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With William Kelley ousted as chief executive officer of the University of Pennsylvania Health System and dean of the Medical School three weeks ago, Penn officials said they hope to soon begin looking for a replacement. "We are thinking through the strategic options for the health care system and the search for a full-time CEO and dean," Provost Robert Barchi said. "Hopefully, that decision will be made at some time in the near future." Chief of Medicine Peter Traber is serving as interim CEO and dean and will remain in that role until a successor is named. Traber has expressed interest in taking the position permanently and Barchi said yesterday he will likely be a candidate. University President Judith Rodin made it clear that there is no formal timetable for the search to start, noting only that she will "move as expeditiously on a search as is appropriate for the Health System." According to Kevin Butler, the managing director of the health care division of Heidrick and Struggles -- an executive search firm with which Penn has worked in the past -- a typical search for a health system CEO takes anywhere from three to six months. "When a search works like clockwork, it is a 90- to 125-day process," he said. "But university searches are a lot more challenging." The process of choosing a candidate to run an academic medical center is like that of most other administrative searches. Each candidate will undergo a background check and a committee will evaluate the hopefuls before making a final recommendation to the president. At Penn, the five most recent major academic searches have taken more than a year each to complete, and all ultimately yielded internal selections. It took more than 15 months before Law School Dean Michael Fitts and Wharton School Dean Patrick Harker were appointed this spring. The search that landed Barchi as provost took more than 13 months and Eduardo Glandt and Samuel Preston were named deans of the Engineering School and the School of Arts and Sciences, respectively, after still-longer searches. And the process that brought Kelley from the University of Michigan in the summer of 1989 took about two years from start to finish. But the narrow pool of candidates eligible to run an academic health system can make recruiting even more challenging, as those considered must have experience managing research and educational programs in addition to overseeing day-to-day patient care. And they also must be willing to leave their current jobs. In Penn's case, the selection process is further compounded by the Health System's current financial problems. A new manager must have the financial skills -- and also the willingness -- to inherit a health system that has lost $300 million over the past three years. But while those people are few and far between, they are certainly out there, said David Shalbot, the managing director of executive search firm Korn/Ferry International's health care practice. "They are turnaround people and they are not exactly nurturing," he said. "They are people who love a challenge and have the skills to take it on." Shabot added that the prestige of running the University's health system -- which is the second-largest in the region -- and highly ranked medical school is another attraction of the job. In the meantime, Traber remains at the helm, flanked by a a leadership team of top University officials and Hunter Group management consultants. The Hunter Group became advisors to the Health System last summer, recommending a number of cost-cutting initiatives, including the elimination of more than 2,800 positions. Penn invited the group back this spring to continue helping with its remediation effort.

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