Early exit for KU Medical Center official

Barbara Atkinson said Monday that she would step down as executive vice chancellor of the University of Kansas Medical Center earlier than planned.

Atkinson, who is also executive dean of KU’s School of Medicine, will retire effective June 30.

Atkinson had announced in November that she would be leaving the dean’s job as soon as a replacement could be found but would stay on as executive vice chancellor until December 2013 to finish work on key initiatives, including National Cancer Institute designation for the center.

But on Monday, Atkinson said in a prepared statement: “I believe that with the conclusion of our application for NCI designation, this is a very good time to pass the torch to new leadership. I am confident that our application to the NCI will be favorably received.”

National Cancer Institute designation, which brings with it prestige, federal grants and opportunities for research, has been a priority for KU Medical Center. A decision by the institute on KU’s application is expected later this year.

Tim Caboni, KU vice chancellor for public affairs, said the university was not concerned that the institute may question a change of leadership at KU while its application was pending.

“It really is just a good time for this transition to occur,” Caboni said.

KU chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little named Steven Stites, the Peter T. Bohan professor and chair of internal medicine at the medical school, to serve as acting executive vice chancellor and acting executive dean.

A search is under way to fill both positions, Caboni said. He said Gray-Little has indicated that the jobs would be separated.

Atkinson was appointed KU Medical Center executive dean in 2002 and executive vice chancellor in 2005. Before coming to the KU School of Medicine in 2000 to lead its pathology and laboratory medicine department, Atkinson served as dean of the MCP Hahnemann School of Medicine, now the Drexel University College of Medicine, in Philadelphia.