By Tim Bonfield
The Cincinnati Enquirer
The University of Cincinnati has named a former head of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration as the top administrator of its sprawling medical center.
Dr. Jane Henney, who served as FDA commissioner during the Clinton administration from 1998 to 2001, will take her post in July as senior vice president and provost for health affairs at UC. She replaces Dr. Donald Harrison, who retired in December.
The UC Medical Center is one of Cincinnati's largest employers with an estimated annual economic impact exceeding $3 billion. During Harrison's tenure, research funding at UC soared from $30 million in 1986 to $209 million in 2002.
Henney, 56, will oversee a medical complex that includes UC's colleges of medicine, nursing, pharmacy and allied health, and Hoxworth Blood Center. It also includes several affiliated institutions, including the renowned Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center, University Hospital, Shriners Hospitals for Children Cincinnati Burns Hospital, VA Medical Center, the UC Physicians group and the Bio/Start biotech business incubator.
Henney will be paid $450,000 a year, about 25 percent more than Harrison's $360,000 salary.
Supporters say landing an administrator with such high-level federal experience is a coup for UC.
"It really reflects the growth of the reputation of UC that we can attract people like Dr. Henney," said Dr. William Martin, dean of UC's College of Medicine.
"She will be a terrific new addition to UC," he said. "She'll help get the message out to the community and to the state about the wonderful things that are happening at the medical center."
In a brief interview after her approval Tuesday by UC trustees, Henney said she has no immediate agenda to change how the medical center runs.
"I know it's a place that likes to change, likes to build, likes to grow," she said. "I'm going to be meeting with a lot more people to get a better understanding of the collective vision here."
Since leaving the FDA in 2001, Henney has been working in Washington as a senior scholar in residence for the Association of Academic Health Centers.
Prior to her FDA post, Henney served as vice president for health services at the University of New Mexico; in several positions at Kansas University including vice chancellor for health programs; and as a deputy director of the National Cancer Institute.
She was in charge of the FDA when it approved the abortion pill RU-486 - a political battle that started several years before she took that post.
"We are disappointed that anyone who played a part in the approval process for RU-486 would be approved for a leadership position in Cincinnati," said Denise Mackura, executive director of Ohio Right to Life Society.
However, UC president Joseph Steger said there were no significant concerns raised during the interview process nor from university trustees about Henney's role in the RU-486 debate.
Instead, Steger said he and others were far more impressed with Henney's overall experience - from her knowledge of Beltway politics to her experience as a university administrator. "We can attract the best in the world now. She's really top notch," he said.
Enquirer reporter Kristina Goetz contributed to this story
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