Saturday, February 8, 2014

Covered up misconduct, crushed dissenters, broke the law. Sound familiar?

"In its drive for private money, the Medical School has lent its name to questionable products and practices. It has covered up misconduct and condoned conflict of interest. And it has broken the  law."

"In some cases, university officials have ignored or crushed dissenters who tried to point out problems from the inside, and blocked attempts by the newspaper to examine them from the outside."

Sound familiar? These sentences come from a 1992 article by Joe Rigert and Maura Lerner in the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Rigert and Lerner were proven right. The 1990s would be a disastrous decade for the Medical School.

The Director of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Barry Garfinkel, was sentenced to federal prison for research fraud; the Director of the Department of Psychiatry Chemical Dependency Program, James Halikas, was disqualified by the FDA for mistreating human subjects; and most damaging of all, the National Institutes of Health placed the University of Minnesota on "exceptional status" for the John Najarian/ALG scandal.  Before the ALG scandal, the Medical School was ranked among the top 15 programs in the country in attracting NIH funding.  Afterwards, it lost 86 faculty members and dropped out of the top 30.

Those are just the highlights. This Star Tribune article also details scandals that have been largely forgotten -- such as that of surgery professor David Knighton, whose "conflict of interest had helped him become a millionaire from an unproved wound-healing drug called Procuren,"  and cancer researcher Fritz Bach's disastrous relationship with Endotronics, a company that collapsed after revelations of stock fraud.  Remember Richard Bianco?  He makes an appearance too. 

And now, twenty-two years later, we find ourselves in the same place again. What an institution this is.


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