Following current School of Medicine Dean Robert Alpern’s Wednesday announcement that he will no longer seek reappointment for a fourth term of deanship, the University will initiate a search for a new School of Medicine dean.
In an email to the School of Medicine community on Wednesday, Alpern announced that though he plans to step down from the deanship he will pursue his academic interests as a Yale faculty member once his successor is appointed. While he considered serving another term as the dean of the School of Medicine this summer, he realized earlier this fall that remaining as the school’s dean “was not the right decision,” Alpern stated.
In a University-wide email later Wednesday afternoon, University President Peter Salovey praised Alpern’s work in advancing the School of Medicine’s research and educational program and increasing its resources. He added that the University will form an advisory committee and hire a search firm in January to appoint the new School of Medicine dean.
“After 21 years as dean, 15 of them at Yale School of Medicine, last year I considered whether to serve a fourth term at Yale,” Alpern said in his email. “On the one hand, it was difficult to envision serving five more years; on the other hand, we were in the middle of many important projects, and there were a number of newly appointed deputy deans and chairs. … I consulted with President Salovey, and we agreed that the school has prospered over the past 15 years and now is the time to make a leadership transition.”
Alpern’s decision to step down as the School of Medicine dean comes amid the launch of Yale’s next capital campaign, as well as the implementation of campuswide science strategies. According to the University Science Strategy Committee report released in June, Yale will establish a Inflammation Science Institute and a joint Neuroscience Institute, which will appoint faculty members from the School of Medicine and the Faculty of Arts and Sciences. In the email, Alpern noted that it would not be “optimal” for a dean to transition as these new institutes are created and other science strategy improvements are implemented.
In an email to the News in September, Alpern said he wanted to be reappointed as the dean of the School of Medicine because he “enjoy[s] working with [his] leadership team and with all elements of the school to improve its excellence.” In August, Salovey asked School of Medicine faculty members for their “views concerning the state of the school under [Alpern’s] leadership” — a standard practice for any dean nearing the end of their five-year term, according to Yale spokeswoman Karen Peart.
But the review of Alpern’s deanship took place as controversy swirled over Yale’s decision to grant a newly endowed professorship to cardiology professor Michael Simons, whom the University-Wide Committee on Sexual Misconduct found guilty of sexual harassment in 2013. Hundreds of School of Medicine alumni, students and faculty members signed a petition that criticized the school’s climate during Alpern’s tenure as dean and called for “new innovative leadership.”
“Under his leadership, the Yale School of Medicine has become synonymous with harassment,” the petition stated. “Dean Alpern is responsible for fostering the culture in which these cases arose, and for the culture that allows such men to remain in power. It is time for a change to return Yale to an institution of which we can be proud. We hope that with new, innovative leadership, Yale can lead the way in creating an academic institution that is safe and equitable for everyone.”
But in his email to the campus-wide community, Salovey said Alpern has strived to create an inclusive and supportive environment at the School. Salovey highlighted that Alpern recruited the inaugural deputy dean for diversity and inclusion, instituted an annual review of faculty members compensation and opened a second childcare center at the School of Medicine.
Earlier this month, however, controversy swirled again as a joint report by the New York Times and ProPublica found that Alpern — who received over $500,000 in 2017 from pharmaceutical companies — failed to accurately disclose his ties to Tricida when he published a 2017 research article on one of the company’s therapies. In an email to the News, Peart said Yale encourages its faculty members to engage in sponsored research and “in other activities that may benefit not only the participants but also the university itself, and the larger public.”
In the Wednesday email, Salovey praised Alpern for advancing the School of Medicine’s mission of research, education and clinical care and positioning it as one of the world’s preeminent medical schools. Alpern oversaw the opening of the Yale Center for Clinical Investigation and helped secure the largest grant in the University’s history through the Clinical and Translational Science Awards Program, Salovey added.
Alpern became the dean of the School of Medicine in 2004.
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