Former Norris Cotton Cancer Center head sues DHMC

by Alexa Green | 11/4/16 12:50am

Mark Israel, the former director of the Norris Cotton Cancer Center at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, filed a lawsuit against DHMC last month. The suit alleges that DHMC officials diverted $6 million raised for cancer research to operating expenses and unjustly pressured him to resign as director. The intent of the lawsuit is for DHMC to restore the $6 million to the philanthropic accounts. In addition, Israel is suing DHMC for at least $2 million in lost pay and compensatory damages. 

Of the $6 million in philanthropic funds that Israel claims were used inappropriately, he said $1.6 million came from Prouty funds. 

“We raise a lot of money for the Prouty and want people to know what we spend the money for,” Israel said. “So, when they told me they were going to take the money, I complained. And when I complained loud enough, they told me they were going to replace me.”

The Prouty is comprised of two days of athletic events, including a bike race and run. The event raises funds for the cancer center. It began in August 1982 to raise money and awareness for cancer research. The money raised is allocated to clinical research, community health education and prevention, patient support, research program development and resource improvement. During 2002, the first year that Israel served as director, the event raised $183,000.  This past year, the 35th annual Prouty raised more than $3.15 million. The organization’s website boasts that “nearly 90 cents of every dollar goes to support cancer research and patient services at NCCC.”  

Israel said that the DHMC CEO and President James Weinstein along with other General Counsel officials said that the money had to be placed into operations in order to be in compliance with the law. Dartmouth-Hitchcock spokesperson Rick Adams told the Valley News that the hospital was acting in acquiescence with “required accounting standards and state law,” though he did not clarify what legal requirement DHMC officials were satisfying.

Adams did not respond to a request for comment by press time. 

Israel attributes the diversion of funds to the hospital’s financial troubles. 

“Without the $6 million dollars from the Cancer Center’s philanthropy, they would have been in the red,” he said. 

The complaint alleges that DHMC reported an operating margin of over $3 million for the 2015 fiscal year and “created the illusion that it had produced a gain in operations for the fiscal year,” adding that this happened “shortly after taking the donated funds from the cancer center.”

The NCCC falls under the College’s jurisdiction as well as under DHMC. 

  “Some of our philanthropic dollars are kept in College accounts and some are in hospital accounts,” Israel said. Fundraising was a large part of Israel’s role as the director. He added that the hospital was able to circumvent his objection and then “simply took the money out of the accounts.” 

College spokesperson Diana Lawrence declined to comment.

Before resigning, Israel was director of the NCCC for 14 years. Under his direction, research funding drastically increased. He had applied for and received grants for the Center, totaling values which exceed $50 million. Israel has previously worked at the National Institutes of Health for 14 years, including five years as head of the Molecular Genetics Section in the Pediatric Oncology Branch of the National Cancer Institute. 

The College did not give a reason for Israel’s departure as director. He will continue to serve as a tenured faculty member at the Geisel School of Medicine. 

At its September board meeting, the DHMC board of trustees approved a resolution that would grant $6 million to NCCC to be used over a period of six years. 

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