This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
Not with a bang but with a whimper
     -- T. S. Eliot, The Hollow Men, 1925

Those across the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania who lived through the disaster known as AHERF, the story of the Allegheny Health and Education Research Foundation, ending in one of the biggest non-profit health care bankruptcies in US history, may now note in passing the death some months ago--just recently announced--of its architect, one Sherif Abdelhak.

Many books and articles have been written about this hubristic exercise in go-go corporatism. It was a fiasco that left many endowments decimated and the remnants of two Philadelphia medical schools in shreds.

For those who lived through that era, the death of "the sheriff" is bittersweet. It has passed virtually unnoticed until now. But it's worth remarking, not just for its local but also its national meaning. By the high-rolling mid-1990s, tellingly, the Association of American Medical College's prestigious Cooper Lectureship led through the following roster. Here is the list for the decade commencing 1985 and leading to its 1995 apogee

  • 1985 John A. D. Cooper
  • 1986 Paul B. Beeson
  • 1987 Uwe E. Reinhardt
  • 1988 Henry G. Cisneros
  • 1989 Lauro F. Cavazos
  • 1990 John F. Sherman
  • 1991 Margaret Catley-Carlson
  • 1992 Leroy Hood
  • 1993 Bruce M. Alberts
  • 1994 Merwyn R. Greenlick
  • 1995 Sherif S. Abdelhak

A nice progression. Three years later, in 1998, AHERF and Allegheny University of the Health Sciences, went belly up. Its successors are still recovering. But too many parts of our health educational and health care systems still show signs of the sheriff's avaricious behavior.

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