College completes misconduct investigation

  • Elliott Fisher talks with the Valley News editorial board Wednesday, April 10, 2013. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Adam Keller of The Dartmouth Institute photographed in Hanover, N.H., on Tuesday, April 11, 2017. (Dartmouth College - Robert C. Strong II)

Valley News Staff Writer
Monday, April 29, 2019

HANOVER — An investigation into “conduct in the workplace” of two senior leaders at The Dartmouth Institute has concluded, causing one to be stripped of his title and his office relocated and the other to resign.

The precise nature of the investigation into the conduct of a nationally known health care policy researcher Elliott Fisher, who had been TDI’s director, and that of Adam Keller, a longtime Dartmouth administrator who had been TDI’s chief of strategy and operations, remains unclear.

“The content of the investigator’s report is part of a confidential personnel matter,” Dartmouth spokeswoman Diana Lawrence said in an email.

Geisel School of Medicine Dean Duane Compton first announced the investigation in a July 31 email to medical school faculty members. The two administrators were placed on paid leave and barred from Dartmouth’s campus and events last summer, while the investigation was underway. Both may now enter campus and attend Dartmouth events, Lawrence said.

Fisher — who is perhaps best known for his work on the Dartmouth Atlas of Health Care, a long-term study of patients that was influential in shaping the debate that led to the passage of the Affordable Care Act — will return to the institute’s faculty, but he will no longer hold the John E. Wenneberg Distinguished Professorship and will no longer be the institute’s director, Lawrence wrote.

Anna Tosteson, a biostatistician, has been TDI’s interim director since early October.

Fisher’s office will no longer be on the fifth floor of the Williamson Translational Research Building, which shares a campus with Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center. Instead, he will be in an office in Centerra, across Route 120 from DHMC.

Keller, late last month, resigned from his position after more than 40 years in various roles at the college.

For his part, Fisher, who had been director of TDI since 2013 and associated with Dartmouth’s medical school for more than 30 years, said he’s glad to be getting back to work.

“I am thankful that this process has come to a close and am excited to be returning to my role as a professor at Dartmouth,” he said in a Monday email. “I love both teaching and research and look forward to returning to the important work of trying to make health care better.”

In a biography on the TDI website, Fisher is described as “one of the originators of the concept of ‘accountable care organizations,’ ” which are designed to improve patient outcomes while lowering costs.

Keller, in a phone call last week, said he previously had been planning to retire from TDI last October but delayed those plans as the investigation continued.

Keller, who also declined to provide details about the substance of the investigation, said he had enjoyed his more than 40-year career at Dartmouth.

“I appreciate the opportunities I’ve had at Dartmouth,” he said.

Keller — who as TDI’s chief of strategy, earned $776,756 in 2011, according to a tax document made public in 2013 — had “been associated with the faculty at TDI for over 20 years,” according to his biography on the institute’s website.

He had been a Dartmouth administrator since 1978, including serving as executive vice president of finance and administration at Dartmouth College. Keller left that post in December 2009, when then-Dartmouth President Jim Yong Kim moved him to a new position of senior adviser to the president and provost, where he was responsible for working with TDI, according to previous Valley News re ports.

There are no plans to fill Keller’s position at TDI, Lawrence said in an email last week.

The TDI investigation took place as Dartmouth faces a $70 million federal class-action lawsuit stemming from allegations that three former professors in its Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences participated in sexual misconduct.

Samir Soneji, a TDI associate professor, said he finds the fact that Fisher’s office has been relocated to be “shocking, upsetting.” He said he is unsure what to make of the college’s actions.

“What principles is Dartmouth standing by?” said Soneji, whose allegations about plagiarism led former TDI researcher H. Gilbert Welch to resign last fall.

While Soneji said faculty are attracted to the institute’s work relating to health policy innovation, morale is low.

“This has been turmoil,” he said.

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