School of Medicine Dean Larry Shapiro stepping down from executive positions
Larry Shapiro, the executive vice chancellor and dean of the Washington University School of Medicine, announced that he will be stepping down from those positions when his replacement is found.
A national search committee, led by Chancellor Mark Wrighton, will look for the person to replace the Washington University alumnus.
Shapiro can count many achievements to his name, including winning numerous prizes and awards for his work in genetics and pediatrics, holding membership on various scientific organizations, and working for renowned research and teaching institutions. That work started at Washington University, where he developed his passion for science and medicine while studying as an undergraduate.
Shapiro said that a developmental biology course taught by professors Viktor Hamburger and Rita Levi-Montalcini sparked his interest in those fields.
“That course just really kindled my excitement in science. I entered medicine through an interest in science and developed my passion for pediatrics and children’s health care when I was a resident at St. Louis Children’s Hospital. I tried to combine all of those interests over the years. I never thought I’d have the time to return to Washington University, and certainly not as the dean,” he said.
Shapiro, however, said that he wants to give the positions of dean and executive vice chancellor to a replacement who will have more time to shape the school as the field of medicine continues to evolve and new strategies for providing health care make themselves available.
“We are going to have to make a number of strategic decisions in the next little while about changes in health care and health care delivery and changes in research programs and directions. I thought it would be a good time for someone who had a longer runway, a longer time horizon than I might have,” he said.
He is also looking forward to having more time on his own hands.
“This is a busy job; it’s a complicated job because the school is very large. We have almost 2,000 faculty…[we] are important partners with BJC HealthCare,” he said. “The other activities that go on here with our students and so forth do take a lot of time…so maybe just having a few more quiet evenings is something I look forward to.”
Nevertheless, Shapiro said he would like to remain active in the medical community, both on the medical school’s campus and at a national level.
“I try to provide advice and support to a lot of other [research] programs here…but there are other ways in which I can really help participate in research,” Shapiro said. “One thing I would like to do would be to hopefully more effectively convince our government leaders to provide more resources to support biomedical research.”
With regard to the medical school’s future, Shapiro said he is proud about the state in which he’s leaving the school and confident that it will continue to do well under new leadership.
“I think what I’m most proud of is continuing the trajectory of this medical school, which has been a great medical school for over a hundred years. I’m really proud of our programs, our educational programs. We still recruit and attract the very best students in America into the M.D. program for the Ph.D. programs, our very large combined M.D./Ph.D. program. We have top-ranked programs in physical therapy and occupational therapy, audiology and communication sciences. I think most of them are even stronger than when I came. We’ve recruited new faculty, new leadership, new department heads that will continue to strengthen the school and continue to move it forward,” Shapiro said.
He is also confident about the services and research the school and associated hospitals provide, which, in many cases, have expanded and improved since he took over. During his tenure, the Siteman Cancer Center, clinical practice, research efforts and other areas grew significantly.
Provost Holden Thorp, a close colleague of the dean, holds Shapiro in high esteem.
“I’m a faculty member and on the board of Barnes-Jewish Hospital, so I spend a lot of time working on issues with Larry [Shapiro], and he is extremely knowledgeable about academic medicine and he’s an absolute pleasure to work with. He has a great sense of humor, and he has a great way of getting to collaborative solutions,” Thorp said.
Even though he has held positions at different national institutions and has won awards and high accolades from others, Shapiro still maintains a deep respect for Washington University and wants to see it continue to improve itself in the future.
“I think, while the fields of medicine and biomedical science are really exciting, that people should really understand what a special place Washington University is. It’s got a tradition and commitment to excellence that has been there since the very beginning,” Shapiro said.