Late Friday evening, University of Utah President David Pershing announced that he had accepted Dr. Vivian Lee’s resignation. She steps down from her posts as CEO of University Health Care, Senior Vice President of Health Sciences and Dean of the School of Medicine. On Saturday, University President David Pershing named Dr. A. Lorris Betz as interim CEO.
UPDATE: SATURDAY 4/29/17:
University of Utah President David Pershing issued a statement on Saturday naming Dr. A. Lorris Betz as interim CEO of University Health Care. Betz is expected to comment on his appointment this week.
Dr. Vivian Lee was at the center of a controversial decision to fire Huntsman Cancer Institute CEO Mary Beckerle. While it appeared that decision was supported by top University officials, HCI’s benefactor, Jon Huntsman Sr. was outraged and demanded that Beckerle be reinstated. On Tuesday, University officials gave Beckerle her job back and altered the reporting structure between HCI and University Health Sciences. President Pershing announced that Beckerle would report directly to him and not Dr. Lee.
In a statement released on Friday night announcing Lee’s resignation, Pershing largely praised her for the work she had done for nearly six years at the University of Utah, which included recruiting talented staff, raising the standards of care while at the same time cutting costs.
Lee came to Utah in 2011 from New York University’s Medical Center where she served as a vice dean and chief scientific officer. She sent out a statement to all employees of the University Health Sciences thanking them for their support and encouraging them to move forward with the health care missions they shared together.
“We should not permit the events of the past two weeks to divert us from our fundamental mission, and with my decision today, I believe our entire community can readily return to its vital focus on health sciences, health care, education, and service,” said Lee.
She also indicated in her statement that the media focus on her had become an overwhelming distraction.
“It is fair to say that some of the strong invective directed at my integrity and character, which was carried in the news media over the past two weeks, has been disturbing, especially to the younger members of our family in this close-knit community in Utah we have come to call home. I am hoping my decision today will help in putting that completely in the past,” said Lee.
President Pershing said in his statement that Lee will stay on at the University as a tenured professor of radiology. Dr. Betz will stay on an interim leader while he, Pershing and others conduct a national search for Lee's permanent replacement.