A surgeon with a long history of service at the Medical University of South Carolina will be its next president.

Coming Sunday

Dr. David Cole discusses the challenges and opportunities at MUSC. In News

The MUSC Board of Trustees voted Thursday for Dr. David Cole to become the new leader.

Cole is the current chairman of the university's Department of Surgery and president of MUSC Physicians.

"It's very exciting. I'm really almost speechless," Cole said shortly after the vote was taken. "I'm thrilled. I'm so proud to be part of MUSC. The future is very bright."

He was the only internal applicant named among the final three candidates for president.

Former MUSC President Ray Greenberg announced his departure from the office last summer. Since then, Provost Mark Sothmann has served the university as interim president. More than 50 applicants applied for the job.

"If you look up 'integrity' in the dictionary, you'll find David Cole's picture," MUSC Board of Trustees Chairman Tom Stephenson said. "He'll make a great president."

All but one board member cast their votes for a new president confidentially over the phone on Thursday afternoon. Board member William Bingham voted publicly for Dr. Cole.

S.C. Press Association Attorney Jay Bender told the Charleston Regional Business Journal that he thinks casting secret ballots by phone violates state law. Bender was not available Thursday to discuss the issue.

The MUSC Board of Trustees amended its bylaws last week during a meeting in Charleston to allow members to cast ballots for a new president by phone. Traditionally, secret ballots have been cast in person.

Bingham said he wanted to make sure he was following the law.

"I said in my statement, I wasn't sure, I'm not lawyer, but I didn't want to violate any laws of the state of South Carolina," Bingham said.

Stephenson said he is confident that the process was legal and did not violate the state's Freedom of Information Act.

An attorney at the law firm Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough vetted the process, Stephenson said.

Both former presidents Greenberg and Jim Edwards were selected by secret ballot, he said.

It is not immediately clear how many members supported Cole. Stephenson said he did not know the final tally, only that Cole received a majority of the votes.

At least nine votes for a single candidate - a majority of the 17-member Board of Trustees - were required. Dr. Joanne Conroy, chief health care officer for the Association of American Medical Colleges, and Dr. Ora Pescovitz, CEO of the University of Michigan Health System, were named among the three final candidates for the job.

Cole graduated from New Mexico State University in 1982 with a biology degree. He enrolled as a medical student at Cornell University that same year.

He completed his residency in general surgery at Emory University and a fellowship in surgical oncology at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Md.

In 1994, he joined the staff at MUSC. Since then, he has held various positions within the university. He is also president-elect of the Southeastern Surgical Congress.

Cole said he hopes to continue practicing medicine in some capacity after he transitions to his new role. The details of his contract, including his salary, have not been finalized.

Greenberg earned more than $750,000 a year as MUSC president, which included his state employee base pay of $250,629 and a privately funded compensation package.

Cole speculated that he would officially become president on July 1, but he was not sure.

Reach Lauren Sausser at 937-5598.