson has overseen what he calls a “‘hospital-within-a-hospital’ integrated inpatient service model for heart and vascular services, neurosciences, behavioral health, pediatrics, oncology and obstetrics,” created a $1.4 billion ambulatory care center, added hospitals in Queens and Brooklyn, and carried out what is now the world’s largest mobile stroke program unit.

Shorey, the search committee chairman, said both are “spectacularly well-qualified.”

“It is now the job of these two people to introduce themselves to the UAMS community,” she said. “I am so excited. Bring on next week.”

Information for this article was contributed by Andy Davis of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

Cam Patterson

Print Headline: 2 finalists announced for top job at UAMS

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