Dr. Vivian Lee, CEO of U of U Health Care, resigns

SALT LAKE CITY -- Dr. Vivian Lee, CEO of University of Utah Health Care, has resigned Friday after a wave of public outcry in response to the firing of Huntsman Cancer Institute CEO Dr. Mary Beckerle.

Lee made the announcement in an email Friday evening, saying in part: "Taking account of the events of the last two weeks, I believe the best interests of the University are now served by the decision I am taking today."

The move comes just days after Dr. Beckerle was reinstated after being fired for undisclosed reasons.

That firing prompted a wave of outrage that included public demonstrations from supporters and criticism from Jon Huntsman Sr., who blasted Lee for being "unethical" and "undisciplined."

Huntsman Sr. claimed Lee fired Dr. Beckerle due to greed, saying Lee sought to take credit for the successes at the Huntsman Cancer Institute.

University of Utah Health Care released a statement thanking Lee for her "visionary leadership", citing unprecedented growth. The statement indicates Lee will remain at the U of U as a tenured professor of radiology.

"We are grateful to Dr. Lee for her visionary leadership. Our health system is exceptionally strong and filled with incredibly talented faculty, staff and leaders. We are confident that we will continue on our current upward trajectory that we owe in large part to Dr. Lee and her tireless efforts to transform health care and medical education in our state. During Dr. Lee’s tenure, the University has seen unprecedented growth."

The statement also included a list of bullet points outlining that growth, including going from 10 community clinics to 12 and 1,000 providers to 1,4000. Between 2011 and now, the School of Medicine went from being ranked 54th to 40th.

University of Utah President David Pershing also issued a statement, saying in part: "On behalf of the entire leadership at the University of Utah, I want to express my gratitude for Dr. Lee’s extraordinary achievements and the courage and commitment she has shown over the past six years."

Pershing states he will be announcing an interim replacement for Lee as they launch a national search to fill her position permanently.

The full text of the email sent by Lee is below:

"Dear Colleagues of the University of Utah Health Sciences Community,

I am writing to let you know that I have decided to step down from my roles as Senior Vice President for Health Sciences, Dean of the Medical School, and CEO of the University Health Care system here at the University of Utah. This is effective today. Over the past six years, as part of our exceptionally dedicated and talented team, I have worked as hard as I could to carry forward the mission of our entire health sciences community and of the University. Taking account of the events of the last two weeks, I believe the best interests of the University are now served by the decision I am taking today.

It has been a profound honor to serve in such an extraordinary organization. Thanks to the sterling efforts of every one of you, and building on the work and inspiration of all who came before, we are now collectively in a very strong and exciting position. This is symbolized in our physical environment by the beautiful new Ray and Tye Noorda Oral Health Sciences dental school building; new clinics from South Jordan/Daybreak to Farmington open and operating; the new Huntsman Cancer Institute research building which will open this summer thanks to the Huntsman Cancer Foundation; and plans and fundraising for a new Medical School Building, a new Ambulatory Care Center, a new Rehabilitation Hospital, and a new Innovation and Discovery Center well on track. Research initiatives extend from global health to the neurosciences, from health services research to the Utah Genome Project, and from personalized to population health and beyond. Major advances have taken place in the Colleges of Pharmacy, Nursing, and Health, the School of Dentistry, and throughout the entire School of Medicine. We have moved forward strongly in our focus on student and professional trainee experience, patient satisfaction and patient-centered culture, physician wellness and engagement, and high quality and high value care—with the University of Utah Hospitals and Clinics again ranked #1 across all U.S. academic medical centers in quality and safety.

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.

I know full well that many wonderful friends and colleagues are rightly upset, and that others are at least very puzzled, by recent events. I deeply regret this and give my apologies to all. I am aware too that more than a few have felt there should be some sort of reply to the very strong criticisms of leadership and actions, directed especially at me. This absence is not because of a lack of strongly held alternative viewpoints and substantive positions, but rather a clear sense that the best interests of our University and of our entire community are to collegially embrace one another and all move forward together. I am delighted to see that this is already happening. The installation of the new interim leadership taking over in my roles, whose appointment President Pershing will soon announce, will be another important step forward.

In a more private way, 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.

I step now into a period of personal transition, focused on the improvement and transformation of healthcare, future callings and pathways, and above all, the joy and miracle of family. I believe our entire University of Utah team of colleagues, community supporters, and friends are spectacularly positioned for a bright and rising future.
Thank you all.

Vivian S. Lee"