March 5, 2004

Alastair J.J. Wood named associate dean

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Dr. Alastair J.J. Wood

Alastair J.J. Wood named associate dean

In the growing jungle of competition for research funding, medical student and resident recruiting and various national rankings, Vanderbilt has a new guide in Dr. Alastair J.J. Wood to help beat back the brambles and forge ahead.

Wood, who came to Vanderbilt in 1976, is a professor of Pharmacology and Medicine and was most recently an assistant vice chancellor for Research. Now he has assumed new duties in the form of a newly created position, the associate dean for external affairs, a job that strengthens relationships between the Medical Center and various government agencies, medical student associations and the national media by working with the Office of News & Public Affairs.

“This innovative program will help us in being recognized for our outstanding teaching, patient care and research efforts,” said Dr. Steven G. Gabbe, dean of the School of Medicine. “Alastair has a special blend of experience and talent that will help ensure that the excellent work performed at Vanderbilt is being acknowledged, and as a result, will help us achieve our goal of being in the top ‘10 by 10’.”

Enhancing the school’s rankings, Wood said, are important because those measures have become important benchmarks for many aspects of academic medicine, from increasing federal research funding to continuing to attract top prospects to the faculty and student ranks.

“At our level, we compete with the best schools in the country,” Wood said. “As a research institution, we need to continue to grow and prosper. We cannot sit back on our laurels. It is likely that bigger schools will do exponentially better, especially at attracting more funding, because they have more resources.”

Vanderbilt has climbed steadily the past few years. In 2003, the School of Medicine entered the U.S. News & World Report’s top 15, jumping two spots from the year before to No. 14, the highest ranking ever. In 2002, Vanderbilt University Hospital entered that magazine’s “Honor Roll” for the first time. Also last year, the Medical Center increased its funding to rank No. 18 and was noted as the country’s second-fastest growing research institution.

“We don’t survive by standing still. We survive by moving forward,” Wood said.

Magazine rankings are not the be-all and end-all, Wood said. But, he added, “there’s not a mother in the world who’s going to shell out thousands of dollars on her child’s medical education without consulting the rankings.”

Wood will cut several paths to the top. He will open lines of communication with Vanderbilt’s state and federal government liaisons too so that everyone knows what projects Vanderbilt is working on and what legislation might affect the Medical Center. Likewise, he will create new bonds with the Association of American Medical Colleges, the National Institutes of Health, the Institute of Medicine and other key national organizations to offer assistance in developing national policy statements and other issues affecting academic medicine.

Resident and medical student recruitment will be another focus, ensuring that we provide the resources to compete with the Harvards and Hopkins looming above Vanderbilt in the ranks.

Also, working with the Office of News & Public Affairs, Wood will help increase the visibility and enhance the image of the Medical Center by helping identify potential newsworthy topics among faculty and by serving as a conduit between faculty and the Medical Center’s media relations team and ensuring they have appropriate time and support to attend to news items that deserve national attention.

“We’re at the cusp of the top echelon of medical schools. We need to make the push to get there. We need to be sure we’re providing the best education, clinical care and research for our faculty and for the biomedical science leaders of tomorrow.”