Physicians look to prohibit Boston hospital execs from working on corporate boards

A petition signed by a group of physicians and medical students seeks to prohibit hospital chiefs in Boston from working on corporate boards, The Boston Globe reported Aug. 7.

The petition is signed by physicians from Harvard faculty physicians at Massachusetts General Hospital, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Boston Children's Hospital, and Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, according to the report. Researchers, residents and medical students also signed the petition, which was delivered July 27 to Harvard Medical School and hospital officials.

In the petition, signers specifically call for prohibiting those in "executive leadership positions’" at Harvard teaching hospitals from serving in paid board positions on boards of pharmaceutical, biotech and other publicly traded healthcare companies, according to the report.

They cited concerns about hospital chiefs working in paid corporate board positions and possible conflicts of interest.

Carolyn Becker, MD, an endocrinologist at Brigham and Women's Hospital, an affiliate of Harvard Medical School, wrote in a letter accompanying the petition that these relationships "have been damaging to the reputation of Harvard and have eroded the trust of our patients, employees, trainees and faculty in the integrity of our academic healthcare institutions," the Globe reported.

The petition also cited an investigation published by the Globe in April that revealed it is commonplace for hospital chiefs in Boston to work as directors of pharmaceutical, biotech and other publicly traded healthcare companies, and that they do so at rates above places outside of Boston.

Ekaterina Pesheva, a spokesperson for the medical school, told Becker's, "The dean has received and is aware of the concerns raised in the petition. He had previously asked the Harvard Medical School Standing Committee on Conflicts of Interest to consider the range and nature of possible conflicts and their potential impact on the medical school, its faculty and its mission. The comprehensive work of the committee, which is comprised of faculty from Harvard Medical School and its affiliated hospitals and institutions, is ongoing. Therefore, HMS will not have any additional information to share until the committee's work concludes."

Rich Copp, a spokesperson for Mass General Brigham, the parent organization of Brigham and Women's Hospital and Massachusetts General Hospital, told the Globe the organization "is in the process of reviewing our policy on this topic." The other hospitals declined to comment to the newspaper.

Last April, Boston hospital presidents and trustees contended that outside directorships boost medical center collaboration with the bioscience sector and that proper safeguards can prevent possible conflicting interests, according to the Globe.

Read the full report here.

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