Courtesy of DeCarlo

On March 11, the Yale School of Medicine unveiled a portrait honoring the late Carolyn Slayman, beloved chair and Sterling Professor of genetics as well as the medical school’s first deputy dean for academic and scientific affairs.

A press release stated that the School of Medicine commissioned British artist Alastair Adams to paint the portrait, which depicts Slayman seated by a window in her office on a bright day. The work is currently displayed on the second floor of the Sterling Hall of Medicine next to the Dean’s Office and hangs among numerous photographs of prominent women faculty at the School of Medicine. A permanent location for the portrait has not yet been determined, according to the press release.

“Carolyn cared deeply about scientific excellence and for the people who brought that excellence to Yale,” School of Medicine Dean Robert Alpern told the News in an email. “She was especially committed to the many junior faculty to whom she offered critical advice regarding their academic careers and their lives. For me she was a wealth of wisdom and excellent judgment and a close friend. Her calm, thoughtful and caring demeanor enriched the lives of everyone at Yale.”

On the School of Medicine website, Alpern wrote that Slayman was well-known for her genetics research on membrane transport proteins. She joined the School of Medicine in 1967 as an assistant professor in the departments of microbiology and physiology.

During her tenure at Yale, Alpern said that Slayman played an instrumental role in Yale’s applications for institutional grants, including the National Institutes of Health’s Clinical and Translational Science Award — a $57 million grant, the largest the medical school has received. Slayman also helped create several School of Medicine core facilities such as West Campus’ Center for Genome Analysis.

“Her unflappable nature, keen intelligence, sense of humor, and ability to hone in on a solution regardless of the problem at hand will be sorely missed,” Alpern wrote on the website following her passing two years ago. “On a personal level, I worked side by side with Carolyn for the past 13 years and will be forever grateful for her counsel and friendship.”

The School of Medicine unveiled the portrait on the 82nd anniversary of Slayman’s birth at a gathering in the Medical Historical Library, where “both tears and reminiscences flowed as colleagues, relatives, and some who had never met Slayman filled the library,” according to the press release.

“She tried to make this the best place she could, the best medical school she could,” Slayman’s husband and professor emeritus of cellular and molecular physiology Clifford Slayman said in the press release. “She did that … without injecting her own ego. She did it for us.”

The press release states that Adams, who has painted portraits of other prominent Yale faculty members including Chief Investment Officer David Swensen and Yale College Dean Marvin Chun, used interviews with those close to Slaymen to inform his approach to the portrait. Adams also drew from a collection of photographs that depicted Slayman in her Sterling Hall of Medicine office. The photographs were taken by then-University photographer and current Cushing Center Coordinator Terry Dagradi, according to the press release.

Part of the Aperture exhibition, the photographs that flank Slayman’s portrait are accompanied by placards recounting faculty members’ responses to questions such as “What would you say to inspire a young scientist?” and “If you could talk to a younger you, what would you say?”

The exhibit is the first of its kind to be conceived by the newly formed Yale School of Medicine Committee on Art in Public Spaces. CAPS was founded in January to spearhead new ideas for exhibitions that would diversify artwork currently on display at the medical school, which Alpern said in an address did not reflect the institution that the School of Medicine has become.

“I hope that our work leads to intellectual conversation about the issues that are facing America as a whole, not just Yale School of Medicine,” said School of Medicine Chief Diversity Officer and CAPS co-chair Darin Latimore.

Slayman is survived by her husband and her children Andrew Slayman and Rachel Platonov ’96.

Marisa Peryer |