Minutes after Dr. David Cole found out he was chosen to become the Medical University of South Carolina's next president, he was almost speechless.

Dr. David Cole

Age: 53

Hometown: Albuquerque, N.M.

Spouse: Kathryn

Children: Paige (22), Andy (20), Bryan (17)

residence: Mount Pleasant

Hobbies: Bicycling, hiking, boating and reading

Since Thursday, he has found his words again.

Cole, chairman of MUSC's Department of Surgery and president of MUSC Physicians, will transition into his new role later this year. In the meantime, he agreed to answer a few questions about the challenges MUSC faces and some of his ideas for the future.

Q: Why did you want to apply for this position?

A: It was an honor to be nominated for consideration and I approached this decision with a lot of discussion, thought and 3 a.m. discussions with my wife, Kathy. Given the current changes in health care that we are all facing, I concluded that MUSC's next leader must have an intimate understanding of the clinical and research enterprises. Also important is an established level of institutional knowledge and trust to lead fundamental change in how we provide health care and educate our future health care providers and scientists.

Over the past 20 years I have had the privilege of serving in many different capacities and contributing to the remarkable growth that has characterized MUSC. I am proud of my colleagues, what we have achieved to date, and what this institution represents for citizens the state of South Carolina.

In short, I applied for this position because I care about MUSC, and I am vested in its success.

Q: What do you anticipate the challenges of this new role will be?

A: I want to maintain and strengthen our relationships at the state and local levels and work to build stronger ties with our community. The new reality of changing health care models and fiscal pressures must be addressed if we are to continue achieving our three-pronged mission. This will involve increasing efficiency, continuing to integrate across the institution and sharing a common vision.

That being said, this is an exciting opportunity to strengthen MUSC's dedication to pursuing excellence.

Q: What do you perceive are the strengths and weaknesses of MUSC?

A: MUSC's strength has always been the quality and commitment of its faculty, staff and students. If you look at the trajectory of this institution over the past 20 years, it's awe-inspiring and occurred because of a lot of people worked to make MUSC a better place. Moreover, the culture of MUSC has always been one of openness, forward thinking and collaboration. The current depth and quality that represents MUSC at this point in time is unique in our long history.

Our weakness, in my opinion, is more a legacy of the inherent structure of academic medical institutions - they are built as silos. This sometimes leads to a lack of communication and integration among different areas even though they are moving in the same direction. We're working to overcome this through collaborative efforts at the clinical, educational, and research levels - an example would be the multidisciplinary work that is ongoing in drug discovery and bioengineering.

Q: While discussions surrounding a full merger of MUSC and the College of Charleston have recently died down, how prepared are you to negotiate that political debate? Do you have a strong opinion about a potential merger?

A: The concept of a comprehensive research university is laudable. However, there were essential elements missing from the legislative proposal and discussion. Without these elements, a merger would have run the risk of unintentionally harming both institutions. I think that the current compromise and direction was a good decision by our state leadership.

Q: Former President Ray Greenberg said MUSC and other academic medical centers will need to increasingly rely on philanthropy to fulfill their missions. Do you have a strong track record for fundraising?

A: When I took over as Department of Surgery chairman in 2007, I realized we needed to have a comprehensive, long-term approach toward support for our academic missions. Given this approach, we raised several million dollars in support of our surgical programs. This included the establishment of three endowed chairs and new funding sources for two divisional research programs.

Even at the institutional level, fundraising is still about developing relationships, finding common goals and working to build something in which people can see the inherent value and purpose.

Q: Do you intend to continue practicing medicine?

A: My strength as a clinician and surgeon has always been my ability to connect with patients, and probably the most satisfying part of what I do is to have a positive impact on people. I believe that there is value for the institution and for myself to continue to practice in a limited fashion; however, I serve at the discretion of the MUSC Board of Trustees and together we will explore these details in the days ahead.

Reach Lauren Sausser at 937-5598.