Dr. David Perlmutter announced as dean of medical school

| Senior News Editor

This month, Washington University announced Dr. David H. Perlmutter as the new dean of the medical school. He will take over for Dr. Larry Shapiro on Dec. 1.

Perlmutter is currently physician-in-chief and scientific director at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh and the Vira I. Heinz Endowed Chairman in the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. He earned his medical degree at Saint Louis University in 1978 and returned to St. Louis as a member of Wash. U.’s faculty. During this time, he was the director of the Division of Gastroenterology and Nutrition at St. Louis Children’s until 2001, when Perlmutter took his current position in Pittsburgh.

Chancellor Mark Wrighton expressed confidence that the role is being handed to the right person at the right time.

“He’s a builder; he has genuine affection for Washington University and our school of medicine…and he sees an opportunity to realize a good fraction of the potential that we have as we look ahead,” Wrighton said. “David Perlmutter comes in with a lot of momentum—the wind is to our back, so to speak. And I think David sees exciting opportunities ahead.”

Perlmutter noted that his excitement for the role comes from his past experiences at the University.

“Because I spent 15 years…actually developing my career as a physician scientist, I know that the school has such wonderful core values—the two most of those are a very high standard of excellence for clinical medicine and research and a culture of collaboration and community—and that is a rare blend for such a large institution,” Perlmutter said.

When he begins his new role as dean, Perlmutter hopes to extend Washington University’s influence in areas where it excels, as well as increasing workplace diversity and sustaining the school’s pipeline of physician scientists.

“I hope that, in continuing the tradition of great accomplishments, that we can be a leader in a number of areas that the school is already a leader in, but perhaps we could be even more influential,” Perlmutter said. “Those could be things like preventing age-dependent degenerative diseases, improving care for the elderly at the end of life, understanding the determinants of the severity of disease. That one is really what personalized medicine is about. And those three things that I mentioned are all things in which great science can potentially lead to real reductions in the cost of healthcare, which at this point is a moral imperative.”

After 12 years of serving as dean of the medical school, Shapiro said that he was excited to see what Perlmutter could do in the role.

“I think the school is at a point of great strength right now without any major challenges or problems. We have lots of new opportunities to explore and to look at, but it looks like a good time to hand off the baton, rather than to do it at a time when there are a lot of issues or a lot going on. I’ve served a good stretch here, and it’s just time to let somebody else have some fun,” Shapiro said.

In his last several months as dean, Shapiro hopes to focus on several faculty recruitments within the medical school as well as a partnership with Barnes-Jewish Hospital and St. Louis Children’s Hospital that would provide substantial new funding to support science and basic research at the medical school.

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