Professors Celebrated at Annual Meeting of the Minds

Judge Richard Posner, who sits on the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago, offers his perspective on the Supreme Court’s decision to uphold the Affordable Care Act. The speech was part of the second-annual Meeting of the Minds luncheon for endowed professors. Photo by Nathan Mandell.

Speaking before some of the most distinguished physicians and scientists at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, Judge Richard Posner offered his perspective into a Supreme Court decision affecting them all.

“Before the case was even argued, it was assumed that there couldn’t be a serious constitutional argument against the Affordable Care Act,” said Posner, who sits on the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago. “The experts were astonished by the decision that narrowly avoided invalidating the entire law, but did strike down a piece of it and provoked a very angry four-judge dissent.”

Invited by Eric G. Neilson, MD, vice president for medical affairs and Lewis Landsberg Dean, Posner presented his talk as part of the second-annual Meeting of the Minds luncheon, which celebrates the 112 endowed professors at Feinberg. The event was held this year at the Chicago History Museum.

“It’s great to have this opportunity to see each other, something that we don’t often get to do because of the many things that we are doing every day,” Neilson said. “It’s also great fun to be in an interesting part of Chicago and at a wonderful museum.”

The annual program began in 2012 as a way to thank and honor the endowed professors of the medical school for their accomplishments and contributions to medical science, education, and research.

Amy Paller, MD, Walter J. Hamlin Professor of Dermatology, talks with Lewis Landsberg, MD, Irving S. Cutter Professor of Medicine Emeritus, during the second-annual Meeting of the Minds luncheon for endowed professors. Photo by Nathan Mandell.

“It's very gratifying to have my research efforts recognized by the dean and the medical school and I remain very honored to be named the Paul E. Steiner Research Professor of Pathology,” said attendee  Eileen Bigio, MD.

Connecting Feinberg with the broader intellectual community, the luncheon also provided an opportunity to hear from a professional outside of healthcare. Posner, who began serving on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit in 1981, has authored more than 30 books and 300 journal articles on topics concerning law and economics. He has been a professor of law at the University of Chicago Law School since 1969 and has received honorary law degrees from leading American and international universities, including Northwestern.

In answering questions after his speech, Posner discussed the “unhappy resolution” by the Supreme Court in upholding the Affordable Care Act, noting Chief Justice John Roberts’ seemingly last-minute switch to uphold a majority of the law, and his conservative counterparts’ reactions.

“What happened? One explanation is that he had a tiff with the other conservative justices, the other option seems to be that he may have been afraid to strike down this law in the middle of the presidential campaign,” Posner said. “Doing so would have allowed President Obama to campaign against the court as well.”

Endowed Professorships

Since arriving at Feinberg in September 2011, Neilson has overseen the addition of seven named professorships. Created in perpetuity, endowed professorships represent the highest honor a university can bestow upon its faculty.

“Our faculty is the single most important resource for advancing the medical school’s key missions of research, education, and clinical service, and for achieving our goal to be among the nation’s top 10 academic medical centers,” Neilson said. “The quality and success of our institution depends upon the intellectual environment created by a superb faculty and on the continuing commitment of the faculty to our academic mission.”