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Former UC Medical School Dean Named to Lead AMA

June 22, 1989|BEN SULLIVAN | Times Staff Writer

Dr. C. John Tupper, founding dean of the UC Davis School of Medicine, was named president-elect of the American Medical Assn. on Wednesday at the organization's summer meeting in Chicago.

Tupper, the fourth Californian named to the position in this century, will assume the presidency in one year. His first goal is the strengthening of national health care by focusing on regional service, Tupper said.

"We are mounting a large effort to make good health care available to all American citizens (and) we're helping those efforts by having very strong component societies, both state and county," he said in a telephone interview. Tupper, 69, pointed to the Los Angeles County Medical Assn., the largest such organization in the nation, as an example of an effective component society.

His election to the executive position of the 290,000-member association highlights a career that has seen both generous accolades and notable criticism.

Respected Institution

As dean of the UC Davis School of Medicine from its inception in 1966 until 1980, Tupper was largely credited with developing the school into a respected medical institution.

"Nothing was here in terms of a medical school until he arrived," said Davis spokesman Don Martensen. "He began the process of recruiting the faculty of the medical school."

During his tenure as dean, however, Tupper came under fire for favoring some applicants who otherwise did not meet the academic requirements for admission, critics charged.

In a 1976 Times article, Tupper defended his actions, saying that in most cases he interceded to ensure the fairness of the admissions process. He conceded, however, that in some instances he intervened to help "special interest people," whom he defined as those whose names he recognized, for example, the son or daughter of a colleague.

While Tupper at the time described his actions as "good public relations," the University of California Board of Regents revised Davis' admissions process to ensure a more uniform system.

Tupper again came under media attention in 1974, when Allan Bakke, a 34-year-old white engineer, filed suit against the University of California claiming that he had been denied admission to the Davis School of Medicine while less qualified minority applicants were accepted under a special minority admissions program. Bakke's case eventually went to the California Supreme Court, which ruled in his favor, and Tupper was forced to accept Bakke's admission.

Tupper stepped down as dean of the Davis medical school in 1979, when he assumed the presidency of the California Medical Assn.

Tupper has held numerous positions within the AMA, including that of delegate, member of the Board of Trustees and founding chairman of the Council on Scientific Affairs.

He said his new office of president-elect is not one that can single-handedly set organizational policy or dictate action, and he added that he will rely on the group's more than 300 national delegates and its Board of Trustees for direction.

"The AMA is a democracy, not an autocracy," he said. "Nobody gives orders around here--it's not run from the top down."

Said California Medical Assn. spokesman Chuck McFadden on Tupper's election: "He is living proof that nice guys sometimes do finish first."

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