Two Women Promoted to Key Leadership Positions in School of Medicine and Dentistry

August 29, 2000

The Board of Trustees of the University of Rochester has approved the appointments of two women to senior leadership positions in the School of Medicine and Dentistry.

Deborah A. Cory-Slechta, Ph.D., has been appointed to the newly-established post of Dean for Research, and Lindsey C. Henson, M.D., Ph.D., has been appointed Senior Associate Dean for Medical Education. Cory-Slechta and Henson, who were promoted from positions within the medical school, are the first women to be appointed to the rank of dean or senior associate dean in the school's 75-year history.

"The appointments of these two remarkably talented individuals herald an exciting and promising future for the medical school's vital missions of research and education," said Jay H. Stein, M.D., Senior Vice President and Vice Provost for Health Affairs and Medical Center and Strong Health CEO. "Our ability to fill these positions internally is a testament to the depth of talent that is present within our own ranks."

Environmental Scientist Appointed Dean for Research

In the newly-created post of Dean for Research, Cory-Slechta will oversee the medical school's research programs. Growth of these programs has been the focus of a 10-year, $550 million initiative that includes the creation last year of the Aab Institute of Biomedical Sciences. Cory-Slechta will serve as Director of the Aab Institute, which is targeting the recruitment of 70 scientists and more than 300 technicians and support staff who will be housed in the recently completed Arthur Kornberg Medical Research Building. An additional 30 scientists and 180 technicians and support staff will be hired in the medical school's departments of Medicine, Surgery, and Pediatrics. They will be housed in a second research building which is under construction.

Cory-Slechta will have leadership of the research mission across all of the medical school's departments as well as the seven research centers in the Aab Institute. Critical to the development of the research mission, she says, is creating a culture that encourages researchers to think and work interdepartmentally. For example, she plans to foster collaborative research projects that bring together faculty from various departments and research centers to study the molecular underpinnings of diseases and to develop new therapeutic strategies.

"The National Institutes of Health and other agencies continue to express very strong interest in funding collaborative research," said Cory-Slechta. "Experience has proven that we can learn more about a disease by bringing together scientists from different disciplines who look at a single problem from a variety of perspectives. When scientists collaborate, the whole often proves to be greater than the sum of the parts. This is the future of research."

Collaboration among the medical school's researchers, says Cory-Slechta, is also the best way to maximize the benefits that will flow from the medical school's half-billion-dollar investment in its research programs. Cory-Slechta will work closely with Edward M. Hundert, M.D., who was recently named Dean of the School of Medicine and Dentistry. "I am thrilled to have Dr. Cory-Slechta as a co-leader of our school," said Hundert. "We are both completely energized about finding new ways to make the whole greater than the sum of the parts. Together, we plan to role model for the institution the kind of collaboration we hope to foster throughout the school."

Cory-Slechta, a native of Minnesota, is an internationally renowned researcher whose studies have been at the center of public health issues such as lead poisoning and the role of pesticides as risk factors for Parkinson's Disease. After earning a Ph.D. at the University of Minnesota, Cory-Slechta began her career at Rochester in 1979 as a postdoctoral fellow and was appointed to the faculty in 1982. She advanced through the academic ranks and was appointed Professor and Chair of the Department of Environmental Medicine in 1998. She also is the director of the University's Environmental Health Sciences Center, one of 21 research centers in the United States established by the National Institutes of Health to study the role of environmental agents in human disease. Cory-Slechta serves on the editorial boards of five journals and has served as an advisor or consultant to the National Institutes of Health, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Food and Drug Administration, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Medical Education Expert Appointed Senior Associate Dean for Medical Education

A member of the medical school faculty since 1992, Lindsey C. Henson, M.D., Ph.D., will serve as Senior Associate Dean for Medical Education. She will have responsibility for the medical school's undergraduate, graduate, and continuing medical education programs.

Henson succeeds Edward M. Hundert, M.D., who was recently named Dean of the School of Medicine and Dentistry. Henson had served previously as Associate Dean for Graduate Medical Education, where she led the medical school's residency programs through a rigorous national accreditation process administered by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education. The medical school received rare praise from the Council's reviewers, who awarded Rochester's residency programs the highest possible level of accreditation

. "The inspirational leadership of Dr. Henson resulted in the highest ever accreditation for the School of Medicine and Dentistry," said Hundert. "The energy and creativity she brought to that process are wonderfully characteristic of her abilities as an administrator. In her new role, her talents will help to enhance the full scope of our educational mission."

Henson also has been closely involved in the sweeping reform of the medical school's curriculum that has been led by Hundert over the past three years. Named after the intertwining strands that comprise DNA, the "Double Helix" curriculum integrates basic science and clinical medicine throughout all four years of medical school, with students learning to care for patients as they learn the biological and social sciences which are fundamental to understanding diseases and their treatment and prevention. Prior to Hundert's recruitment from Harvard Medical School in 1997, Henson served on a task force that developed the set of principles that later guided the development of the new curriculum.

To date, the first two years of the medical school curriculum have been converted to the Double Helix curriculum. Henson will continue its implementation over the next two years to include the third and fourth years of the curriculum.

In addition, she will begin work on a plan to apply the double-helix principles to the medical school's graduate medical education programs. Just as the new curriculum integrates basic science and clinical medicine in the training of medical students, Henson hopes to better integrate the two in the training of residents.

Henson notes, "We have a unique opportunity with the new medical school curriculum to develop advanced basic science courses that will meet the needs of medical students as well as residents so that the residents and students can study basic science together while the students are assigned to clinical clerkships." These courses will include weekly "basic science rounds" or dedicated two-week basic science blocks, which would be piloted by one or two residency programs in the 2000-2001 academic year.

Henson has a unique perspective on the value of integrating the teaching of basic science and clinical medicine. After spending two years pursuing a Ph.D. in nutrition and physiology, she interrupted her Ph.D. work to attend medical school. Then, after graduating medical school and completing a year of internship in internal medicine, she took a fellowship that allowed her to complete her Ph.D. research and write her dissertation. She served on the faculty of UCLA as a clinical nutritionist for six years before starting a residency in anesthesiology.

"As someone who has worked as a scientist and as a physician at different points in my career, I appreciate for the impact of basic science on the practice of medicine," says Henson. "Science is the foundation for understanding what's happening in our patients. If you aren't skilled and current in science, you're missing an important part of the picture when you're looking at a sick patient."

A native of Los Angeles, Henson earned a B.A. from the University of California at Santa Barbara and an M.S. at Cornell University. At the University of California at Los Angeles she earned her M.D. and Ph.D. degrees, worked as a research fellow, completed a residency in anesthesiology, and served on the medical school faculty. She joined the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry in 1992 as a Senior Instructor and Director of Medical Student Education in the Department of Anesthesiology. In 1994 she was promoted to Assistant Professor, Director of Education, and Residency Program Director in the Department of Anesthesiology. In 1997 she was promoted again to Associate Professor and Associate Dean for Graduate Medical Education.

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