The Aetna executive is the university's first chancellor of all medical operations.

This morning, Ohio State University leaders announced the hiring of Dr. Harold Paz, the executive vice president and chief medical officer for Aetna, as the university’s first chancellor for health affairs. Paz faces a monumental task in his new role at the Wexner Medical Center, where he’s  charged with bringing together the various fiefdoms in the sprawling $3.7 billion medical operation, the site of a power struggle that forced out the previous leader of the OSU health care operation.

Paz was hired following a 14-month national search. Previously, he served as the CEO of Penn State University’s Milton S. Hershey Medical Center and the dean of the Robert Wood Johnson Medical School and CEO of the Robert Wood Johnson University Medical Group, now within Rutgers University’s clinical division.

Paz’s job is a new position, created following the resignation of the previous med center chief, Dr. Sheldon Retchin, who stepped down in May 2017 after more than 50 faculty members sent no-confidence letters to university leaders criticizing Retchin’s leadership. Many of the faculty members came from the university’s ultra-profitable cancer program, which has long guarded its independence from the rest of the Ohio State medical complex. These faculty members accused Retchin of attempting to “assert his leadership” over the cancer program, which they believed threatened the future success of the cancer operation.

Retchin’s resignation, however, didn’t end university officials’ efforts to bring closer alignment to the med center’s operations. In November 2017, OSU president Michael Drake announced the creation of the new chancellor position. Unlike the previous CEO role that Retchin occupied, university officials said the chancellor would have more control over the OSU cancer program. Interim James Cancer Hospital CEO William Farrar will report to Paz when he assumes the chancellor job in the spring, says Ohio State spokesman Chris Davey. When the previous James CEO, Dr. Michael Caligiuri, led the hospital, he reported directly to Drake. Caligiuri, the longtime leader of the OSU cancer program, announced his resignation in early November 2017 and then a couple of weeks later accepted a new job in California.

“The hard work of the staff and leadership that got us from where we were to where we are has been significant,” said L Brands founder and Wexner Medical Center board chairman Les Wexner, who gave $100 million in 2011 to support the med center that now bears his name, during a board meeting this morning. “Now the aspiration is to accelerate and build on that sound foundation. This is a momentous day for Ohio State and its medical center.”

You can read Columbus Monthly’s December 2017 feature on the OSU Med Center power struggle here.

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