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Florida Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo, the UCLA professor whose hire at University of Florida College of Medicine was fast-tracked with the help of a top political supporter of Gov. Ron DeSantis, hasn’t started his academic job yet.
Three months after accepting the full professorship with tenure position, Ladapo has not taught a class or done any research at the state’s flagship university, UF officials said.
“Because he started after the academic semester was underway, he was not assigned to teach this past fall,” said Ken Garcia, spokesman for UF Health, in an email to the USA TODAY Network-Florida. “We are still in the process of onboarding him to his faculty appointment and finalizing details related to his duties and responsibilities.”
Classes at UF began Aug. 23 and ended Dec. 8, according to the university’s academic calendar.
His UF calendar for September through November — obtained through a public records request — shows no on-site appointments and only two Zoom meetings.
It’s unclear whether he’s even set foot on campus since the university started paying him. But a two-day visit is planned for after the holidays, officials said.
More coverage of Florida’s surgeon general, powered by the USA TODAY Network-Florida:
Joseph Ladapo hire was fast-tracked, records show
Emails provided by UF to the USA TODAY Network-Florida showed that top officials at UF Health pushed through Ladapo’s hire to coincide with DeSantis’s announcement Sept. 21 naming Ladapo as his nominee for Surgeon General.
The Florida Senate must vote to confirm Ladapo’s nomination, but he began his duties as the state’s chief health officer on Sept. 21, the day after he was hired by UF.
Under his agreement with UF and the state, Ladapo is supposed to spend 20% of his time teaching and doing research at UF, and the other 80% as surgeon general and running the Florida Department of Health.
Garcia also said Ladapo, who had close to $2 million in research grants at UCLA, was “currently in the process of transferring his research projects from UCLA to UF, which is overseen in part by the federal government and therefore takes some time.”
Ladapo does not see patients at UF Health, Garcia said, nor will he have his own office on campus.
“Dr. Ladapo has not been assigned a private office but will share office space with computer access with internal medicine faculty who do not spend the majority of their time on campus,” Garcia said.
The reply to the Nov. 10 records request for Ladapo’s calendar was received Dec. 21. A similar request made to the Department of Health has gone unanswered.
The USA TODAY Network-Florida also asked for Ladapo’s class schedule, room assignment and related records about his duties at UF, which hired him as a tenured professor at a base salary of $262,000 a year, plus $75,000 a year for running a special projects group for UF Health.
The state Department of Health is contributing $150,000 of that salary to UF, and providing Ladapo with an additional $100,000 for a total of $437,000 a year.
According to records received, only two meetings were scheduled, both on Oct. 28, the day after the Gainesville Sun and other Gannett papers first reported how Ladapo’s hire at UF was rushed to coincide with DeSantis’ announcement nominating Ladapo as surgeon general.
Online meetings held to discuss Ladapo’s work on campus
One meeting was a 45-minute Zoom call with Dr. David Nelson, senior vice president for health affairs and president of UF Health, and Dr. Colleen Koch, dean of the UF College of Medicine. The other was a one-hour “fluency training” session with the UF Health Department of Medicine, also conducted via Zoom.
In an email, Nelson said he and Koch discussed academic issues with Ladapo, mainly his research grants and teaching opportunities at UF.
“We spent most of our conversation discussing areas where the DOH and UF could collaborate to improve healthcare disparities in the state of Florida. Mother-baby health, HIV, diabetes, obesity and rural preventive health strategies were some areas that we covered,” Nelson said.
They ended the meeting agreeing that Ladapo would plan a 2-day trip after the holiday to meet with “a broad range of faculty/stakeholders and begin to implement a number of the ideas we discussed,” Nelson said.
The dates for that visit were still being set.
Ladapo’s hiring process began when UF Board of Trustees Chairman Mori Hosseini, a millionaire developer and major supporter of DeSantis forwarded Ladapo’s email to Nelson, who forwarded it to Koch.
“This faculty is interested in coming to join the UF family. Google search him and see if you can guess the story. Will fill you in later but please keep confidential,” Nelson told his deans in a Sept. 2 email, hinting that Ladapo, a UCLA professor with controversial views on COVID-19, was the governor’s choice for surgeon general.
“He looks fabulous — let me know what I can do to be supportive!” UF College of Medicine Dean Colleen Koch replied.
Nelson followed up with an email pointing out there were “”some sensitivities regarding timing and would ask if you could expedite this communication.”
A UF Faculty Senate report noted that hiring Ladapo “has also had a demoralizing effect on some faculty, particularly junior faculty, but there is fear of speaking out. For this particular hiring, faculty had a 48-hour turnaround time for comments.”
The UF Faculty Senate appointed an ad hoc committee to further investigate the circumstances surrounding Ladapo’s rapid hiring process and granting of tenure.
A letter written by medical faculty sent to the Miami Herald and Tampa Bay Times expressed concern that they were being given only 48 hours to approve Ladapo’s tenure, and that administrators downplayed his controversial views about COVID-19.
They said they didn’t have time to read all his published articles doubting the safety and effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines, his stance against mask mandates and other views that run counter to U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance.
Since he assumed the surgeon general’s role, Ladapo has been mired in controversies.
His first official act was to issue an emergency rule banning schools from quarantining students exposed to COVID-19, leaving the decision to parents.
And he’s attracted national attention for refusing to don a mask at the request of state Sen. Tina Polsky, D-Boca Raton, at her office at the Florida Capitol.
Jeffrey Schweers is a capital bureau reporter for USA TODAY NETWORK-Florida. Contact Schweers at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @jeffschweers.
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