Following J. Lyle Bootman’s resignation as vice president of Health Sciences on Sept. 12, Vice President of Academic Affairs and Provost Andrew Comrie has assumed the position temporarily while administration searches for a replacement. The Daily Wildcat caught up with Comrie to see what it was like managing the two leadership positions.
You have been overseeing these five colleges since September?
Yes, if you say since September, that would be accurate.
How did you end up being assigned as the interim vice president for Health Sciences?
J. Lyle Bootman was the interim senior vice president for Health Sciences and decided to step down for his position as a dean of the College of Pharmacy. There are five health science deans, the two medicine colleges, College of Nursing, College of Public Health and College of Pharmacy. While we have no one in the slot because we are in the middle of searching — the president appointed me to have those five deans report to me as well as the office of the Arizona Health Sciences Center. They are just reporting to me for this interim period until we identify the next vice president for Health Sciences. The president decided and that’s the short version.
In the past, health science deans reported to the provost, so it was a natural thing because you want these colleges to do their job and they have an academic mission, so having them report to the academic affairs office makes complete sense. The reason we have a health science vice president is that they have a number of common special focus-areas in Health Sciences that require a fair amount of extra coordination above and beyond what some of the other colleges need on the main campus, which is why we have a Health Science [vice president] — because it’s wrapped up in clinical care and so on and so forth. That’s why we have that extra layer in there.
Have you noticed any difficulties when the deans from the Health Sciences colleges are reporting to you?
I have five more colleges reporting to me, so there is definitely another layer of management and engagement there. I am learning as fast and as much as they are. A lot of what they do is, of course, in-sync with other things we do on campus, so it’s not all completely new. But the role of the clinical side is, of course, the most distinctive, new piece. Where the College of Medicine in Phoenix is growing very rapidly so there is always a lot to look at. There are many initiatives that other health science colleges are involved in that I have to get engaged with. Before this happened we met regularly. This is in some level not a major change in arrangement, we had existing relationships before. They are a very integrated group and they are integrated with the rest of the campus already so this was not a big change, and most of what they do on day-to-day base is completely unchanged.
Do you feel that you are equipped with the right experience to advise deans in the Health Sciences?
I hope so. That is certainly the hope of everyone involved. I have had experience overseeing many different types of programs. In my previous job, I was involved in a lot of health science program too, so while that’s not my own personal background at training, in terms of the way we run Academic Affairs across campus we rely on the deans to have the area of expertise and we coordinate measurement with the deans through our office.
Is there anything you would like to add?
It’s exciting for me in that I get to include a broader range of things in the way my office helps run the university. I’m excited about working with them. I’m definitely learning a lot on the other hand and excited to see all the really interesting things they are doing in the health sciences.
This interview has been edited for clarity.