Salt Lake magazine

Utah’s Medical Game of Thrones

April 19, 2017

Back stabbing, deceit, revenge and regicide, Game of Thrones has nothing on the palace intrigues bubbling in Salt Lake’s medical citadel that includes University of Utah med school and the Huntsman Cancer Institute.

According to insiders, the latest power grab by UofU Health Care CEO and Red Queen Vivian Lee toppled Huntsman Institute’s CEO Mary Beckerle. You’d think Lee has already grabbed enough raw power as she’s also dean of the School of Medicine and senior VP at University Health Sciences.

Vivian Lee

The Institute’s founder Jon Huntsman Sr., himself, called it a “power grab” by Lee. “Kingmaker” Huntsman says the coup will not stand. He promises Beckerle will regain the throne “one way or another.” His wife Karen Huntsman vowed, “This is just the beginning, the war.” (Quick note: This is not an Onion article.)

Meanwhile, Lee has solid support from UofU President David Pershing and much of the Utah legislature.

A source close to the Huntsman Institute told Salt Lake magazine that the firing of Beckerle was planned in a way to purposely humiliate her. (Beckerle learned about her dismissal second-hand from a faculty-wide email.)

“This is going to backfire and hurt Utah,” says the source, who asked not be named. “Mary was definitely visible nationally and well respected—with HHMI [Howard Huges Medical Institute], with [former Vice President Joe] Biden’s cancer committee, with ASCB [American Society for Cell Biology] and others. “HHMI is a huge deal in science and I know Mary has close ties.”

The nationally known cancer researcher says, “Scientists are going to ask, ‘What’s up with Utah that they have treated Mary this way?’ “

Glen Warchol

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