David Brenner, dean of UCSD med school, lured here by $720,000 salary

Predecessor left job with stock in 44 companies

— When Dr. David A. Brenner was named vice chancellor and dean for the school of medicine at UCSD in February, his salary was the talk of the campus. Brenner, a gastroenterologist who came from New York's Columbia University, where he'd been chairman of the department of medicine, was lured out West by the heady pay of $720,000 a year plus a $125,000 relocation allowance and the chance to get a state-subsidized mortgage, up to $1 million, in order to buy a suitable manse. Brenner's predecessor at the helm of the med school was Edward Holmes, who departed the campus last September for greener financial pastures in Singapore, where he and his wife, Judith Swain, a cellular cardiologist, joined that country's Agency for Science, Technology and Research. Holmes had been paid a relatively paltry $531,277 a year, according to a May 2006 state audit. Sixty thousand of that came in the form of a controversial special side payment questioned by the auditors, who concluded that while not illegal, it "circumvented policy."

But if Holmes earned less than Brenner, he still seems to have done a good job of feathering his personal financial nest during his time at the university. According to a 14-page "leaving office" statement of economic interests that Holmes filed after he departed UCSD last October, he held stock in no fewer than 44 companies, including holdings valued at between $100,000 and $1 million in Tularik/Amgen Inc., which he said was a "Biotechnology/Big Pharma" company. Other medically related stocks in the Holmes portfolio included GlaxoSmithKline PLC-ADR; Interventional Rhythm Management; CR Bard Inc.; Johnson & Johnson; Teva Pharmaceutical; and Varian Medical Systems.

In addition, his wife received between zero and $499 for her service as a board member for Durham, North Carolina-based Synecor, whose website boasts, "We create paradigm-shifting medical technologies." Holmes was paid between $1001 and $10,000 as an advisory board member for the London-based Wellcome Trust, which also paid more than $24,000 for two trips he took to London in May and June. Other free trips he took included a four-day junket to Singapore last June, paid for by the National University of Singapore, valued at $6193.28. The week after that, GlaxoSmithKline reimbursed him $6308.71 for travel expenses to attend the "RADEX Advisory Board meeting."

By comparison, Brenner's "assuming office" statement of economic interests, filed on March 26, is only four pages long and lists no assets at all, only relatively modest gifts and payments, including one speaking fee of between $1001 and $10,000, paid by Geneva, Switzerland-based pharmaceutical company Serono, and a second one of between $500 and $1000 paid by Celera, a San Francisco genetics company. He also lists travel reimbursements of $2000 from Serono and $1200 from Celera. Stuart Jamieson, UCSD's head of cardiothoracic surgery, gave Brenner theater tickets worth $260. Jamieson had run the university medical center's controversial heart-transplant program, which was forced to suspend operations in February because it wasn't performing enough transplants to qualify for federal and state reimbursements from Medicare and Medi-Cal.

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