Controversial director of UH Cancer Center resigns

Published: Nov. 21, 2014 at 9:04 PM HST|Updated: Nov. 21, 2014 at 11:22 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - After five years in charge of the University of Hawaii Cancer Center and a year after former UH Manoa Chancellor Tom Apple tried to fire him, Dr. Michele Carbone abruptly turned in his resignation Friday, saying he will return to a tenured faculty positon at the center.

In a hastily called faculty and staff meeting at the Cancer Center at about 2:30 p.m. Friday, Carbone said he will remain at the center but concentrate on his research.

"I am proud of what we have accomplished working together with our faculty, UH leadership, supporters in the community, and with our Consortium partners," Carbone said in a statement released just before 6 p.m. Friday. "There are cycles in life. Now my focus is on finding a cure for cancer."

It's unclear if Carbone was forced to step down from the director post.

Carbone has the dubious distinction of having more complaints and grievances filed against him and his administrators than any other unit in UH's 10-campus system.

The faculty union said he was the focus of 25 complaints as of last fall.

Former UH Manoa Chancellor Tom Apple tried to fire him twice last fall, accusing Carbone of mismanagement and over spending. But Apple was over ruled by top UH officials.

Adrian Franke, a 25-year researcher at the center and a critic of Carbone, was surprised at the news.

"I actually didn't expect this to happen anymore because Doctor Carbone weathered very heavy storms," Franke said.

UH Manoa Chancellor Robert Bley-Vroman released a statement that praised Carbone for what he called "essential leadership" that led to construction of the new cancer center building.

It's unclear whether Carbone's $412,008 salary will be reduced since he's no longer in charge of the center.

A UH spokeswoman said his new salary is still being determined.

Dr. Jerris Hedges, dean of the UH medical school, will take over as interim cancer center director as a search gets under way for Carbone's replacement.

The following is a statement from UH Chancellor Robert Bley-Vroman:

Dr. Michele Carbone has resigned his position as Director of the UH Cancer Center so that he can return to his faculty position and devote time to his research. I would like to acknowledge the critical role that Dr. Carbone has played in developing the Cancer Center to where it is today -- one of only 68 NCI-designated cancer centers, with an excellent faculty. We are grateful to Dr. Carbone for his essential leadership that led to the construction of our new Cancer Center building, which is considered one of the most beautiful and functional research buildings in the country, and for establishing a consortium partnership with the Queens Medical Center, Hawaii Pacific Health, Kuakini Medical Center, and the John A. Burns School of Medicine in order to improve the delivery of clinical trials to Hawai'i cancer patients.

A successful cancer center is essential to the health of the people of Hawai'i and to the contributions that Hawai'i can make to the world.

Under Dr. Carbone's leadership, we have made great progress toward our dream of a world without cancer through research, education, and care, and we are in an excellent position to do even more.

I have asked Jerris Hedges, Dean of the John A. Burns School of Medicine, to assume responsibility as Acting Director of the UH Cancer Center.

I would like to express my personal thanks to Dr. Carbone for his service as Director of the Cancer Center, and to wish him great success as he returns to the faculty.

The following is Statement from Dr. Carbone:

It has been a great privilege to lead the cancer center since December 2008. I am proud of what we have accomplished working together with our faculty, UH leadership, supporters in the community, and with our Consortium partners.

There are cycles in life. Now my focus is on finding a cure for cancer.

I'm proud of what we've accomplished in the past 8 years. We have today an excellent cancer center, one of only 68 in the country with an NCI designation, and we have a state of the art research building in which all of us work.

The faculty here is excellent. I think everything is here for this cancer center to become one of the best in the country. We have to continue to work hard, we need to have the support of the community, and of the Legislature.

Jerris Hedges is a good friend to all of us and a personal friend of mine. I trust the cancer center will be left in good hands for the time being.

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