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Geisel School Dean Plans to Step Down

Dean Wiley "Chip" Souba (Courtesy Geisel School of Medicine)

Dean Wiley "Chip" Souba (Courtesy Geisel School of Medicine)

Hanover — Dean Wiley “Chip” Souba of Dartmouth College’s Geisel School of Medicine plans to step down at the end of this month, bringing an unexpected end to a four-year tenure in which breakthroughs in research funding and progress in curriculum reform were offset by financial pressures that have left the school searching for an additional $10 million in revenue over the next 24 months.

The news that Souba “would not seek reappointment to a second four-year term as dean” came in a news release posted on the Dartmouth Now website.

Souba, who could not be reached for comment, had been dean of the medical school at Ohio State University until September 2010, when he was brought to Dartmouth by former President Jim Yong Kim. In an email to Dartmouth students, faculty and staff on Wednesday, Kim’s successor, Dartmouth President Phil Hanlon, said that “in the next few days, we will inform the community about the interim leadership of the medical school with whom (Souba) will work to ensure a smooth transition through the end of June.”

Justin Anderson, a Dartmouth spokesman, said that the medical school was expected to end its fiscal year with a $5.5 million deficit, down from the $13 million deficit that had been looming. Medical school budget makers will also need to find $10 million in additional revenue over the course of the next two fiscal years, he added. The medical school’s fiscal year ends June 30. Geisel had a $244 million operating budget in fiscal 2011.

Some on the faculty traced Souba’s departure to financial pressures that made it difficult to make changes and progress at the medical school. The dean’s job, which requires balancing an emphasis on education with an emphasis on research, is “naturally controversial,” said Tim Lahey, an associate professor of medicine. “When you add a worsening financial situation to the mix, the controversy intensifies.”

Controversy boiled over in February, after Souba suspended new enrollments in the medical school’s MD-Ph.D program, which, according to its website, trains physician-scientists to “provide excellent patient care, lead discovery in biomedical disease-oriented research, advocate for basic and translational biomedical research and take leadership roles in biomedical research and the delivery of health care.” After a wave of protests from faculty, students and alumni from the program, Souba reopened admissions to the program but continued to evaluate its future.

According to sources familiar with the situation, the financial crunch at Geisel reflects flat funding from the National Institutes of Health and budget woes at Dartmouth-Hitchcock, the Lebanon-based medical complex that is a primary teaching hospital affiliate of Geisel.

“That’s accurate and not inconsistent with medical centers and medical schools across the country,” said Anderson.

Total spending by the NIH, which funds medical research at 2,500 universities, medical schools and other research institutions, peaked at $31 billion in fiscal 2010, sagged to $29.1 billion in fiscal 2013 and is expected to edge over $30 billion this year.

Standard & Poor’s, a rating service used by bond buyers, has awarded an A+ rating to Dartmouth-Hitchcock’s debt but noted that despite a “very strong enterprise profile” the hospital and clinic network has “a slightly weaker financial profile” than some of its peers.

Geisel comprises 360 medical students, 340 master’s and Ph.D students and 2,180 clinical and research faculty and received $140 million in research funding in 2013, according to its website.

In his release, Hanlon hailed Souba’s leadership during the medical school’s successful push for re-accreditation, efforts to reform its curriculum and the awarding of an $18 million Clinincal and Translational Science grant from the NIH.

Elliot Fisher, director of the Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy & Clinical Practice, also pointed to the grant as a major accomplishment for Souba. During his tenure, the medical school reformed its curriculum, strengthened its research infrastructure and raised its profile, Fisher said. Souba had shown a “deep commitment to students and faculty,” he said.

Lahey, who was tapped by Souba to co-lead a small armada of working groups carrying out a “once-in-every-couple-of-decades reformat of the entire four year medical school curriculum,” said that the dean had “recognized that Geisel had a chance to have a nationally (prominent) role in shaping medical education.”

The college news release said that “as a member of the faculty of the medical school, Souba will focus on expanding nationally his interests in the future of medical education.”

Rick Jurgens can be reached at rjurgens@vnews.com or 603-727-3229.

Correction

Tim Lahey is an associate professor of medicine at Geisel School of Medicine. An earlier version of this story misspelled his last name in one instance.