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OHSU Moves Swiftly in Search for Next President

Joe Robertson, who was appointed to lead OHSU in 2006, has opted to collect his Public Employees Retirement System pension rather than a paycheck as he serves his final year in office.
February 5, 2018

Oregon Health & Science University is moving swiftly in its search for a president to replace longtime leader Joe Robertson, who announced in October that he will retire at the end of this academic year.

David Yaden told OHSU’s Board of Directors that he expects to find a new president for the university and hospital system to come in when Robertson steps down. Yaden gave the update at his last meeting as a member of the board, which he joined in 2009, though he will continue to serve as chair of the Presidential Search Committee.

Yaden joked that when he agreed to helm the search committee, “The first thing I began to hear from people was, ‘With all that fancy biomedical research you do, why not clone him?’” In a more serious vein, he was advised that hiring cannot be rushed, and that a large search committee would be grindingly slow.

But the search is proceeding going counter to all of that advice: it’s moving quickly, with a large search committee of about 20 people – and no clones are in the works.

In addition to Yaden, the committee is comprised of OHSU directors, chairs, deans and other high-level leaders; the presidents of Portland State University and the University of Oregon; Sky Lakes Medical Center CEO Paul Stewart; leaders of unions with representation at OHSU; and several OHSU board members.

At its first meeting in December, the search committee updated the president’s job description to express national aspirations for OHSU. Executive  search firm Korn Ferry posted the updated listing in December, and began reaching out to potential candidates in January.

The committee met in late January for a first review of candidates, though it is still accepting applications, Yaden said. “Within the constraints of confidentiality, I will say that we are extremely pleased.”

In late March or early April, the search committee intends to bring out six semi-finalists.

“Those candidates will undergo very confidential selective interviews on campus,” Yaden said. “I stress the importance of confidentiality up to this point, and I have to stress that as much as I can. You lose really good potential candidates if word starts leaking out before they are ready to have it leak out.”

Once the committee chooses three finalists, the names of those three will be made public, however, he said. Those candidates will each be invited for three-day visits, at which the candidates will seek to win over the search committee – and OHSU will simultaneously try to woo the finalists.

Yaden noted the importance of promoting OHSU as a desirable institution, so it can win over high-profile candidates from across the country.

“We’re not there yet, but I have to say we are quite optimistic.”

Reach Courtney Sherwood at [email protected].