Nancy Brown ’81 will serve as the School of Medicine’s first female dean, pending approval from the board of trustees, University President Peter Salovey announced in a communitywide email on Thursday.

According to Salovey, Brown will replace current dean Robert Alpern starting Feb. 1, 2020. Currently, Brown serves as the chair of Vanderbilt University’s Department of Medicine, a position she has held since 2010. Under her leadership, Salovey wrote, her department’s overall research funding grew by over 50 percent, and the number of faculty and leadership positions filled by women and those from underrepresented groups increased.

“At Vanderbilt, she has created an environment where all can learn, contribute, and succeed,” Salovey wrote in the email.

The appointment comes months after Alpern announced that he would not pursue a fourth term as dean, following a slew of controversies around his actions in the position.

Alpern specifically came under fire in December 2018, when a joint report from ProPublica and the New York Times alleged that he failed to mention that he served on the Board of Directors of the pharmaceutical company Tricida when submitting a research article involving one of its therapies. That year, according to a government pharma payment database, the dean raked in over $640,000 from his ties to the pharmaceutical industry. Brown earned roughly $25,000 that same year.

Alpern also came under fire last year for awarding an endowed professorship to cardiology professor Michael Simons, who was found responsible for sexual harassment by the University-Wide Committee on Sexual Misconduct in 2013. Simons has since been stripped of his professorship, but not before hundreds of School of Medicine affiliates expressed their outrage at the decision in the summer of 2018.

In an email statement to the medical school community last December, Alpern, who first assumed his position in 2004, noted that he will remain at the School of Medicine as a faculty member once a successor is appointed.

In his community-wide email, Salovey expressed his gratitude and appreciation for Alpern, praising him “for positioning YSM as one of the world’s preeminent medical schools.”

“I look forward to celebrating all his contributions in the coming months,” Salovey added.

In an email to the News, Alpern expressed confidence in Salovey’s pick. Brown, he wrote, has “incredible academic accomplishments,” and is an “excellent choice.”

“I am very proud to have her succeed me,” he added.

Even though deans are not involved in the search for a successor, Alpern said that Salovey kept him informed throughout the process.

For Brown — who graduated as a member of Trumbull College with a B.S. in molecular biophysics and biochemistry — returning to campus as a leader is an exciting prospect.

“Early on I will be listening, and getting to know the people and the environment at the Yale School of Medicine,” she wrote in an email to the News.

Her priorities as dean, she added, would be to continue Alpern’s “important work” to make the Yale School of Medicine an inclusive environment and to provide “outstanding care … and training” through its partnership with Yale New Haven Hospital.

Brown’s appointment followed over a dozen listening sessions and countless meetings held by a search advisory committee that Salovey set up to find a replacement for Alpern.

“I am deeply grateful to the members of the search advisory committee, chaired by Dean Lynn Cooley, for their extensive engagement with the medical school faculty, students, staff, and alumni, as well as the broader university community,” Salovey wrote in his email.

Brown’s appointment comes as the University plans to bolster the sciences at Yale. In June 2018, Yale released the University Science Strategies Committee’s report which called for increased investment into STEM fields and recommended creating a series of new institutes, including one dedicated to neuroscience and another focused on data science.

The Yale School of Medicine was established in 1810.

Matt Kristoffersen |