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Head of U of M's under fire psychiatry department steps down

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The head of the psychiatry department at the University of Minnesota is stepping down following criticism of its human testing programs.

The resignation of department chairman Dr. Charles Schulz was announced internally Wednesday and confirmed in a statement forwarded to BringMeTheNews, bringing an end to his 16 years in charge of the department.

It comes after the U suspended enrollment in human psychiatric studies following an external review of the department's drug trials last month, which revealed sub-standard safety protocols when treating human subjects.

This report was followed by a study by legislative auditor James Nobles into the suicide of Dan Markingson in 2004. He criticized the way Markingson, who suffered from schizophrenia, was enrolled in the anti-psychotic drug trial. He also found the U had failed to admit to serious ethical issues and conflicts of interest the case had raised.

A statement from Dr. Brooks Jackson, dean of the U's medical school, does not make any reference to this controversy.

"Dr. Schulz’s decision was completely his own," he said in statement. "He requested this move to clear the way for new leadership, and to allow him to focus more on clinical care.He will remain a valued member of our faculty, working primarily with patients with schizophrenia."

Markingson case

Dr. Schulz was a co-investigator on the study that enrolled Markingson, which was funded by pharmaceuticals giant AstraZeneca.

Nobles' report says the 27-year-old's mother Mary Weiss wrote to Dr. Schulz on three occasions expressing concerns her son was about to take his own life.

Both Dr. Schulz and Dr. Stephen Olson – who managed the study – were the subjects of an unsuccessful lawsuit submitted by Weiss in 2007.

According to his biography on the U's website, Dr. Schulz is considered a leader in schizophrenia research and was "instrumental" in expanding the U's programs relating to the illness.

A review of the psychiatry department's safety protocols is currently ongoing, with an action plan expected to be presented on May 15.

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