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Interview of Albert H. Soloway by Virginia B. Hall

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Title: Interview of Albert H. Soloway by Virginia B. Hall
Creators: Soloway, Albert H.
Contributors: Hall, Virginia B.
Issue Date: 2005
Publisher: Ohio State University Archives
Series/Report no.: Ohio State University. University Archives Oral History Program. Ohio State University Oral History Project
Abstract: Dean Albert Soloway, the well-known cancer researcher and Dean of the College of Pharmacy at The Ohio State University, was born May 29, 1925. The early death of his mother from breast cancer suggested to him a possible career in cancer research. His interest in this field expanded when, after earning his doctorate in 1951 from the University of Rochester, he spent three years at the Sloan-Kettering Institute for Cancer Research. For three years, however, from 1953 to 1956, he worked for the Eastman-Kodak Company in an effort to improve the quality of color photography, but concluded that cancer research would be for him a more satisfying career. Soloway served on the faculty of Northeastern University in Boston from 1966 to 1977. He held various key administrative positions, and rose to become Dean of the College of Pharmacy and Allied Health Professions. At the same time, he held a continuing appointment at the Massachusetts General Hospital where he did significant research on malignant brain tumors. After some serious disagreements with the administration at Northeastern, Soloway accepted an attractive offer to become Dean of the College of Pharmacy at The Ohio State University. His predecessor as Dean, Lloyd Parks, had built an outstanding college that was highly regarded nationally and internationally, but the program still lacked a needed clinical relationship with the hospital pharmacy in University Hospitals. In an effort to correct this “glaring weakness,” and to develop the proper clinical environment essential for professional pharmacy students, as well as to achieve full accreditation for the College, Soloway agreed to create a new Division of Clinical Pharmacy. He hired for this position the individual preferred by the (unnamed) Director of the Hospital Pharmacy. Unfortunately, however, the new hire and the Director quarreled frequently, and the Director continued to place various impediments to pharmacy students being educated in the hospital. Ultimately Soloway was forced to appeal to the Provost, and to request that an external review of the functions and operation of the hospital pharmacy be conducted. This was done, and the uncooperative Director resigned. His successor immediately took steps to give pharmacy students proper access to university hospitals. This breakthrough, six years in the making, and often unpleasant, was nonetheless one of Soloway’s greatest achievements. During the period that Soloway served as Dean there was a movement underway nationally to transform pharmacy education from a bachelor’s to a doctorate. Such a change would increase the duration of pharmacy education from five to six years. Soloway opposed the plan. He did not see a sufficient return to the student for an expensive additional year of study, since professionally the pharmacist would continue to be reimbursed solely for the drugs prescribed and not for his/her added expertise. A better plan, thought Soloway, would be to create a new degree, the Bachelor of Science in Pharmaceutical Sciences. This would give the student greater flexibility. Those who wanted the doctorate could do so, but others could follow other specialties. Unfortunately, Soloway failed to achieve this program, and he considered this the “greatest failure” of his professional career. Since Soloway’s retirement, Ohio State has introduced a doctoral program for pharmacy students. Soloway reflected briefly on the administrative styles of Presidents Enarson, Jennings, and Gee. He lamented what he called the “corporatization” of higher education and indeed nationally throughout higher education. The whole concept is that the University is a business and should function as a business. Much as the universities give lip service to teaching, the primary focus is generating money, entrepreneurship is the coin of the realm. According to Soloway universities, not just Ohio State, are losing their way. It used to be people would laughingly say, “Publish or perish.” Now the word is, “Show me the money.” Faculty are selected not because they can, or want, to teach, but because of how much funding they can generate. “It’s a sorry state.” President Enarson was primarily concerned with the education of students and not money generation. Soloway had great respect for President Jennings. He also offered some brief comments about various Provosts with whom he had served, including Albert Kuhn, Ann Reynolds, Diether Haenicke, and Miles Brand. Many changes have occurred in faculty-faculty relationships and faculty-student relationships in recent years, many of them unfortunate. The emphasis on faculty as entrepreneurs, as fundraisers, has become more pronounced. New faculty are sometimes given large amounts of money (in certain cases as much as \$300,000), with the full understanding that their major role at the university will be to generate still more money through grants. Once obtained there is very little oversight on how overhead money is spent. Teaching takes time from being an entrepreneur, and so “the student is just a necessary nuisance in the whole scope of things.” The College of Pharmacy received several substantial gifts while Soloway was Dean. In 1985 the Plough Foundation of Memphis, Tennessee gave \$500,000, to be used for student scholarships, and the Merrill-Dow Pharmaceuticals gave \$250,000 to endow a professorship in pharmaceutical administration. Throughout his career Soloway continued to be active as a researcher. His primary focus was to develop better compounds that would localize in malignant brain tumors. An isotope of boron, boron-10, has the capacity, after going through several stages of evolution, to disintegrate into particles that provide a localized radiation within a cell. It is a very complicated procedure, not yet perfected, but it offers the potential after further research to attack brain tumors while sparing normal brain tissues. Unfortunately it has been difficult to obtain needed funds for research since funding agencies dwell on the end result rather than the necessary intervening steps that are essential to reaching the final goal. Dean Soloway offers serious criticism of the national funding for medical research. In his view the most serious health care problem today is not AIDS, Alzheimer’s, or cancer, but drug addiction. The government gives three billion dollars a year to Colombia to try to prevent them from producing cocaine and sending it here. The problem is not cocaine production. The problem is that we don’t understand what addiction is all about, and why people lose control of their brains once they become addicts. But the research budget for probing the biochemical mechanisms of addiction is very small. Furthermore, the medical research budget is subject to tremendous political manipulation. Americans need to understand that the problem is a health care problem, and not a law enforcement problem. Drug addicts are seen as “throw-away people,” and there is no pressure lobby to defend or cure them. Dean Soloway’s new book [“FAILED GRADE: The Corporatization and the Decline of American Higher Education” with a foreword by Dr. Albert Kuhn ] offers his critique of the decline of standards in education. Teachers in our school systems have lost academic control of their classrooms to the political establishment. Social promotion has led to some illiterate students finishing high school. “You can’t fail students. Everybody has to pass.” Now higher education faces a similar environment. Students increasingly are seen as consumers with a right to graduate from college. We’re setting up an administrative class and a faculty class. Soloway sees a steady decline in the quality of higher education. “The universities have lost their way.”
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/1811/574
Other Identifiers: SPEC.RG.40.261
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