Tag Archives: michigan

U. of Michigan president sits on pharma board

On The New York Times Prescriptions blog, Duff Wilson reports that while her school has taken a lead in limiting conflicts of interest, University of Michigan President Mary Sue Coleman herself sits on the board of Johnson & Johnson, a post which earns her $229,978 each year. Her defense is that she’s openly disclosed the relationship, and that the world of pharma and that of university administration rarely intersect.

Responding to questions on Ms. Coleman’s behalf Monday, Kelly E. Cunningham, a spokeswoman for the university, said the president satisfied the policy by disclosing her outside work. Ms. Coleman has never had to recuse herself from any discussion or action at the university because medical purchasing and investment decisions are so remote from her, Ms. Cunningham said.

“The same is true at J&J,” she added. “There has never been a discussion or decision at the board level that involved something related to the UM. But, of course, if there were, she would recuse herself.”

It’s not uncommon for university presidents to sit on corporate boards, Wilson found, but it appears that pharmaceutical companies are a special case given the major role universities play in medical research and health care delivery.

Thomas Donaldson, a corporate governance expert and professor of business ethics at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, reviewed the case on Monday for The Times. He said many university presidents serve on corporate boards, but biomedical company boards pose special issues because of the possible ties to university research and medical schools.

“Because of the role of research and also the entrepreneurial interest that lies behind a lot of modern advances in medicine, this is a very difficult issue,” Professor Donaldson said in a telephone interview. “We’ve been aware for decades really that this potential for conflict of interest exists, but we haven’t as a moral community or even inside universities gotten our arms around it yet.”

Lead poisoning hurts Detroit kids’ academics

Detroit Free Press reporters Tina Lam and Kristi Tanner-White report that data compiled by the city shows that “More than half of the students tested in Detroit Public Schools have a history of lead poisoning, which affects brain function for life.” Lead poisoning is bad news, but it gets much worse:detroit

Now, a landmark study by the city health department and Detroit Public Schools of lead data and test scores shows that the higher the lead level, the worse a student’s scores on the Michigan Educational Assessment Program exam, or MEAP.

Overall, 58% of roughly 39,000 DPS students tested – 22,755 children – had a history of lead poisoning, according to the study.

Perhaps more startling: Of the 39,199 students tested as young children, only 23 had no lead in their bodies.

There are confounding factors, of course, but this chart shows the correlation between lead exposure and weaker academic skills. It’s yet another blow for a school district whose students were already some of the worst performing in the nation.

The story ran with an excellent graphic on lead poisoning levels throughout the city over time, as well as a school-by-school database of lead poisoning statistics.

Barriers in 5 Midwest states chill public access

A study from the the Citizen Advocacy Center finds that open government laws in Michigan, Ohio, Illinois, Wisconsin and Minnesota have systemic barriers that chill public participation and access to government.

The Center analyzed each state’s Freedom of Information and Open Meetings Acts and found striking similarities between all states, including:

  • Open government laws are sporadically enforced, which means public bodies are more likely to be unresponsive to records requests and employ exemptions to keep meetings closed.
  • No state surveyed has a government office with statutory authority specifically created to oversee and enforce sunshine laws.
  • State employees are not adequately trained to carry out open government policies and may be unintentionally violating the laws.
  • Citizens may be able to attend meetings, but there are very few opportunities to participate.

The Midwest Open Goverment Project is a comprehensive study of the Freedom of Information and Open Meetings Acts in those five states, under the auspices of the Citizen Advocacy Center.

Regional health reform forum webcast from Mich.

The forum starts at 2 p.m. ET and will be streamed live.

This is the first of five regional forums that were announced by President Obama last week. They are intended to continue the public discussion about bringing down health care costs and making coverage more widely available. The president said:

“The forums will bring together diverse groups of people all over the country who have a stake in reforming our health care system and ask them to put forward their best ideas about how we bring down costs and expand coverage for American families.”

The other four events have been scheduled:

  • March 17 in Burlington, Vt.
  • March 23 in Des Moines, Iowa
  • March 31 in Greensboro, N.C.
  • April 6 in Los Angeles

Check HealthReform.gov for more details.