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Emails reveal opposition efforts to stop Health Sciences Center restructuring

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — A controversial, newly created subcommittee that oversees the University of New Mexico’s medical program and hospital meets today, despite heavy opposition to the changes as revealed in emails obtained by the Journal.

The communications show opponents, including at least two regents, attempted to woo undecided regents, organized protests and drafted letters to the editor of the Journal .

Regent Lt. Gen. Brad Hosmer, a critic of the measure, summarized his views to then-undecided Regent Jack Fortner.

“If you believe reverting to the HSC governance arrangement of six years ago is truly in the interest of the university and the HSC, this proposal should have been aired in time to make that clear,” Hosmer wrote. “Concealing them is the strongest evidence that the proposed changes cannot be defended.”

The policy changes replaced the former Health Sciences Center board of directors, which was made up of five regents and two community members, with a three-regent subcommittee. The measure passed 4-2, with Doughty, Marron Lee, Fortner and student Regent Ryan Berryman voting in favor of the changes, and Hosmer and Suzanne Quillen voting against.

Doughty, one of the measure’s sponsors, said the change was needed to streamline UNM’s operations and protect its financial interests.

Hosmer and Quillen argued the previous governing structure gave the Health Sciences Center the autonomy it needed to respond quickly to the rapidly changing medical world.

Doughty, Hosmer and Lee comprise the new HSC subcommittee.

The emails indicate Quillen said she thought Berryman might be the “strongest hope” against the restructuring. Hosmer arranged a phone conversation with Berryman, according to the emails. Both confirmed that conversation. Hosmer said he reached out to Berryman to see if the student regent was made aware of the proposed changes before the meeting.

Hosmer also reached out to Fortner. Mel Eaves, a former regent and member of the now-defunct HSC board of directors, also tried to get Fortner to vote against the changes.

Fortner said he read the emails, but he didn’t read any compelling evidence to vote against the changes. He said he saw them as a return to what worked prior to the restructuring in 2010. Fortner has served on the board since 1998 under three governors.

Berryman also said in a statement he considered both sides’ arguments before voting in favor of the changes.

“As an institution, we’re facing difficult financial times and I believe we will all be able to weather the storm more effectively under the same umbrella, especially as we consider vital new capital projects,” Berryman said.

In an email, Quillen told Hosmer she asked faculty and staff with concerns to bring “as many colleagues as possible” to the March meeting. Roughly 50 people showed up to protest the changes.

Regents Hosmer and Quillen also sought help from an HSC spokesman in drafting letters to the Journal in attempt to protest the changes. The Journal didn’t publish those letters, but included much of their content in a previous story.

The new HSC subcommittee meets today at 12:30 p.m. in Scholes Hall at the University of New Mexico.