Deborah Powell

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Dr. Deborah Powell is the Dean of the University of Minnesota Medical School and, in December 2006, was elected to the board of directors of PepsiAmericas. [1]

Powell worked as "Vice Chair and Director of Diagnostic Pathology at the University of Kentucky in Lexington before being named the Chair of the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine at that same institution. In 1997, she was named Executive Dean and Vice Chancellor for Clinical Affairs at the University of Kansas School of Medicine. She came to Minnesota in fall 2002 to lead the University of Minnesota Medical School." [2]

"She is active in a number of national organizations including the American Board of Pathology and the Association of American Medical Colleges Council of Deans. She is a former member of the Advisory Council of the National Institutes of Health Office of Research in Women’s Health and past president of the Association of American Medical Colleges Council of Deans, United States and Canadian Academy of Pathology, and the American Board of Pathology. In 2000, she was elected to the distinguished National Academy of Sciences Institute of Medicine, which advises the federal government on national health and science policy," a University of Minnesota Medical School biographical note states.

"She is an active member in several national organizations and serves as a board member of the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education and the Institute for Healthcare Improvement," a PepsiAmericas biographical note states. [3]

Working For PepsiAmericas

Following her appointment to the board of PepsicoAmericas in December 2006, there was considerable debate over her dual roles. The company, which has revenues of $3.7 billion, describes itself as "the world's second-largest manufacturer, seller and distributor of PepsiCo beverages." "I thought it was an opportunity for me as a health professional to have my voice heard by the leadership of a major beverage distributor with a global reach," she said. [4]

"The issue of children and adolescents being exposed to carbonated, sugar-filled soft drinks is one that everybody is talking about, and I think (corporate) boards have to reflect about," Powell said. "I think we can do it in a responsible way to ensure that the company is successful and shareholder value is maximized and people take into account responsible stewardship." [5]

Powell said that she wouldn't work for a tobacco company but told Pioneer Press reporter Paul Tosto "But this one, I thought, because I know the leadership, respected the leadership, I thought I could make a difference," she said. Powell was recruited to the company's board by its chief executive, Robert Pohlad, who is a member of Powell's board of visitors. [6]

Powell will be paid an annual fee of $30,000 plus $2,000 per board meeting attended and $60,000 in stock. "I didn't know before I went on the board that I would be paid," she later said. [7]

Senior vice president for health sciences at the university, Frank Cerra, defended Powell's dual roles: "What better way to get knowledge about obesity into the company than by bringing it into the boardroom?" [8]

Robert Jeffery, a director of the Obesity Prevention Center at the university said Powell's appointment flagged the need for a "more serious conversation about where the ethical lines lie in corporate consulting. Whenever you get into a paid relationship with a commercial enterprise, there is an implied or maybe even explicit agreement that you're doing things for their benefit." [9]

Michele Simon, the author of "Appetite for Profit," is critical of Powell's appointment: "When an expert joins this kind of board, clearly it's going to compromise their [the university's] ability to speak out." [10]

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