As the senior vice chancellor for Finance and chief financial officer for the University of Tennessee Health Science Center, Anthony A. Ferrara, CPA, MAS, sees his job as “helping move the institution forward.”
Ferrara has guided the financial reins of the state’s academic health science institution since 2005. It’s no easy task, however, he has managed expertly through periods of economic recession, expansion, status quo, and now, global pandemic.
Ferrara has been recognized as one of the 2020 CFO of the Year honorees by the Memphis Business Journal. This year’s honorees represent nonprofit and for-profit institutions, corporations, academic institutions, philanthropic organizations, as well as financial, real estate, and retail businesses.
“They’re the ones who keep businesses running: who make sure employees are paid, opportunities are seized, and the company is ready for what’s next,” the Memphis Business Journal wrote in announcing this year’s honorees. Nominations were open to the public and honorees were chosen by the editorial team.
Reporting directly to the chancellor, Ferrara serves as a member of the Chancellor’s Cabinet. His responsibilities include the overall financial management of the health science center with its annual budget of roughly $600 million, 3,400 faculty and staff, and enrollment of more than 3,100. This includes the operations of accounting, budgeting, compliance, contracting, and cashiering.
During his tenure, he has:
- Developed and coordinated budget planning for significant reductions in state appropriations – $25 million over three years from a $130 million base budget.
- Developed a quarterly financial report consolidating all segments of the health science center.
- Developed a campus-wide budget request process to provide for input from deans and vice chancellors in preparing a consolidated UTHSC budget supported with metrics.
- Served on multiple steering committees responsible for the transformation of UTHSC’s faculty practice plans in partnership with core affiliate hospitals in Memphis and across the state.
- Increased compliance with state reporting requirements on non-competitive contracts and improved overall management of campus-wide contracting.
- Managed capital project funding, including debt service.
- Served as the secretary to the UTHSC Advisory Board.
- Served as the UTHSC representative to affiliated faculty/physician practice plans.
- Served as the UTHSC representative to university-wide committees, including serving as the UT System HIPAA Privacy Officer.
During the 2018-2019 academic year, UTHSC was the first public university in the state to set the minimum wage for full-time employees at $15 an hour. This is thanks to a structured plan of annual increases for the lowest-paid workers over several years that was designed by Ken Brown, JD, MPA, PhD, FACHE, executive vice chancellor and chief operations officer, and Ferrara.
“Mr. Ferrara was among the first hires I made when I came into this role over 15 years ago,” Dr. Brown said. “In retrospect, that was among the best hiring decisions I have made, for me personally, for the Health Science Center, and for the University of Tennessee as a whole. His unwavering commitment to doing what is in the best interest of the university has been the consistency that has enabled us to continue to grow our campus in unparalleled ways during his tenure here.”
“Suffice it to say, we would not be the institution we are without his support and leadership,” Dr. Brown continued. “There is no better steward of the state’s resources.”
Despite operational funding from the state legislature that has not increased for at least four years, Ferrara has been able to manage costs to avoid tuition increases in recent years and allow for decreases in out-of-state tuition, as well as in-state tuition for some programs, as a way to increase the university’s competitive stature.
Ferrara has been called upon to share his expertise on numerous boards related to the UT System and UTHSC. He has served on the (UT) President’s Task Force on Administrative Effectiveness Steering Committee, the UT System Compensation Advisory Board, the Memphis Research Consortium (treasurer), as well as the boards of various clinical practice plans affiliated with UTHSC, including UT Methodist Physicians, UT Le Bonheur Physicians, and University Clinical Health.
Ferrara has had a distinguished career in finance in higher education. Prior to joining UTHSC, he spent four years at Binghamton University in New York as the vice president for administration. He has held financial leadership positions at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio and the University of Illinois. He has achieved a long list of professional activities and appointments at the various institutions and is the author of many presentations regarding financial issues at academic health science centers.
Marie Chisholm-Burns, PharmD, MPH, MBA, FCCP, FASHP, FAST, dean of the UTHSC College of Pharmacy, said Ferrara “worked endlessly” to assist the college in setting up its Nashville campus. “Mr. Ferrara is a great CFO,” she said. “He is always available and pauses to listen to the problem and works diligently to provide solid solutions.”
UTHSC College of Nursing Dean Wendy Likes, PhD, DNSc, APRN-BC, FAANP, said Ferrara has always been a valuable resource for the College of Nursing and has been vital to its growth. “Mr. Ferrara is very collegial in his interactions and takes initiative to problem solve when issues arise,” she said. “He has been supportive and provided leadership to institute several new programs, such as our RNFA (Registered Nurse First Assistant) and pediatric programs and upcoming midwifery program, to name a few. He has provided leadership to navigate complex collaborative agreements and help evaluate complex university processes. Through all my collaborations with Mr. Ferrara, he has led steadfastly and critically thinks through issues to resolution with a calm demeanor.”