Staff Editorial: Expedite the search for a new dean

The School of Medicine and Health Sciences is the University’s most selective school. But it has been without a permanent dean for about 21 months. Over the past year, internal reorganization of the school’s leadership halted the search for a new dean.

The medical school was placed under probation by the Liaison Committee on Medical Education due to high student debt and poor clinical training in 2008. On the whole, a lack of permanent leadership creates some level of instability in a school. An interim dean, as a placeholder, is only in the top seat of power for a limited period of time – also limiting the power he or she has.

And while Interim Dean Jeffrey Akman has been popular among faculty and students, there is only so much someone who is known as a short-term figurehead can accomplish. The Board of Trustees approved the start of a search for a new permanent dean in May. But since then, little progress has been made.

The hiring processes for such prominent positions is always time-consuming, and the University cannot realistically expect to make a decision on a dean for months after the search does begin. But expediting the process as much as possible will ensure progress does not stall.

GW is not unfamiliar with vision and leadership issues. A survey of Columbian College of Arts and Sciences faculty in April revealed that professors largely believed Dean Peg Barratt, who will step down in the spring of 2013, lacked the ability to articulate her goals for the future of the school.

The School of Medicine was rated No. 55 in the U.S. News & World Report research rankings this year. A new dean could elevate the school’s status with a long-term vision.

Medical school students should not have to wait any longer.

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