Levine Appointed John and Gertrude Petersen Dean, School of Medicine

Issue Date: 
May 19, 2014

ArthurArthur S. Levine S. Levine has been appointed the John and Gertrude Petersen Dean, marking the first time in the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine’s 128-year history that an endowed chair has been established exclusively for the school’s dean. Levine has served both as dean of the medical school and senior vice chancellor for the health sciences at Pitt since 1998.

“There are few universities in the world in which the health sciences, and particularly medicine, play a more important role than they do at the University of Pittsburgh. Dr. Levine has been instrumental in fostering the University’s remarkable research trajectory in this area, and we are extremely fortunate to have such a talented and accomplished individual in this key position,” Pitt Chancellor Mark A. Nordenberg said. “Dr. Levine’s appointment as the John and Gertrude Petersen Dean is appropriate recognition for the many ways in which the University of Pittsburgh has benefited from his leadership in the health sciences and particularly in the School of Medicine. The creation of this chair also stands as a testament to the extraordinary generosity of John and Gertrude Petersen.”

In commenting on the honor, Levine said: “When I was a student at Columbia University majoring in comparative literature and not yet considering a career in medicine, I never imagined that I would lead a world-class medical school and be honored for my efforts with an endowed chair. It is very gratifying to be recognized for fostering the education and training of physician-scientists who will lead us forward in our quest for excellence in health care and research.”

Levine’s tenure leading the medical school and health sciences schools at Pitt for more than 15 years is significant; only two other current deans nationwide have led the same medical school for a longer time. During his tenure, Pitt’s medical school has consistently been among the top 10 academic centers for research funding from the National Institutes of Health and currently ranks fifth among U.S. medical schools.

His recruitment of renowned scientists has helped Pitt grow into a biomedical research powerhouse. Among such recruits are: Jeremy Berg, former director of NIH’s National Institute of General Medical Sciences, who heads the Pitt-UPMC Institute for Personalized Medicine; National Academy of Sciences members Patrick S. Moore and Yuan Chang, who discovered two of the seven known cancer-causing viruses; neurobiologist Peter Strick, whose work is defining the neural basis of movement and cognition; and Angela Gronenborn, a world leader in nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy techniques to solve molecular structures.

As dean, Levine oversees 31 academic departments. His foresight led to the establishment of the nation’s first Department of Critical Care Medicine in 2002, as well as the Department of Computational and Systems Biology (2004), the Department of Structural Biology (2005), the Department of Biomedical Informatics (2006), and the Department of Developmental Biology (2009), among others. He addressed the need for strategic, focused, and multidisciplinary approaches to research in emerging fields of medicine by establishing the Drug Discovery Institute (2005), the Center for Vaccine Research (2007), the Center for Military Medicine Research (2012), the Institute for Personalized Medicine (2013), and the Brain Institute (2014).

He also played a key role in building the medical school’s presence on the world stage. In 2012, the School of Medicine entered into a unique collaboration with Tsinghua University in Beijing (the “MIT of China”) to bring Chinese medical and graduate students to Pitt for biomedical research training. A year later, the Republic of Kazakhstan’s Nazarbayev University selected the School of Medicine to guide the establishment of its own U.S.-style medical school.

“We have been ambitious and rewarded for it,” Levine said. “We now have a community of stellar scientists and physicians whose achievements have contributed to remarkable advances that will shape the future of medicine.”

Levine, a professor of medicine and of molecular genetics, maintains an active research laboratory focused on the molecular mechanisms of DNA damage and repair and has authored or coauthored more than 250 research papers. He has chaired numerous scientific meetings and advisory boards, as well as served on editorial boards for scientific and medical journals.

Levine received the Meritorious Service and the Distinguished Service Medals of the U.S. Public Health Service, the Surgeon General’s Exemplary Service Medal, the NIH Director’s Award, and the Distinguished Alumnus Award and an Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree from the Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science, also known as the Chicago Medical School, from which he received his medical degree in 1964.

After an internship and residency in pediatrics at the University of Minnesota Hospitals in Minneapolis, Levine completed fellowship training in hematology and biochemical genetics at the University of Minnesota. He joined the National Cancer Institute in 1967 and later became scientific director of the NIH’s National Institute of Child Health and Human Development from 1982 to 1998.

John and Gertrude Petersen, and a small consortium of other donors, funded the endowed dean’s chair. John Petersen, a University of Pittsburgh alumnus, and his wife have long supported the University’s endeavors, including the Petersen Events Center, the Petersen Sports Complex, and the Gertrude E. and John M. Petersen Institute of NanoScience and Engineering.

In celebration of this milestone, Levine delivered a talk, “The Evolutionary Biology of a Dean,” on May 14 in Scaife Hall.