Emory Report
July 5, 2005
Volume 57, Number 34


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July 5, 2005
Illinois' Mendola named to new CIO post

BY Michael Terrazas

Richard Mendola, associate vice president for administrative information technology services at the University of Illinois, will become Emory’s first vice president for information technology and chief information officer, Executive Vice President for Finance and Administration Mike Mandl announced. The appointment is effective Sept. 1.

Mendola, who served as executive director of a project at Illinois that integrated academic, financial and human resources IT systems across three campuses, will face a similar challenge at Emory, where he will be charged with coordinating and integrating IT infrastructure between the University and Emory Healthcare (EHC). Reflecting that task is a “matrix” administrative structure through which Mendola initially will report jointly to Mandl, Provost Earl Lewis and Executive Vice President for Health Affairs Michael Johns. Those three, along with EHC President and CEO John Fox, selected Mendola with substantial input from the search committee as well as many other faculty and staff who interviewed the candidates.

Mendola’s direct reports will be the heads of Network Communications and the Information Technology Division, and the EHC CIO.

“This matrixed reporting relationship reflects the accountability to the academic, clinical and administrative enterprises,” Mandl said. “It will be important that the information technology function understand its mission as a business unit whose role is to provide a ‘best of class,’ cost-effective, scalable infrastructure to support the academic and research missions and the clinical enterprise.

“Given Rich’s experiences at Illinois,” Mandl continued, “he is perfectly suited to develop the sort of resource-planning and enterprise-wide governance structures that Emory needs. We’re confident he will help bring Emory’s IT services to the level they need to be to help us achieve our vision.”

“The best analogy I’ve used for illustrating an IT architecture is to ask people how their house was built,” Mendola said when asked about the challage ahead of him. “Instead of hiring a single architect, imagine you used a different architect for each room. What would you end up with? If you were lucky, you might have four walls and a roof, but you probably wouldn’t be happy with the cost, performance or aesthetics of your new abode.

“Just as good architects produce houses that are far more than the sum of their parts, good IT architectures leverage common standards and consistent strategies to produce more agile, cost-effective IT solutions,” he continued. “I don’t expect that process to be easy, but I do think that with the right set of guiding principles—such as a transparent and open, deliberative process—it is possible to be successful.”

Designing that common architecture is just one of Mendola’s many tasks. Among the others will be developing a technology master plan, partnering with industry leaders to achieve Emory’s IT goals, developing budgets that leverage IT resources housed within varied operating units and schools, and “establishing Emory IT as a business-driven line activity, not a technology-driven staff function,” according to the CIO job description.

“While Emory has pockets of very advanced IT applications, the basic service level of the information technology infrastructure is perceived to be lagging,” Mandl said. “Our decentralized operating model, which gives each of the schools and units a substantial amount of autonomy in how resources are used, has generally served the institution well, but there is a real opportunity to improve IT at Emory by leveraging the significant investment through standards, coordination and planning.”

“Before I even came for any interviews, I was captivated by the breadth of the position and how it brings together the health care and University sides of the IT organization in one office,” Mendola said. “Emory is a great institution, but it was clear to me that with the team President [Jim] Wagner has assembled, there is no reason Emory can’t reach even greater heights.”

Prior to his current role, Mendola served as CIO for the University of Illinois at Chicago Medical Center; during his tenure, he also held adjunct faculty appointments in the colleges of medicine and applied health sciences. Mendola holds a B.A. in psychology from the University of Pittsburgh, and master’s and doctorate degrees in clinical psychology, as well as an M.B.A. from the University of Connecticut, where he served on the faculty as an assistant professor of psychiatry before moving to Illinois.