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Mark Israel, Former Director of Norris Cotton Cancer Center, Takes New Job

  • Norris Cotton Cancer Center director Mark Israel in an undated photograph. (Courtesy Geisel School of Medicine)



Valley News Staff Writer
Thursday, January 11, 2018

Lebanon — The former director of the Norris Cotton Cancer Center, who sued Dartmouth-Hitchcock over its diversion of funds raised for cancer research to other expenses, has taken a new job leading a nonprofit dedicated to funding cancer research in Israel.

Dr. Mark Israel will begin his new job with the New York City-based Israel Cancer Research Fund later this month. He declined to disclose his new salary.

Israel left his post at Norris Cotton, Dartmouth-Hitchcock’s cancer center, in 2016 after about 15 years on the job. He then sued D-H on the grounds that D-H fired him in an act of illegal retaliation after he objected to the diversion of $6 million — including $1.6 million raised through The Prouty, the organization’s signature fundraiser — for cancer research.

In September, Grafton County Superior Court Judge Lawrence MacLeod Jr. dismissed the case, which means it will move to arbitration under a transition agreement Israel signed with Dartmouth College.

In his new job, directing the Israel Cancer Research Fund, Israel said he will be focused on fundraising and dispensing between $4 million and $5 million annually in research funds.

Since 1975, the fund has awarded grants totaling more than $60 million to 2,300 Israeli cancer projects, according to the news release announcing Israel’s appointment.

Israel said one of his goals is to grow the amount of money the fund raises and spends on cancer research.

“(My) expertise in fundraising is something that I hope was attractive to the organization,” Israel said.

In court filings in the D-H case, Geoffrey Vitt, Israel’s Norwich-based attorney, argued that D-H was not a party to the transition agreement, which was signed by Israel and Duane Compton — then interim, now dean of Geisel School of Medicine — so the arbitration clause should not apply.

But in his August decision, MacLeod rejected that argument.

“ ... (Israel) should have anticipated that D-H might attempt to enforce the arbitration clause,” MacLeod wrote.

In a letter early last year, Thomas Donovan, the director of the Charitable Trusts Unit in the New Hampshire Attorney General’s Office, concluded that D-H did not violate the law in 2015 when it spent money from donors on salary, equipment and occupancy costs associated with research.

“(C)ancer research and patient support service are expansive terms and fairly include the salary, equipment and occupancy costs associated with those activities,” Donovan wrote.

After Donovan issued that letter, Chris Amos, then interim director of the cancer center, and Shelley Gilbert, then-chairwoman of the board of Friends of the Norris Cotton Cancer Center, penned an oped in the Valley News that pledged that donations to the friends organization will be spent to “advance cancer research, improve cancer treatment protocols, develop strategies for cancer prevention (or) provide supportive services for patients with cancer and their families.”

They also wrote that money may be used to “facilitate otherwise unfunded endeavors in cancer research, education and translation of research from science to patients.”

The organizations, however, did not make the governance document containing these pledges public.

D-H spokesman Rick Adams said in an email on Thursday that the hospital had nothing to add on the subject of the dispute with Israel “beyond what we’ve already said.”

Though Israel had hoped to have a public trial, he said in a phone interview on Thursday that he continues to pursue his claims “as aggressively as I can.”

Israel said he is seeking to have the money that was diverted for operations returned to research. He also is seeking wages lost as a result of the end of his employment at D-H.

Israel, who made $517,000 as the director of the cancer center according to filings in the case, said he does continue to work at the medical school, but “at a greatly reduced rate.”

Israel still holds an appointment as a professor of medicine, pediatrics and molecular biology at Geisel School of Medicine, a post he will depart in 2019.

“I resigned because they took the money,” he said. “I didn’t resign because I didn’t want to work.”

Vitt said that it’s in the best interest of Israel, D-H and the public to resolve the case quickly.

“Let’s have a public hearing, put the evidence on and get a decision,” Vitt said.

Vitt did not know when an arbiter would hear the case, but he said he expects it will be heard this year.

Though Israel plans to rent an apartment in Manhattan to enable him to do his new job, he will maintain his Hanover residence, he said.

Nora Doyle-Burr can be reached at ndoyleburr@vnews.com or 603-727-3213.