SALT LAKE CITY -- Big news from the University of Utah Tuesday. Eight days after the CEO of the Huntsman Cancer Institute was fired via email, Dr. Mary Beckerle has been reinstated.
In a statement released Tuesday, University of Utah President, David Pershing, said in part that "Dr. Mary Beckerle will, effective immediately, resume her service as the CEO and Director of the Huntsman Cancer Institute."
Mary Beckerle, PhD, CEO and Director of Huntsman Cancer Institute at the University of Utah responded:
“The excellence of Huntsman Cancer Institute (HCI) has been built on the enduring strength of the University of Utah and our future success depends on the entire ecosystem. The U of U has been my institution since 1986 when I first joined the faculty as an Assistant Professor of Biology. I came here – and I stayed here – because of the remarkably collaborative environment, the innovative ‘can-do’ spirit, the commitment to excellence, and the confidence that great things are possible at this great institution.
This past week has been a very difficult one for me and my family, as well as for our community. What kept me standing, in addition to the support of my family and my unwavering commitment to HCI, was the tremendous, unimaginable outpouring of love and support for Huntsman Cancer Institute and for me personally. I cannot express how meaningful it has been to receive the thousands of messages from friends, colleagues, patients, and our community. I am very pleased to have been reinstated as CEO and Director of Huntsman Cancer Institute at the University of Utah. We will now harness all the energy, commitment, and goodwill that was manifest in the last week to advance the lifesaving mission of Huntsman Cancer Institute.
Huntsman Cancer Institute has made major contributions in cancer prevention, treatment, and care in our short history. This is just the beginning of the impact we intend to have for cancer patients and their families in Utah and beyond. HCI has an exceptional team of faculty and staff, wonderful collaborative partners at the University of Utah, and passionate engagement from our patients. With all of us working together, our future can’t be anything but bright.
We are also deeply grateful to the Huntsman family, the Huntsman Cancer Foundation, and all of our donors for their continued confidence and faith in us. We will fight and defeat this disease. We will not let you down.”
A breast cancer patient at the Huntsman Cancer Institute in 2002 Kathy Howa got to know Dr. Mary Beckerle during her time there and was shocked to see her go.
"We just didn’t understand. All of the sudden she’s no longer there and it was really scary for us as patients," says Howa. "She's an amazing woman. She's so personable."
President of the Huntsman Cancer Foundation, Susan Sheehan, was thrilled.
"My gut reaction was tears of joy," says Sheehan.
Sheehan is also glad President Pershing acted quickly.
"The longer this went on the harder it would’ve been because Mary is a thought leader in cancer. She’s a world-renowned cell biologist and we did risk losing her," says Sheehan.
President Pershing's letter also says there will be a change in reporting structure. Dr. Beckerle will now report directly to President Pershing, not Dr. Vivian Lee.
This was welcome news to the institute's founder, Jon Huntsman Senior, who released a statement that says in part, "We are also appreciative to President David Pershing for recognizing the need of a direct reporting relationship for an institution the size and scope of the Huntsman Cancer Institute.
Last week, Huntsman had expressed a desire to have Dr, Lee, who sent the email firing Dr. Beckerle, to be let go herself. No word if that will be done or not, but for patients like Howa, there is nowhere to look but forward.
"Even the people in the most powerful positions make mistakes and we need to forgive and we need to move on because what is important is the cure," says Howa.
A change.org petition has been started in support of Dr. Lee and it's been signed by several department heads on campus.