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August 11, 2009

Faculty Unionization

There have been recent communications sent to the faculty of the School of Medicine and School of Dental Medicine that urge you to consider unionization. As you know, this issue has come up before, with elections occurring in 1999 and again in 2000. On both occasions the faculty voted against unionization.

I hope you will take the time to be fully informed about the significance of signing union authorization cards. The decision whether or not to sign a union authorization card should not be rushed. There is no deadline for you to sign and return cards and I believe fact based decisions lead to better choices and outcomes.

Like most academic medical centers, the UConn Health Center is confronted with numerous challenges as we carry out our unique mission of delivering outstanding patient care, discovering new knowledge, and teaching the next generation of physicians and dentists. Many of you have taken the time to share with me your concerns. The Health Center’s financial challenges, the state’s budget (or lack thereof), and the proposed partnership with Hartford Healthcare all have a measure of uncertainty attached to them. I fully acknowledge the seriousness of the issues before us.

While the challenges are very real, let me be clear; as I see it, faculty unionization is NOT a solution. To the contrary, in my opinion it would compound the challenges we face and greatly diminish the Health Center’s ability to succeed.  In the coming weeks the University will be providing you with more information about unions and will articulate the reasons why we do not believe unionization is the solution to the challenges confronting the Health Center. I hope you will review this information as you consider your decision as to whether not to sign a union authorization card.

Let me be clear that:
 
1. Our challenges can be overcome.
For example The Dean’s Task force on the Clinical Practice led by Dr. Lafreniere and Clinical Council faculty has already begun work on reorganizing the practice plan. Our hospital financial improvements have gone into effect and should be in full swing this academic year. During our most recent site visit regarding the hospital our progress in hospital quality was characterized as a ‘palpable positive difference’ by the site review team.

2. Our vision can be achieved.
Our vision for the UConn Health Center is for overwhelming success, for the Health Center to take its place as a top tier leading center in the country. President Hogan and I believe that the proposed partnership with Hartford Healthcare represents an outstanding opportunity to advance us towards that goal. Much more needs to be done and faculty continue to work in providing input on the important agreements regarding the Partnership. I (in many cases along with Dr. Hogan) will be meeting with every school of medicine and school of dental medicine department (in conjunction with Dean Monty MacNeil) in the next few weeks to talk about the Partnership, to listen, to hear your thoughts and ideas and answer questions.

Another pathway toward our vision is through philanthropy, and with our new VP for Development at the UConn Health Center, Ms. Dina Plapler, I believe we can do much to achieve our goals. We are about to launch the University wide campaign “Our University, Our Moment”, in many ways apropos for the Health Center. I ask that all be involved.

3. We have the high ground.
We carry out noble work here, and no one does it better. While we cannot discount the uncertainly, we must not fear the future. We must embrace the greatness that is ‘us’. Together, we can continue to work side-by-side in meeting the challenges for the betterment of our students and patients.

Thanks and please continue to contact me through email, and my blog.

Cato T. Laurencin, M.D., Ph.D.
Vice President for Health Affairs
Dean, School of Medicine