Brown University News Bureau

The Brown University News Bureau

Distributed May 21, 1997
Contact: Mark Nickel

Brown University supports the academic freedom of Dr. David Kern

In this statement, Brown University reiterates its full and unequivocal support for the academic freedom of Dr. David Kern, an associate professor of medicine and a specialist in occupational health employed by The Memorial Hospital in Pawtucket, R.I. (See also 96-133a, a statement by Lois Monteiro, associate dean of medicine for faculty affairs.)

Brown University and the Brown University School of Medicine recognize the importance and value of work undertaken by Dr. David Kern and fully support Dr. Kern in his right to conduct research and in his academic freedom to publish results.

Dr. Kern, a specialist in occupational health and an associate professor of medicine employed by The Memorial Hospital in Pawtucket, R.I., investigated two cases of interstitial lung disease in employees at a textile processing plant at the request of the company. His decision to present his results at a national meeting led to disagreements among Dr. Kern, The Memorial Hospital and the textile company.

While this case involves many complexities and uncertainties, the position of Brown University and the Brown University School of Medicine is clear: All faculty have a right to conduct research and publish results, and the University and the School of Medicine fully support that right. Dr. Kern published his abstract and is to present his findings to a national meeting of the American Thoracic Society in San Francisco today (Wednesday, May 21, 1997).

As discussion of academic freedom issues continues, it is important to bear in mind that the work in which Dr. Kern was engaged involved the health and safety of workers, both at a local company and elsewhere in the textile industry. A committee appointed by Donald Marsh, M.D., dean of medicine and biological sciences at Brown University, noted that the company is making a good-faith effort to identify and remedy the problem. It has hired a physician trained in occupational health to continue Dr. Kern's work and is continuing its relationship with the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), a relationship which Dr. Kern helped initiate.

As the committee noted, many questions remain unresolved in this case. The School of Medicine administration will continue discussions both internally and with officials at Memorial Hospital. Among the remaining areas of discussion:

Brown University reaffirms its support for the academic freedom of hospital-employed physicians who hold faculty appointments in the School of Medicine. The University will issue new and clearer guidelines for such faculty, including further delineation of the rights and responsibilities of individual hospital-based faculty and the University with respect to research agreements.

Brown urges Dr. Kern and The Memorial Hospital to work toward a resolution of remaining differences and pledges its support in bringing about a settlement that is mutually agreeable to both sides.

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96-133