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 Tuesday, October 26, 2004 IssueFaculty/Staff E-Newsletter


Learning from a Life in Medicine

Many of you may know that I am a practicing physician, specializing in internal and preventative medicine. I am often asked how my experience as a physician influences my role as chancellor. Actually, I have found that medicine is a very helpful background for my job as chancellor.

For example, as a physician, I learned the importance of knowledge, competency and skills to do what needs to be done. I have learned how to ask questions, to listen and to analyze problems in order to diagnose a problem.

Also, in medicine, it is important to realize when you should do nothing — so you do no harm — as well as to know when it is appropriate and timely to intervene. When you are faced with uncertainty, you have to be willing to gather additional information, to admit when you've made a mistake and to look at another approach that might be more effective. That process applies to the responsibilities of chancellor as well.

Whether you're a physician or campus administrator, you must be open to learning from others and their experiences. No one can know everything in medicine — and you certainly can't know everything you need to know as chancellor. You need to be surrounded by people who are experts in what they do, who can help you deal with a problem if it's outside your expertise, and who are available to share information needed for decision-making. I am privileged to work with the best group of people that one could imagine. Our vice chancellors and directors are exceptional people. They are good at what they do, they care deeply about the university and they are truly committed to working together as a team.

Medicine is all about caring for people, whether as individual patients or the population in general. That's what being a chancellor is about, as well. It's about caring for faculty and staff and what they do. It's about caring for students and how they can reach their full potential. The chancellor certainly is not the only one working on behalf of students, faculty and staff — but I believe that a chancellor can make a contribution through hard work and perseverance, and by trying to make good decisions and representing the university well.

In this challenging year, I've often been asked what it is like to be chancellor. Clearly, for me, one of the most wrenching times came recently when a CU student died from alcohol poisoning. It is disheartening when such a tragedy occurs despite our many efforts to address alcohol and substance abuse issues. As both a physician and chancellor, I believe we must find new ways to build awareness and education among our student body so that it does not happen again.

One of my greatest challenges as chancellor is helping the campus acquire the necessary funding so that we can meet our mission. We are a very good University and we could be even better if we had the resources to invest. I believe that we have good investment strategies. I believe we have managed our funding limitations and budget cuts quite effectively. Our faculty, staff, and students have responded in remarkable ways. But just think of the extraordinary progress we could make if appropriate funding were available!

The most gratifying part of being chancellor is to witness the success of the people around us. It starts with the success of the faculty — seeing them make incredible discoveries, expressing the joy of their work, learning from their experiences and sharing that with their students.

I see the same commitment among our staff, as they support each other, the students and the faculty. I know that our staff care deeply about what they do and want to help make this the best learning community possible. Every day, I look forward to coming to work and having the opportunity to interact with staff members across the campus.

Most of all, I am thrilled to see the amazing transformation of our students over the course of their college careers. They start out young and relatively inexperienced, yet smart. By the time they are seniors, they have become more thoughtful and articulate. I am tremendously gratified when I see what they have gained from being a student at this University.

As chancellor, I have found many similarities between practicing medicine and leading a great university. Both jobs involve continually learning new ways to effectively solve problems. And both jobs mean interacting comfortably with people who have different ways of viewing and responding to ideas and situations.

Here at CU-Boulder, we have incredible faculty, fantastic staff and excellent students who bring different areas of expertise and make unique contributions to the University. I have learned a great deal from many of you in nearly eight years here at CU-Boulder. I'm glad to be a part of this community, and I thank you for all you do to enhance the learning experiences — for all of us — at the University of Colorado at Boulder.

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Learning from a Life in Medicine

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