The search to replace Medical University of South Carolina President Ray Greenberg will be long, and it may spill over into 2014, MUSC Board of Trustees Chairman Tom Stephenson said Wednesday.

Words of praise

Some local reaction to the news that Ray Greenberg is leaving MUSC:

“Ray’s many contributions to MUSC and to South Carolina during his distinguished tenure as president cannot be understated, and he will be greatly missed. It has been a privilege and a pleasure to work with Ray over the past three years, and I wish him great success in his new role.”

Etta Pisano, dean of the MUSC College of Medicine

“Dr. Greenberg’s national reputation has certainly made him a sought-after leader in health sciences and health education in our country. The University of Texas has found a superb leader. This is a great opportunity, and I am very happy for him.”

Charleston Mayor Joe Riley

“He has been a leader and a friend to so many on this campus. He will truly be missed.”

Lisa Montgomery, MUSC executive vice president for finance and operations

“Under his leadership, MUSC not only weathered economically hard times that were unprecedented, but the institution grew in its capacities to treat and care for patients while fulfilling ambitious goals in our research endeavors. In particular, Dr. Greenberg’s unwavering support of the Hollings Cancer Center helped us achieve prominent standing throughout the country as a center with National Cancer Institute designation.”

Dr. Andrew Kraft, Hollings Cancer Center director

“He’s a true visionary, leader, scholar. But to have the opportunity to work with him — day-in, day-out — to witness and to play a small piece in helping him put his extraordinary vision into action — I know I am one lucky lady. No words can express how much he will be missed.”

Dena Gregory, assistant to the president, MUSC

“MUSC is where we train our future health providers, and Governor Haley is grateful for the leadership and service Dr. Greenberg has given as its president.”

Rob Godfrey, Gov. Nikki Haley’s spokesman

Greenberg announced Wednesday morning that he is leaving the post for a top position within the University of Texas health care system.

Many accomplishments

Ray Greenberg said it’s difficult to pick one thing he is most proud of during his 13-year tenure as MUSC’s president.

“It’s like who’s your favorite child? There’s lots of things that have happened that have been wonderful,” he said.

Here are some of those accomplishments:

Carolina e-Health Alliance

Directed efforts to establish a shared medical records system among hospital emergency departments in the Lowcountry in 2010, overcoming often intense competition among the health care systems.

South Carolina College of Pharmacy

Helped combine separate pharmacy schools at MUSC and the University of South Carolina to create a new, joint institution. The first class of students graduated in August 2010.

Campus expansion

Oversaw more than 1 million square feet of new construction, including the $400 million Ashley River Tower, which opened in 2008, and the Drug Discovery Building, completed in 2011.

Cancer Center

Helped the Hollings Cancer Center achieve a designation by the National Cancer Institute, marking it one of the premier facilities in the country.

The board convened a special executive session via conference call Wednesday afternoon to name Dr. Mark Sothmann as the university’s interim president to fill the role while the board searches for a permanent replacement.

“It’s likely not to happen real quickly,” Stephenson said. “It might not happen this year.”

Sothmann currently serves as MUSC provost and vice president for academic affairs.

In an internal letter to faculty and staff, Greenberg wrote, “The decision to depart feels to my wife, Leah, and me like leaving a much beloved home and family.”

“It’s very difficult,” he said during an interview. “I’ve been here for 18 years, if you combine the presidency and vice presidency. Obviously, I have a very large network of friends and colleagues that have been built up here over time.”

Greenberg, 57, will leave MUSC in late August. He has been named the executive vice chancellor for health affairs at The University of Texas System, overseeing six health sciences institutions, including the prestigious MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. His new job will be based in Austin. He said he has never lived in Texas.

“This is going to be a first,” he said.

Greenberg succeeded former Gov. Jim Edwards as MUSC president in 2000. He previously taught at Emory University’s medical school in Atlanta and was the founding dean of the Rollins School of Public Health there. Greenberg holds degrees from Duke University, Harvard University and the University of North Carolina.

He said he is most proud of collaborative statewide projects that he has helped spearhead in his tenure as president, and said MUSC’s biggest challenge moving forward will be money.

“There’s going to be less money from the clinical enterprise to help subsidize the teaching and research missions,” he said.

The federal sequester is partly to blame, he said. So are declining appropriations from the state government.

This is “the biggest challenge for academic health centers in general,” he said. “Ours is not atypical.”

Greenberg’s contract with MUSC was set to expire in 2015.

A University of Texas spokeswoman confirmed Greenberg has been offered $700,000 a year in his new role, slightly less than his current salary. At MUSC Greenberg makes more than $750,000 a year, which includes his state employee base pay of $250,629 and a privately funded compensation package.

“It is not about the money,” he said. “It is about the opportunity to be part of a growing and dynamic enterprise that has statewide impact.”

Stephenson said Greenberg is “going to a very good place and a very good job,” and that “we’re terribly distressed to lose him.”

Charleston Mayor Joe Riley praised Greenberg’s accomplishments as president. He also called him a friend.

“He has a rare combination of extraordinary intellect, great wisdom and personal leadership,” Riley said. “Ray and Leah Greenberg have become friends. I will personally miss their presence in our community very much, and I hope that when Dr. Greenberg retires that Ray and Leah Greenberg will make Charleston their home.”

Stephenson said internal candidates will be considered to replace Greenberg, but the recruitment process also will include interviewing candidates across the country.

“We’d be stupid not to do a national search,” he said.

Reach Lauren Sausser at 937-5598.