The director of Harvard University Health Services (UHS) will step down from the post in June 1989 after taking the second sabbatical of his 15-year administration this spring, UHS officials said yesterday.
Oliver Professor of Hygiene Warren E.C. Wacker told the UHS executive staff in late September that he would spend his six months off traveling and conducting medical research before resigning the directorship in two years.
Deputy Director and Chief of Professional Services Sholem Postel is expected to assume the top position during Wacker's absence, Wacker said.
No one has been selected yet to take Wacker's place when he leaves UHS permanently. The 63-year-old Postel said it is unlikely he will be asked to take the job because of his age.
Tenured members of Harvard's faculty are usually eligible to take time off approximately every seven years.
Wacker's resignation is in keeping with a retire-at-65 policy that was in force when he first joined the health service, he said. However that policy was changed during his term.
"He'll be 65," said Loring Conant Jr., an associate UHS physician and a 14-year veteran of the health service. "That's a logical time for him to give up the position."
The Brookline resident, who has headed the multi-million-dollar health service since 1971, said he plans to retain his tenured Med School chair after leaving UHS, but will give up his professorship when he reaches the 70-year mandatory-retirement age in 1994.
After dropping UHS administrative duties, Wacker will increase his teaching load and the time he spends on research, he said. He added that he may expand a house seminar he teaches now or develop a new course on public policy.
The 62-year-old magnesium expert and former Cabot House master also said he will devote the spring sabbatical to catching-up on several on-going research projects.
"Since I've been in this present job, it's been very difficult to do any research. You have to make choices," he said.
Although his sabbatical plans are not yet definite, Wacker said he intends to spend about two weeks in Israel with an Israeli physician studying magnesium deficiencies in long-distance runners. He will also co-author a paper at Harvard on medical ethics.
Wacker dismissed rumors that student criticismhad contributed to his sabbatical or hisretirement.
"I have very solid data that the quality ofcare is excellent and I don't pay too muchattention to rumors," he said. "If that hadn'tbeen the case, I would have left in the firstyear."
The sabbatical, which begins February 1, was"overdue," Postel said. During his last sabbaticalin 1977-78, Wacker wrote a medical text "Magnesiumand Man," dealing with magnesium abnormalities.
"Dr. Wacker has been the administrative head inone of the most complex times in medicine," Conantsaid, adding that Wacker has increased the scopeof the UHS while remaining "fiscally responsible."
The greatest achievement during hisadministration, Wacker said, is improvedcommunication between the health care service andthe Harvard community, citing the installation ofa full-time patient advocate and a studentadvisory group.
Wacker also said that UHS has become better atdealing with women's health needs and hasbroadened its range of services to include allprinciple specialties.
The veteran Harvard physician first came toHarvard in 1953 as a doctor-in-training at theHarvard affiliated Peter Bent Brigham Hospital. Hewas appointed to his present post in 1971 bythen-President Nathan M. Pusey with Bok'sapproval