Chairman of University of Minnesota's Psychiatry Department stepping down

The chairman of the University of Minnesota's Psychiatry Department is stepping down. This comes after intense scrutiny about the school's human research procedures and ethics following the suicide of Dan Markingson, who was involved in a drug trial.

The U of M issued a statement saying, "Dr. Charles Schulz has decided to step down as department head." He led the department for more than 16 years. Officials say they are conducting a national search for a replacement.

BACKSTORY -- Legislative auditor criticizes U of M's handling of Dan Markingson suicide

In March, the Minnesota Legislative Auditor harshly criticized the University of Minnesota's drug research program in a report to lawmakers. The auditor's office found that school leaders consistently ignored conflicts of interest and other ethical issues.

A few weeks earlier, a national panel of experts issued an independent review of the program that said the school needed to do more to protect people enrolled in the drug studies.

Members of the faculty asked the school to conduct that review after a Fox 9 Investigation raised serious questions about the death of Markingson, who committed suicide while enrolled in a drug research study in the Department of Psychiatry in 2004. The 26-year old man suffered from schizophrenia and died after he tried to decapitate himself.

Since the two reports have come out, U of M officials have suspended enrollment in all Department of Psychiatry interventional drug studies and claim to have taken other recommended steps to improve the drug research program.

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

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