Florida Medical Dean Overrules Committee, Admitting Son of Politically Connected Family

April 04, 2008

The dean of the University of Florida College of Medicine admitted the son of a Republican fund raiser even though the committee charged with making admissions decisions had rejected him, The Gainesville Sun reported on Thursday.

The dean, Bruce C. Kone, said politics had nothing to do with his decision to admit the student, whom the newspaper identified as Benjamin Mendelsohn. His father, Alan Mendelsohn, is a Hollywood ophthalmologist who was a grassroots organizer in the 2006 campaign of Gov. Charlie Crist of Florida.

The governor sent a letter recommending the student to the university’s Junior Honors Medical Program, a highly competitive seven-year program that combines bachelor’s and medical degrees. The letter was sent before Dr. Kone became dean, and he says he never saw it.

The university said it received 2,783 applications for the 135 seats in its entering class.

The Liaison Committee on Medical Education, which accredits medical schools in the United States and Canada, states in its standards that “the final responsibility for selecting students to be admitted for medical study must reside with a duly constituted faculty committee,” and that “the selection of individual students must not be influenced by any political or financial factors.”

“I certainly respected all of the decisions of the admissions committee, up until one,” Dr. Kone told the newspaper. “There was no political influence related to this thing. There never will be. There never has been. This was an exceptional student, and I wish to God I could even tell you about (the student’s) credentials.”

In 2006 the Mendelsohn family gave more than $33,000 to political candidates, mostly Republicans. Benjamin Mendelsohn donated $500 directly to the governor’s campaign, the paper reported. Benjamin Mendelsohn declined to talk to the newspaper. —Katherine Mangan