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Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Harvard close to hiring medical school dean

By Liz Kowalczyk, Globe Staff

Harvard University's incoming president, Drew Gilpin Faust, is close to making a key hire, dean of Harvard Medical School, and the finalists include a nationally-known cardiologist and a leading Harvard diabetes researcher, according to several Harvard doctors and officials with knowledge of the search.

Dr. Elizabeth Nabel, a cardiologist who trained at Brigham and Women's Hospital and is director of the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute, is a top finalist for the position, according to two of the sources.

Nabel and the agency's spokeswoman did not return calls asking for comment. While at the University of Michigan during the 1980s and 1990s, she rose to chief of the Division of Cardiology and became known for her research into the molecular genetics of cardiovascular diseases, according to the institute's website.

The sources said that Dr. Jeffrey Flier, chief academic officer at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and a nationally-known researcher on diabetes and obesity, also is a serious contender for the job. He said through a spokeswoman that he would not comment on the search.

Harvard University spokesman John Longbrake said the university would not comment on the search until it is completed.

The next dean of Harvard Medical School will replace Dr. Joseph Martin, who steps down next month, ending a 10-year tenure during which he oversaw dramatic changes to the school's curriculum. Martin, a neurologist, plans to take a sabbatical for one year and then increase his work with the Harvard Center for Neurodegeneration & Repair, a group that is trying to develop new drugs for Parkinson's and Alzheimer's disease and other neurological disorders.

Interim Harvard University president Derek Bok convened a faculty search committee to recommend potential replacements for Martin. But he left the final decision to Faust, partly because of the medical school's importance -- it has 11,000 faculty members and $1.2 billion in National Institutes of Health research grants awarded to the medical school and its affiliated hospitals. The medical school dean also will have a key role in the development of Harvard's new Allston campus, where a major stem cell research institute and other scientific laboratories will be located.

The search committee evaluated an initial list of several hundred candidates, the sources said, but the committee is advisory; Faust conducts the final interviews, makes the ultimate decision, and negotiates the new dean's salary, resources, and fund-raising responsibilities.

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