Compton Named Dean of Dartmouth College’s Geisel School of Medicine

  • Duane Compton has been named the next dean of the Geisel School of Medicine. (Courtesy Geisel School of Medicine)

Valley News Staff Writer
Thursday, April 06, 2017

Hanover — Duane Compton has been named dean of Dartmouth College’s Geisel School of Medicine after serving in the role in an interim capacity for almost three years.

“I’m really excited, honestly,” Compton said in an interview on Wednesday, adding that he hoped the continuity of his appointment with his interim service would aid the school. “It’s an honor to continue doing this.”

A professor of biochemistry and cell biology, Compton presided over a major reorganization of the medical school in 2016 that “sharpened Geisel’s focus on medical education and research and ... provided a stronger financial foundation on which the school can move forward,” said a Wednesday Dartmouth news release announcing his appointment.

Stemming from a roughly $30 million deficit, the 2016 restructuring involved the layoffs of about 30 employees and the relocation of nearly 300 jobs to Dartmouth-Hitchcock. Those job losses followed pay freezes and layoffs in 2014.

Compton took the interim role in July 2014 after then-Geisel Dean Wiley “Chip” Souba, an appointee of former college President Jim Yong Kim, stepped down.

Ross Jaffe, a 1980 Dartmouth alumnus and chairman of Geisel’s Board of Overseers, praised Compton’s handling of the financial difficulties.

“Duane was asked to step into the interim role at a difficult time for Geisel, and he has done a remarkable job in guiding the school onto a new and more sustainable path,” Jaffe said in the release. “I am pleased that Duane is being appointed to the permanent dean’s role so that he can continue his efforts to ensure that Geisel is well positioned for the future.”

Compton declined to say exactly where the deficit stood this year, but said that Geisel had reversed the pattern of shortfalls that led to the financial reorganization.

“That negative trend has definitely stopped,” he said. “We’re in a position now where we’re actually doing some new investments.”

Those investments will include faculty recruitment, he said, both from Dartmouth President Phil Hanlon’s faculty “cluster” initiative and from grants that include resources to hire scholars.

Compton said Geisel was looking forward to renovations to its facilities, on both the Hanover and Lebanon campuses, that would involve a reshuffling of researchers to create “neighborhoods” allowing them to work near those who share their interests.

Waning federal grant support has added to Geisel’s financial concerns in past years, and Compton said there was no reason to expect a reprieve.

“I have great concern about some of the proposals I’ve seen from the current (presidential) administration,” he said, adding that he already had begun contingency planning in the event that support from the National Institutes of Health, among other agencies, decreases further.

Geisel, one of the oldest medical schools in the U.S., has about 880 students pursuing various degrees, 900 clinical and research faculty, 650 staffers and about another 1,000 affiliated faculty, according to the release.

Hanlon also offered plaudits for Compton, saying in the release, “It is critical that Geisel’s next leader have a detailed understanding of the school’s mission and goals as well as its operating structure, including Geisel’s relation to its clinical partners. Duane Compton has both that depth of knowledge and a strategic understanding of Geisel’s future opportunities. Duane’s commitment to Geisel’s success has been clear and unwavering.”

Compton is an internationally known cell and cancer biologist and was recruited to the Dartmouth faculty in 1993.

He completed his undergraduate degree in 1984 at the University of Oklahoma and in 1988 earned a doctorate from the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston. He later completed his postdoctoral training in cell biology at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

At Dartmouth, he earned funding from the National Institutes of Health, and in 2013, received an NIH Merit Award for his research on the mechanisms of chromosome segregation during cell division.

He also has earned awards from the college for his teaching.

Compton said in Wednesday’s interview that he was looking forward to an upswing at Geisel. The past couple years, he said, have “allowed us to refine the way that we apply our resources toward our programs. ... I’m excited to see that take off.”

Rob Wolfe can be reached at rwolfe@vnews.com or 603-727-3242.