A New York City cardiologist considers Wednesday -- the day the University of Arkansas board of trustees voted to hire him as chancellor of its academic medical center -- to be "Day One."
Dr. Cam Patterson, 54, is already planning trips to Little Rock and across Arkansas even though he anticipates his official start date won't be until June. He wants to listen to Arkansans, learn what they think the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences' priorities should be and then start addressing those priorities, he said.
"I am very excited about this opportunity to be able to play a part in making sure that the people of Arkansas have great health care," he said. "I am getting started right away, so there's a lot of work to be done before I arrive in Little Rock."
The Mobile, Ala. native is making the move from the nation's largest nonprofit hospital, Weill-Cornell Medical Center, New York Presbyterian Hospital, where he works as senior vice president and chief operating officer. Patterson will earn $1.2 million in total compensation, which includes annual salary and deferred compensation, in public and private funds, according to his Dec. 21 offer letter.
How much of the total compensation would be in annual salary and how much would be in annual deferred compensation, which is set aside for retirement, was unknown Wednesday. It was also unknown how much would be paid using public and private funds.
Under UAMS' state appropriation bill, it can pay the new chancellor up to $375,000 annually, though Arkansas Code Annotated 6-63-309 allows exceptionally qualified people to earn up to 25 percent more than the line-item appropriated amount. Institutions usually supplement salaries above appropriated amounts through private funds.
Patterson will come to UAMS at a time when the academic medical center is firmly standing behind its three-pronged mission -- educating health care professionals, providing patient-centered health care and advancing research -- even while it is facing a budget deficit estimated to be nearly twice as much as anticipated at more than $72 million in the first quarter of the fiscal year.
UAMS -- like other academic medical centers across the nation -- is considering cost-saving measures, including a review of open positions by senior leadership before a department can engage in any searches or make any job offers.
He is also starting the new role as the future of health care 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 Wednesday, a decision on the state's request hasn't been announced.
UAMS is also the largest public employer in the state with more than 10,000 workers throughout multiple campuses and sites. It educates 3,000 students a year and oversees seven specialty institutes, including those in cancer, aging and psychiatric research.
On Wednesday, University of Arkansas System President Donald Bobbitt -- who recommended Patterson's hire nearly two weeks ago -- said he was excited about Patterson.
"As you know, both his record as an M.D., but also his business experience, I think, is going to be very helpful as we work our way through these very complex waters right now in terms of how we deliver and pay for health care in the state of Arkansas," he said.
UA board members lauded Bobbitt for luring the new chancellor, particularly after two finalists in a first round had both withdrawn from the race.
He is replacing Dr. Dan Rahn, 67, who retired in July after eight years at UAMS' helm. Rahn earned an annual salary of $630,000, along with $270,000 in annual deferred compensation which was paid for by the UAMS Foundation.
Stephanie Gardner, 53, who was the second finalist in the second round, has been serving as interim chancellor, in addition to her role as senior vice chancellor for academic affairs and provost at UAMS.
"We were very fortunate that Dr. Gardner was a candidate and Dr. Patterson as well," said UA board Chairman Ben Hyneman of Jonesboro. "Stephanie has done a great job there working with Dr. Rahn. We just couldn't go wrong, and Dr. Bobbitt's recommendation to the board was very well received."
Hyneman said it was "beneficial" that Patterson had "some exposure" to dealing with finances at a large institution.
"I would say that I was just impressed with listening to him and his ideas and things he's been exposed to in the past that would transition to UAMS in beneficial ways," he said. "I think he welcomes the challenge and the opportunity that he has to be impactful to the health of the citizens of Arkansas."
He added: "We're excited about Dr. Patterson coming and getting started. We're in good hands until he does get here."
Patterson will make the move to Arkansas with his wife, Dr. Kris Patterson, who is a specialist in infectious diseases, and his three children -- a 15-year-old daughter, a 13-year-old daughter and an 11-year-old son. A native Alabamian -- "Roll Tide," he added -- Patterson is enthusiastic to become a Razorback, too, he said.
To help maintain a work-life balance, Patterson fly-fishes -- and is looking forward to doing so on the White River -- scuba dives with his oldest daughter and loves music, listening and playing. He plays guitar and sings for an "eclectic" band The Jake Brakes, based in Larchmont, N.Y., though he said they likely will not come with him. And he said, once he's settled down, he is open to getting together with "like-minded musicians" here, offering up his "B-plus" guitar skills.
Patterson said he was attracted to the UAMS position because of the opportunity to provide "great care and education research" within a state that actively supports the academic medical center's mission, he said.
"I think UAMS is a school with tremendous history," he said, "and I am looking forward to playing a role in the future of UAMS."
Metro on 01/04/2018
Print Headline: Board selects NYC doctor to lead UAMS