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Q & A with Paul Katz
With just over a year on the job as president of University of the Sciences, Paul Katz, MD, has already begun putting an indelible stamp on the University. Drawing from more than 40 years in healthcare and higher education, including starting two medical schools (Cooper Medical School of Rowan University and The Commonwealth Medical College), Dr. Katz has used a personable and collegial leadership style, sprinkled with a self-deprecating sense of humor (if not one of his ubiquitous Diet Cokes®), to influence the campus environment toward becoming more student-centric. While his leadership style and his new cabinet, comprised almost entirely of individuals hired since he got to campus, have been tested with challenges and issues that began before he assumed the presidency—the loss of accreditation by the physician assistant program, a University-wide program review, and a multimillion dollar budget deficit—Dr. Katz helped guide USciences though these speed bumps to emerge positioned for the future. This past fall saw the largest incoming class in three years, and more is on the horizon:
- Construction of a new, 426-bed mixed-use residence hall
- Completion of a new interprofessional education space
- A tuition reset that makes USciences more affordable
- An eight-year accreditation ruling from the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education
Plus, the anticipated milestone celebration of the University’s 200-year legacy in 2021. The Bulletin sat down with Dr. Katz to learn more about him and his vision for the future.
What inspired you to pursue a career in healthcare?
My dad was a physician (pulmonologist). And one of the things that he did, which my wife Anne Marie and I tried to do with our girls, was not influence me. Originally, I never had any intent to be a physician. For a long time, I was going to be a veterinarian and then finally decided to go into medicine. I appreciate the fact that my dad was neither discouraging nor encouraging in terms of that.
Did you have any significant mentors, and how have they helped you?
I had a number of significant mentors. I’m not sure I always appreciated they were mentors at the time. In retrospect, I learned an awful lot from my dad, although I never felt like he was mentoring me from a career standpoint. There were lots of things I picked up from him about how you treat people and the importance of having a social mission, the importance of commitment to a cause. I also think there were some people who were in some respects negative mentors. And what I mean by that is sometimes you learn more from seeing people do things poorly than well.
What were you like as a college student?
I was not as focused as our students are. For a long time, I thought I had “peaked” in seventh grade because I went into this five-year funk. I was just not very concerned about much of
anything. [I focused on] having fun and certainly not on school work. I got into college and it was a tough transition for me. I got off to kind of a sluggish start, but I finally got focused in time.
How do you handle stress and stressful situations?
So, stress and handling stressful situations is something that I’ve really tried to work on my whole career, and I would not say it’s a strength. I once worked for someone at Georgetown who came in to see me one Saturday and said, “You know, the problem with you, Paul, is that you take things too personally,” which got me really angry. And then I realized that he was correct. And so I do take these things personally, not as personal affront, but I do have a great commitment to the jobs I’ve had, and I worry about those.
How would you describe your leadership style?
One of the things that I thought of as important was to create a vision and to have people with you and around you, who are very capable and share that passion. I also realized that all these jobs were pretty complicated and there was no way you could know everything about everything. I really felt it was important to have very strong, talented people around you who were bold in their thinking and not shy. So, I’ve tried to do that. I listen to people. I really value people’s opinions and take them under great consideration. Then I try to come back to, What is the mission of the organization? What are we trying to get done? And do that.
What is your vision for the future of USciences?
When people ask me about my vision, I really like to think about “our” vision. Our vision is to really build on the rich heritage and tradition of the University. To position ourselves to continue to be a leader in providing education in science and healthcare to students of all varieties. And to really adapt to the changing higher education landscape. We are in a pretty volatile time right now in higher ed. I think the other [piece of our] vision is we really need to be more diverse as a University—and I mean diversity in its broadest sense. Both from our student perspective and faculty and staff perspective. I think I’d like to see us be known for that.
What is the future of public higher education, and how does USciences fit into that picture?
The landscape in higher education is a tough one right now for lots of reasons: a declining number of college-age students, economic pressures, reductions in endowments, and competition galore. It is a tough time. I tell people all you have to do is pick up the newspaper or call your friend at university of whatever and talk to them. There’s a lot of commonality there. I think we are actually in a pretty good spot because we are in science and healthcare, which are very strong in terms of the job market. I think that we have all realized that we need to do things differently than we have done before. We need to position ourselves differently than primarily appealing to an undergraduate admissions crowd. I think we need to diversify our portfolio as well.
What do you want alumni to know about USciences?
I’d like the alumni to know that USciences is doing well. We are changing, but we are not changing for the sake of changing. We are changing because it is in the best long-term interest of this University. We are fortunate to have this great heritage and tradition and an upcoming bicentennial. And we want to build on that. And while we respect and value the past, we’ve got to change this University to make sure there is another 200th anniversary. I think the fact is that we want their advice, we want their support, and we want their patience because we are going to change some things here. It’s not that the things that have been done here weren’t good and correct and right; we just have to do things differently now to be best prepared for the future.
What are you most looking forward to this year at USciences?
We have a lot of interesting things going on this year. One, we are changing our tuition pricing, so we are going to open doors to a whole different group of young men and women who have not been able to afford our price. That will certainly help with our diversity efforts. I’m very excited about that. I’m also really excited that we are branching into offerings for nontraditional students. We are getting into the online space, we are getting into the certificate space, and we are getting into some nice niches that we haven’t been in before. I think those are really important things. I’m also excited that we are really working on building our alumni base and planning and preparing for the 200th anniversary. There are a lot of really good things going on, not to mention our new residence hall and some of the great renovations and additions going on here. Just a lot of very positive things happening this year.
Back row, left to right: Graham Brock, Emerson Brock, daughter Liz Brock, Anne-Marie, Dr. Katz, daughter Wesley Kuenne, and Mike Kuenne. Front row, left to right: Will Brock, Catherine Kuenne, Colin Kuenne, and Brandon Kuenne. Not pictured, newest grandchild Sawyer Brock.
Paul Katz File
Full name: Paul Katz
Born: Washington, DC
Education: Randolph-Macon College (BS); Georgetown University School of Medicine (MD)
Internship/Residency (internal medicine): Shands Teaching Hospital at the University of Florida College of Medicine
Children: Daughters Wesley and Elizabeth
Grandchildren: Six (with each daughter having a set of twins)
Favorite Restaurant: “Anne Marie and I live in Center City, so we get to walk to a lot of places. But the go-to place is Butcher and Singer.”
Favorite movie: “Two favorite movies. Godfather II and, really my all-time favorite, Casablanca.”
Band/musical artist: Bruce Springsteen
Favorite place you’ve traveled: “Hawaii. I like to travel to places where you can do things outside. So Hawaii is my all-time favorite. But we’ve been on great trips to Peru, Costa Rica, and Iceland, all of which were fabulous.”
Categories: The Bulletin, Board of Trustees, President, Profiles, Leadership, USciences