Al-Mefty quits chair
Ossama al-Mefty, chair of the Neurosurgery Department and one of the most celebrated doctors at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, has stepped down from that position, Dean Debra H. Fiser informed the school Monday. UAMS spokesperson Leslie Taylor, who called al-Mefty after a couple of callers wondered if he'd been asked to step down, said that was not the case. Al-Mefty, 62, a pioneer in skull base surgery, “has a book in the works and several articles” as well as his neurosurgery practice at the hospital, and he wants to devote more time to that work and his patients. “This is his institution,” Taylor said.
Dr. T. Glenn Pait will serve as interim chair while UAMS conducts a national search for al-Mefty's replacement, Fiser said.
King of the lobby
Sen. Bob Johnson of Bigelow let it be known last week that he's considering a Democratic primary challenge to U.S. Sen. Blanche Lincoln next year. Columnist John Brummett writes in this week's issue that this is a product of Capitol insider/lobbyist talk arising from fear that Lincoln could be vulnerable to a Republican challenge next year. So the idea is to get, first, a man and then one well connected to the special interests to carry the so-called Democratic banner.
Connected? You bet. A gander at Johnson's campaign finance reports in 2006, when he had only a token primary opponent and no general election opposition tells the story. He raised more than $100,000, only a handful from individuals (and a couple of them were named Walton).
His finance list is a veritable index of major lobbies, from poultry to real estate to health care. He got significant help from all the gas companies exploring the Fayetteville shale (he opposed the severance tax increase) and electric and telephone utilities contributed handsomely, too. Mental health magnate Ted Suhl's tentacles turned up on the list, as did Deltic Timber, whose cause Johnson served so well in his assault on Lake Maumelle watershed protection.
Gambling interests Oaklawn and Southland contributed. He'll be welcome in the halls of Congress as an old friend. Pfizer, Glaxo Smith Kline and United Healthcare sent checks. Reynolds Tobacco chipped in. Forest products interests are well represented as are Stephens empire dollars. Etc. Etc.
About half the money was raised for Johnson's unopposed general election and so he finished the cycle with more than $60,000 in surplus funds. He kept $12,000, sending more than $49,000 to the state treasury.