The search for a new permanent dean of the School of Public Health and chair of the Department of Epidemiology and Public Health will begin in early February, Yale Medical School Dean Robert Alpern said. Brian Leaderer EPH ’71 GRD ’75, the former deputy dean and vice chair of public health and epidemiology, assumed the position of interim dean and chair after Michael Merson stepped down from both posts this month.

Alpern said a search committee will be chaired by Dr. Mary Tinetti, a professor of medicine, epidemiology and public health at the Medical School. The other members of the 10-person committee — faculty drawn from the Medical School, the School of Public Health and Yale College — have been chosen but have not yet confirmed their seats, he said.

Tinetti said the school will consider applicants with varied backgrounds and expects international, domestic and internal candidates.

“Among many important criteria, we are looking for a well-respected scientist with an area of expertise relevant to the school’s focus,” she said.

The search will likely be challenging because similar positions at other schools, such as the Johns Hopkins University, are also vacant, Tinetti said. But the competition could create an opportunity for the University, she said, because more individuals might consider applying.

Tinetti said the duration of the coming search is not definite, but it will not likely be completed by the fall semester.

“Our philosophy will not just be to find somebody as soon as possible but, more importantly, to find the right person,” Tinetti said. “We don’t have a set time frame for when to make a final decision. Though it would be wonderful if we had a person in place for the next academic year, it is not very realistic.”

Leaderer, who has a research background in the environmental health sciences and had served as deputy dean and vice chair of the public health department since 2002, said the few weeks he has been interim dean have been rewarding but demanding.

“It is challenging to step into a position with greater financial and administrative responsibilities — to have to quickly learn new things while striving to serve the faculty,” he said.

The interim dean said he has spent much time working with planning committees to begin restructuring the Public Health and Medical schools. He is also assisting in the creation of a document that will guide the next public health dean through a number of future plans.

The planning committee’s long-term goals include efforts to increase academic collaboration throughout Yale by linking the School of Public Health to the University’s globalization efforts and to develop an undergraduate health studies curriculum.

Leaderer would not comment on whether he plans to apply for the permanent deanship.

“For now, I just want to focus on making this an attractive place for the next dean, whoever that will be,” he said.

Nancy Ruddle GRD ’68, who had been director of graduate studies at EPH since 2002, is now serving as the interim deputy dean and vice chair at the School of Public Health.