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SUNY Upstate Medical president placed on leave for outside pay

SYRACUSE — The State University of New York (SUNY) on Tuesday announced that Dr. David Smith, president of Upstate Medical University, is on leave due to “an ongoing review of compensation issues” and “recent health issues.”

SUNY didn’t elaborate on either issue in its news release, but a great deal of information about Smith emerged in published reports.

A report in the Albany Times-Union says Smith was close to becoming the next president of Penn State University.


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The Times-Union reports Isaacson, Miller, the search firm that Penn State is using to find its next president, discovered that Smith was receiving extra compensation from outside companies associated with Upstate Medical University and alerted SUNY.


Besides the announcement placing Dr. Smith on leave, Chancellor Nancy Zimpher also named Dr. Gregory Eastwood officer-in-charge of Upstate Medical University, effective immediately.


Eastwood previously served as president of Upstate Medical University from 1993 to 2006, the school said.


Eastwood is currently a member of the Upstate Medical University faculty, designated as a university professor and teaching in the Center for Bioethics and Humanities, the school said.


Upstate Medical is Central New York’s largest employer.


The review of Smith is an “ongoing personnel matter,” and the chancellor and board of trustees will await any findings from that review before taking any other actions as may be appropriate, according to the SUNY statement.


“While SUNY moves quickly to complete its review and Dr. Smith focuses on his health, it is important that patients and students at Upstate have strong, uninterrupted leadership and Dr. Eastwood is uniquely qualified to fill this role,” Zimpher said in the news release. She didn’t provide further information about Smith’s health issue.


Zimpher letter

The Times-Union posted a copy of a Nov. 1 letter Zimpher wrote to Smith on its website.


In it, the chancellor indicates the review is ongoing, but preliminary information, including statements from Smith, indicate that “at a minimum you authorized and accepted a substantial increase in your compensation in 2012 (continuing into 2013) paid through the Pediatrics Service Group, LLP, without my prior approval.”


Pediatrics Service Group, LLP is part of Upstate Medical University, according to the school’s website.


The letter goes on to say “…and that in 2010 you were actively involved in the establishment of a deferred-compensation plan through MedBest Medical Management, Inc. — an entity affiliated with the Upstate University Health System — that to date totals approximately $349,295.59 for you personally, again without my approval.”


Based on the preliminary findings, Zimpher told Smith that he shall “cease receiving any compensation from or through Pediatrics Service Group,” the letter says.


Zimpher also ordered Smith to relinquish “any claim, right or entitlement” to funds in the deferred-compensation plan through MedBest Medical Management, Inc.

The chancellor also directed Smith “to provide a full accounting of all compensation and remuneration received, directly or indirectly, by you in any form and from any source during the term of your employment with SUNY, and all documents indicating approval or requested approval of all such sources,” according to the letter.


Smith is to provide that information, Zimpher said, to Michael Abbott, SUNY’s University Auditor, by no later than Nov. 15.


The letter goes on to say “it appears likely that substantial repayments from you will likely be due, but the exact amounts, payees and processes for such repayments have not yet been determined.”


Zimpher also indicated that “disciplinary action” is possible, based on “additional findings” during the review, the letter said.


Smith has served as president of the Upstate Medical University since 2006.


SUNY pays him $625,000, including $315,000 in salary plus a $60,000 housing stipend approved by the SUNY trustees, plus $250,000 from the SUNY Research Foundation, according to the Times-Union report.


Contact Reinhardt at



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