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Moffitt, USF plan future together

The overdue agreement means faculty members will remain employees of the medical school, not the cancer center.

Published August 26, 2005

TAMPA - A year ago, many doctors on the faculty at the University of South Florida feared they might lose their ties to the medical school, becoming employees at Tampa's H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center & Research Institute.

That's because an agreement that spells out the relationship between Moffitt and USF was overdue for renewal, and tensions were high. Rumors spread that Moffitt wanted to sever ties completely, even though it's located in the middle of the USF campus.

But now the two institutions have signed an agreement, one that leaders at both places say will bring them closer together.

"I feel it worked out well for both institutions," said Dr. William Dalton, Moffitt's chief executive officer. "We started discovering how we could work together for our mutual benefit. I'm very happy about it."

Dr. Stephen Klasko, USF's vice president of health sciences and medical school dean, echoed Dalton.

"For Tampa and for both organizations, this is a home run," he said.

It didn't start out that way. Moffitt leaders were talking about wanting more control over the doctors who, while they physically work at Moffitt, are USF employees and faculty members.

Some longtime USF officials feared that Moffitt, which has rapidly gained national prestige since opening 19 years ago, wanted more independence. Such a move, they said, would be a blow to USF's prestige.

The agreement is a relief for faculty members, said Dr. Robert Belsole, a hand surgeon who is the medical school's vice dean of clinical activity.

Last year, Belsole was the interim dean, and negotiations for a new agreement were his headache. Belsole said he hasn't studied all the details, since most faculty members found out about the deal this week in a memo from Klasko.

A joint committee approved the agreement in late July, but it then was reviewed by groups at each institution.

But one of the major concerns has been resolved, Belsole said.

"The faculty wanted to be USF faculty members," he said. "It's definitely a relief. ... To keep them on board, I think, is an accomplishment."

Belsole said he also is glad to see the two keeping a close relationship.

"To have two separate institutions 100 yards away wouldn't have been good," he said.

Under the agreement, Moffitt also agreed to return to USF Health Sciences 17.5 percent of profits on any intellectual property developed by USF faculty members working at Moffitt. The old agreement had a similar provision, Dalton said, but returns went to USF general revenue.

Dalton and Klasko stressed they expect the two institutions to work together more - on everything from developing drugs to building facilities.

In the past, Klasko said, discussions between leaders at each place bogged down in administrative details and negotiations over financial contributions.

"Now we're going to spend our time talking about how we can work together to be a powerhouse," he said.

The new relationship, Dalton said, is one that recognizes the two have different primary missions. Moffitt wants to cure cancer, while USF wants to train medical students. Now, he and Klasko said, both places have developed a stronger recognition that each benefits from the other's gains.

"The stronger they get," Dalton said, "the easier our job is."

[Last modified August 26, 2005, 01:35:09]

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