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November 2, 2009

To the University Community:
The University of Miami works tirelessly to advance the quality of the teaching, research, and clinical care programs that have made us one of the nation’s fastest-rising research universities. This longstanding pursuit of excellence is also reflected in our commitment to our values and to maintaining the highest ethical standards.
As we grow and become a more complex and sophisticated research university, it is appropriate to reexamine the policies and standards that ensure the integrity of everything we do: academically, scholarly, fiscally, and professionally. That integrity is the very bedrock of our institution and the foundation for the trust that students, patients, academic colleagues, and society place in us.

We have an established record in this regard due to the values that have guided the University for more than 80 years. We intend to strengthen those values and weave them even further into the fabric of the institution as we grow and improve. There is no room for compromise in this area.
We already have extensive policies and standards related to conflict of interest, conflict of commitment, nepotism, and other conduct resulting from relationships. Some of these may be found in the Business Conduct & Ethical Standards Handbook for Faculty and Staff, which is accessible online by clicking here. Over the last year, we have been reviewing our position and studying best practices at peer institutions to further strengthen standards already in place. We want to ensure that our policies are straightforward and easily accessible. They should include context, so it is clear when and how they apply, along with the disclosure and management that may be needed.

I would like to share with you some of the significant progress to date:

  • We recently established a central database in which our Faculty Disclosure Form resides. Thus far, more than 93 percent of our full-time faculty have completed the form disclosing their outside professional activities. In those instances where outside activities pose a conflict—real or perceived—a plan is designed to manage the conflict and a process determined to ensure adherence to the plan.

  • In compliance with federal regulations, additional detailed disclosure forms were instituted for all key personnel as well as faculty on federal grants.

  • For our interactions with industry, we have implemented ongoing assessment and improvement of policies to address conflicts of interest and conflicts of commitment; the establishment of mechanisms to identify and manage conflicts; and the integration and expansion of ethics education for faculty, staff, and students.

  • In early 2010 the Miller School of Medicine will launch ambitious plans to enhance transparency by posting faculty outside professional activity on our Web site. Timely and complete disclosure of these activities is paramount to our reputation as a world-class institution and to the integrity of the research process. It reflects our steadfast commitment to putting the patient’s interests first.

As we move forward, transparency and openness will be built into all these measures. It is not enough that we have these disclosure and management plans—they must be broadly known. Accountability also is essential. Universities are large and complex institutions. We have made and will make mistakes. But we will also take responsibility for those mistakes and do what is needed to make things right. We will take additional steps to inculcate these principles into our UM culture, and our integrity initiatives will have a clear and bold presence. Training programs will instill expectations of responsible conduct by faculty, administration, staff, students, and Board of Trustees members.
We intend to be a national leader in this area, and I am appointing a work group, headed by Executive Vice President and Provost Tom LeBlanc and Executive Dean for Research and Research Training Richard Bookman, to review our policies, procedures, and processes, how we disseminate information about them, and how we train our community to recognize and understand them.

In the myriad activities that take place every day at our University—teaching students, performing research, treating patients, and transacting business with external entities—we strive to maintain the highest commitment to ethical principles and standards. We achieve admirable standards thanks to the dedication and integrity of the members of our community.

As always, please send me your suggestions and comments at dshalala@miami.edu. I will keep you apprised of our plans and progress on this most important issue.