University of Utah Health Care System CEO resigns amid NantHealth controversy
The CEO of the University of Utah Health Care and Senior Vice President of Health Sciences for the university, Vivian Lee, MD, resigned via email to faculty and staff on Friday.
Lee is resigning amid controversy from her firing of Mary Beckerle, director and CEO of the Huntsman Cancer Institute, by email on April 17 without giving cause.
John Huntsman, the billionaire philanthropist who co-founded the institute, told KSL.com that Lee fired Beckerle out of jealousy. As a result, Huntsman threatened to withhold a $250 million donation to the university. Beckerle was reinstated on April 25.
Lee is also under fire for accepting a $12 million donation on behalf of the university from biotech mogul Patrick Soon-Shiong. However, the donation allegedly came with strings: The university was required to spend $10 million with NantHealth on genetic sequencing,
While Soon-Shiong vehemently denies these claims, further investigations from Stat and Politico found otherwise.
The University of Utah operations will likely be investigated as a result of the Beckerle and Soon-Shiong controversy, according to The Salt Lake Tribune. State Auditor John Dougall said an audit may be warranted in the future. While there hasn’t yet been a request for audit or investigation, an inquiry by the Legislature by formal review or a conversation with administrators is likely.
In her resignation email, Lee apologized for the turmoil caused by recent events and called the media’s invective against her character “disturbing.”
“I am hoping my decision today will help in putting that completely in the past,” Lee wrote.
University President David Pershing accepted Lee’s resignation and will name an interim leader. Officials said Lee will remain on staff as a tenured professor of radiology.