By SUSAN JONES
Just about a year after Arthur Levine announced he wanted to transition out of his positions of senior vice chancellor for Health Sciences and dean of the School of Medicine, Pitt has named his replacement.
Anantha Shekhar — executive associate dean for research affairs at the largest medical school in the nation: Indiana University School of Medicine — will officially assume both roles at Pitt in June 2020, after the Board of Trustees votes to make him an officer of the board at its February meeting.
At IU, Shekhar also serves as a distinguished professor, associate vice president for university clinical affairs and research, executive vice president of academic affairs for clinical research at IU Health, and founding director of the Indiana Clinical and Translational Sciences Institute, the only statewide institute of its kind.
“This is a critical hire for the University of Pittsburgh,” Chancellor Patrick Gallagher said in a news release. “Anantha’s capacity to envision solutions, galvanize partnerships and produce results is second to none, and his record of propelling both people and institutions to success is unparalleled.”
Shekhar will oversee all six health sciences schools and the work of more than 6,000 faculty and staff, while working closely with Pitt’s clinical partner, UPMC. The six schools serve approximately 5,000 students.
Levine, who has been in his positions for 20 years and will continue to research how to prevent Alzheimer’s disease, has for the past several years been the highest-paid academic officer at Pitt. His base salary from Pitt for 2019 was $891,667, plus what he earned from UPMC. There is no word yet on what Shekhar will be paid.
When the search process began last year, Faculty Assembly voted in a straw poll to support the idea of splitting the positions of senior vice chancellor for health sciences and dean of the School of Medicine. Chancellor Patrick Gallagher said this idea would be considered during the search, but ultimately the administration decided to hire one person for both jobs.
At a public forum last year, faculty and staff expressed concerns that the selection committee consider the needs of all six health sciences schools and more diverse candidates.
Shekhar, who was born in India, earned his medical degree from St. John’s Medical College in India and a Ph.D. in neuroscience at Indiana University. He has received continuous funding from the National Institutes of Health for basic, clinical and translational research since 1989 and has authored more than 200 articles in peer-reviewed publications.
“I am honored and inspired to be joining one of the most respected medical and research communities in the world,” Shekhar said in a news release. “Building on the University of Pittsburgh’s exceptional record of health sciences education, innovation, clinical excellence and research pre-eminence is my top priority, and I look forward to advancing this goal in partnership with UPMC — for the greater good of society — in the months to come.”
His professional accomplishments, according to the Pitt news release, include:
Growing the IU School of Medicine’s research funding from the National Institutes of Health by 73 percent since 2015. Pitt ranks in the top five in NIH funding.
Co-founding or leading five biotech companies, including Anagin, a startup company that is developing treatments for post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injury, neuropathic pain, depression, Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease.
Forming two commercial incubators within the Indiana Clinical and Translational Sciences Institute—one for therapeutics and another for medical devices—that currently host more than 15 companies in various stages of commercialization.
Directing a laboratory that has developed highly regarded translational models for panic and related anxiety disorders that resulted in patents for novel therapies and the discovery of new treatments.
Provost Ann Cudd chaired the search committee and Steve Shapiro, a professor in the School of Medicine and chief medical officer of UPMC, served as vice chair. More than half of the committee were from the schools of the Health Sciences.
“Anantha’s exceptional and deep experience in basic research leading to novel, patentable therapeutics and in directing large, multi-institutional research initiatives, as well as being an award-winning teacher, will provide transformative contributions to our efforts going forward,” Cudd said in the news release.
Others from the Health Sciences praised the selection of Shekhar, according to Pitt’s news release.
“Dr. Shekhar is a national visionary known for transforming the approach to medical research and its integration into health,” said Steven Reis, associate vice chancellor for clinical research and director of the Clinical and Translational Science Institute. “He worked closely with the most senior leaders at NIH and from universities across the country to create translational science as an academic discipline, which changed our approach to research. We are fortunate that he is coming to Pitt.”
“He is well known and widely respected in the national CTSI arena and in the interprofessional practice and training community,” said Jacqueline Dunbar-Jacob, dean of the School of Nursing. “He has a rich and diverse experience to bring to the position, and we are looking forward to working with him to forge new and deepen existing efforts under his leadership.”
Susan Jones is editor of the University Times. Reach her at email@example.com or 412-648-4294.
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