Dr. Frank Cerra joined the University of Minnesota’s Department of Surgery in 1981. He became Chair of the Department in 1993, Dean of the Medical School in 1995, and Senior Vice President of Health Sciences in 1996. He retired in 2011.
Dr. Frank Cerra begins part one of his interview by describing his undergraduate education at SUNY Binghamton, his medical education at Northwestern University Medical School, and his residency at SUNY Buffalo. He then describes his recruitment to the University of Minnesota, his early goals, and his growing administrative roles. He describes the leadership implications of investigations into Antilymphocyte Globulin (ALG) on the Medical School and the merging of University Hospital with Fairview Health Services. He then discusses the following topics: his interest in surgery; the culture of the University of Minnesota’s Department of Surgery; his work with the pharmaceutical industry and the College of Pharmacy; his work developing a critical care program at the University; and his relationships with the hospital directors, hospital nursing, and the School of Nursing.
In part of two his interview, Dr. Cerra intersperses reflections on finances and relations among different levels of administration in the University, the AHC, and University Hospital. He also discusses the following topics: his relationship with Neal Gault; strategic and long-range planning; the goals of the AHC; the formation of University of Minnesota Physicians; the establishment of the Biomedical Ethics Center (later the Center for Bioethics) and the Masonic Cancer Center; the investigations into ALG and Dr. John Najarian; the establishment of the Center for Drug Design; William Brody as Provost of the AHC and issues surrounding faculty tenure; and the establishment of the Institute for Health Informatics.
In part three of his interview, Dr. Cerra expands on the decision to merge University Hospital with Fairview Health Services, particularly focusing on logistics, culture, and reception. He also discusses failed attempts to create a unified children’s hospital in the Twin Cities. He then reflects on the following topics: the major challenges and achievements of his tenure as senior vice president; the merging of the positions of Senior Vice President of Health Sciences and Dean of the Medical School; the creation of the Clinical and Translational Science Institute and the Biomedical Discovery District; and the medical device industry in Minnesota. He concludes by describing the University of Minnesota and Mayo Clinic partnership in research.
Frank Cerra was born in Oneota, New York in 1943 and grew up in Worcester, New York. He completed his bachelor’s degree in 1965 at the Binghamton University – State University of New York (SUNY), his medical degree at Northwestern University Medical School in 1969, and his residency at SUNY Buffalo. Dr. Cerra became a professor of surgery (1975) and a professor of biophysics (1980) at SUNY Buffalo. He also held attending staff and leadership positions at Buffalo General Hospital, Buffalo Veterans Administrations Hospital, and Erie County Medical Center. He was recruited to the University of Minnesota in 1981 to initiate the surgical Intensive Care Unit service and Surgical Nutrition Service. He served as chair of the Department of Surgery from 1993 to 1995 and Dean of the Medical School in 1995. He became Provost (the position was later renamed Senior Vice President) of Health Sciences in 1996 and again became Dean of the Medical School when the positions of Senior Vice President and Dean were merged in 2008. He retired from the University in 2011.