After the president of the Uniformed Services University of the Health Science announced on July 14 that he would step down, a growing number of individuals are concerned that the interim replacement doesn’t bode well for the future of the institution, reports military.com.
Former president of the school, Richard Thomas, announced in a letter that he would step down from the position on July 19 since he had “not yet learned from Secretary [Lloyd] Austin as to his decision to renew my contract,” which was set to end on July 25. However, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said that there were “no plans” to renew Thomas’ five-year contract.
In his letter, Thomas stated that, despite wanting to stay in the role, he was stepping down to “ensure a smooth transition” and “safeguard the school’s re-accreditation process,” according to military.com.
In his place, Thomas appointed the school’s senior vice president, Dr. William Roberts, as interim president. However, not long after, Acting Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs Dr. Terry Adirim decided to put someone else in the role. She chose Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Readiness Dr. David Smith, saying that he will also lead the search for a new president.
Many were not happy with that move. Smith spent much of his career researching and analyzing how to scale back the size of military medicine, according to military.com, which called Smith “instrumental” in “restructuring of military clinics and hospitals to focus on providing care for service members while directing more civilian beneficiaries to Tricare.”
There’s also rumor, according to the news organization, that Smith played a role in the Pentagon’s Cost Assessment and Program Evaluation, which recommended in 2019 that the medical school be shuttered. Now some worry his appointment could be “the beginning of the closure of the university.”
Among the reasons it was targeted was due to the size of its budget and cost per student, which is higher than civilian schools. According to the Institute of Defense Analyses, it costs approximately $600,000 more per student at USUHS than at a regular medical school — an unfortunate predicament given the school was established in 1972 to address a nationwide physician shortage that has only gotten worse and “disproportionately affects the U.S. military,” notes military.com.
Additionally, that the “leadership crisis” comes at a time when the university lacks an executive board and is preparing for reaccreditation has only complicated matters.