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U. Health Care interim CEO likely to ‘quiet the waters’ after Lee’s resignation

First Published      Last Updated Apr 29 2017 11:17 pm

A. Lorris Betz » Former leader back to help U. through difficult transition.

A. Lorris Betz, who hired University of Utah Health Care CEO Vivian Lee when he left that post, now will fill her shoes as the university searches for her replacement.

U. President David Pershing announced Saturday that Betz will assume Lee's former jobs as senior vice president for U. health sciences, CEO of U. Health Care and dean of the School of Medicine. Betz served in all three roles from 1999 to 2011, then hired Lee and served briefly as interim university president before retiring.

Lee resigned from her post Friday evening after weeks of turmoil that began with her firing of Huntsman Cancer Institute leader Mary Beckerle, whom Pershing later reinstated.

Betz will begin work Monday and plans to release a statement then, according to a news release from the university. He declined to comment Saturday on his return.

Gordon Crabtree, U. Health Care interim CEO and chief financial officer, said Betz can bring people back together during this time of transition.

"Under his leadership, we developed a completely new approach to giving patients the best experience ever," Crabtree said. "He knew how to ... bring all teams together that deal and work with patients every day and create focus and direction."

Crabtree worked with Betz for about nine years starting in 2002.

"His commitment is to serve people, and from time-to-time that means sacrifice," Crabtree said about Betz coming out of retirement to take over Lee's job. "... I'm glad he made that decision; that's the kind of person he is."

Stefan Pulst, who recently was told by Lee that he would return to a faculty position on Oct. 1 after a decade as neurology department chairman, said Betz "engendered an atmosphere of trust, transparency and collaboration" and will help "lead the health system past recent turmoil."

He added: "I do not know what he will do with my appointment or others that [Lee] had announced/shared internally."

Edward Ashwood, who is one of a number of U. administrators who told The Salt Lake Tribune that Lee forced them out of their leadership roles, said Betz "should definitely quiet the waters, given his amount of experience."

Betz appointed Ashwood as president and CEO of ARUP Laboratories, a nonprofit enterprise tied to the U., in 2009. Ashwood now works at the University of Colorado's Anschutz Medical Campus.

Thomas Lee, chief medical officer at the health care consulting firm Press Ganey, said Vivian Lee spoke highly of Betz.

"When Vivian would talk about the advances being made in patient experience [at the U.], she would always give him credit for setting the tone," said Thomas Lee, who is not related to Vivian Lee.

Pershing said he was thankful for Betz's willingness to leave retirement.

"Dr. Betz is one of the most collaborative leaders I have worked with in my career and I am confident his seasoned leadership and understanding of the university will provide stability not only to our health care system and health sciences programs, but also to the university as a whole," Pershing wrote in an emailed statement.

Betz has a storied tenure with the U. that includes two terms as interim U. president: in 2004, after President Bernie Machen's departure to the University of Florida, and in 2011, after President Michael Young was hired by the University of Washington.

He had chosen Beckerle to be CEO and director of Huntsman Cancer Institute in 2006. Betz told The Tribune last fall that Beckerle was the best choice because she was a collaborative leader who "has always done everything she could to break down barriers and find ways to bring scientists from different areas together."

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