Dear University Community:
After more than 20 years of transformative service to the University of Pittsburgh, Dr. Arthur Levine has informed me of his intent to exit his position as senior vice chancellor for the health sciences and the John and Gertrude Petersen Dean in our School of Medicine.
While this decision means that I must initiate a search process for Art’s successor, I am pleased to report that his role within the University will remain the same until our search is complete. Even then, Art will continue to serve the University—we are both excited about some potential next steps, including his immediate plans to open a lab in our Brain Institute devoted to expanding our understanding of Alzheimer’s disease.
Since Art isn’t departing the University, it’s a bit premature to review his career and achievements in depth. However, this is a big change for Pitt, and it gives us an opportunity to reflect on some of his career highlights to date.
On that front: It’s difficult to overstate the remarkable impact that Art has had on our School of Medicine, on our health sciences programs, on UPMC and on the University of Pittsburgh. He has been an incomparable harbinger of change, spurring a transformation at Pitt that continues today—and that will guide our search for his eventual successor.
In my view, the secret to Art’s remarkable success lies in two anchoring beliefs: 1) that advancing the practice of medicine and human health depends on advancing our understanding of the fundamental science underlying these issues, and 2) that the very best science is done by the very best scientists.
Guided by these beliefs, Art has developed both a deep appreciation of research and a firm conviction that research must be integrated into all aspects of human health and health care. Consequently, Art has created a culture that expertly and predictably weaves research into all other activities—including clinical care, teaching and service. One example of this: Art championed a key curriculum change—the Longitudinal Research Project—that requires all Pitt medical students to complete a mentored, independent research assignment over the course of their four-year education. This move, now a national best practice, aims to connect budding clinicians with career opportunities in the fields of education and research. At the same time, it equips these same students with the skills required to navigate medicine’s ever-evolving knowledge-based landscape.
These same beliefs have powered Art’s unrelenting efforts to build the most productive and remarkable research faculty of any academic medical center in the world. His capacity to identify promising scientists and physicians, get them to Pittsburgh and then work tirelessly to ensure their success is both uncanny and unrivaled. During his time at Pitt, Art has recruited and appointed all of the deans of our health sciences schools. He has also recruited and appointed all but three of the School of Medicine’s 31 department chairs while growing the school by 10 academic departments over the last two decades.
Those who have worked alongside Art—or have watched him work—know that he demands excellence and a high degree of productivity. Not surprisingly, our School of Medicine has enjoyed an unprecedented rise in prestige, capacity and impact—a trajectory that is likely unmatched by any other major academic medical center in the nation.
A vocal champion for the role of fundamental science, Art has cultivated one of the most vibrant and competitive biomedical research enterprises in the world while also fueling Pitt’s swift transformation into one of the strongest research institutions in the country. Under his watch, the University has seen its annual total for sponsored research climb ever higher—pushing beyond the $800 million mark and setting a new record for Pitt last year. With our health sciences programs leading the way, the University now repeatedly ranks among the top five institutions nationally in terms of funding received from the National Institutes of Health.
It’s also no happy accident that Pitt’s rise as a research medical school has occurred in lockstep with UPMC’s evolution into one of the nation’s largest health care systems affiliated with an academic medical center. In medicine, the utility of cutting-edge care depends on a deep understanding of modern science—and the most promising scientific opportunities depend on access to a world-class clinical environment. Under Art’s leadership, Pitt has forged a productive partnership with UPMC that leverages the extraordinary talents of our shared physician-scholars. Remarkably, the easy symbiosis that now defines our shared success is a rare exception and the envy of academic medical centers nationwide.
Another defining quality—beyond an unwavering commitment to excellence and a deep appreciation for basic research—is Art’s consideration of science as a team sport. He has actively and effectively championed collaboration and partnerships across the University, with key institutions like Carnegie Mellon University, with federal agencies and labs and with other medical leaders around the world. This work has paved the way for a number of new multidisciplinary research centers and institutes, including the Brain Institute, Drug Discovery Institute, Center for Vaccine Research, Institute for Precision Medicine, Clinical and Translational Science Institute and Big Data to Knowledge Center of Excellence.
In summary: Art’s dedication to advancing the University’s mission of leveraging knowledge for society’s gain is truly extraordinary and has helped shape this institution—for the better—in indelible ways. I look forward to continuing my close partnership with Art as we search for his successor and he ultimately shifts to his new role within the University. For now, however, please join me in thanking Art for his exceptional history of service to Pitt and his incredible leadership achievements to date.