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Transition in leadership underway at Morehouse School of Medicine

By Maria Saporta
Published in the Atlanta Business Chronicle on Friday, June 28, 2013

Morehouse School of Medicine will undergo a near-seamless transition of leadership in the coming year.

Its president, Dr. John E. Maupin, is announcing his retirement from MSM effective July 1, 2014, and his successor will be Dr. Valerie Montgomery Rice, currently MSM’s executive vice president and dean of the medical school.

Montgomery Rice will become the nation’s first African-American woman to become president of an independent medical school and only one of three women to hold such a position. Only 16 percent of the nation’s medical school deans are women.

The medical school also will be changing its leadership structure, a move that the board approved in 2010 based on Maupin’s recommendation. The position of president and dean of the medical school will be combined once Montgomery Rice takes office.

Maupin said the change in leadership structure will be “much more efficient and less bureaucratic” for the free-standing, community-based medical school.

“I didn’t think we needed all the layers,” Maupin said. “With the dean being the CEO, then you can also have a stronger layer of second-tier leaders.”

Montgomery Rice welcomed the “smooth passing of the baton” between her and Maupin, saying that it will reassure all the people who have invested in the institution that MSM will continue on the same path.

“We are on the same page,” she said, adding that MSM’s mission remains the same — to address the physician shortage in Georgia, particularly in underserved communities. MSM makes a “consistent effort” for its graduates to go back and serve in those communities.

Maupin, who will turn 67 in October, said the transition year will be an opportune time for him and Montgomery Rice to start mapping out a capital campaign that she will be able to carry out during her tenure as president.

That is one initiative that Maupin had to put on hold during his presidency, partly because of the economy and partly because he didn’t want to have a campaign at the same time as the Grady Hospital fundraising campaign.

Maupin became president of the Morehouse School of Medicine in 2006. At the time, the school had an entering class of 52 students. This fall, there will be 70 students entering MSM. “We are on track to move that to 100 by 2016,” Maupin said.

At the same time, MSM has expanded its affiliations with regional hospitals. In addition to Grady Hospital, MSM has developed and expanded relationships with the Veterans Administration, Atlanta Medical Center and South Fulton Hospital as well as Gwinnett and Rockdale.

Those clinical affiliations and other partnerships have helped MSM increase its class sizes. MSM also has increased its academic offerings by adding three new master’s programs, enhanced its research capabilities and expanded its community outreach efforts.

Although MSM didn’t have a capital campaign, Maupin said the endowment did increase by $20 million to about $80 million; and several capital improvements have been underway thanks to federal stimulus funds and key donors.

Maupin, the fifth president of MSM, has more than 30 years of experience in health-care administration, public health and academic medicine. Before becoming president of MSM, he served as president of Meharry Medical College in Nashville, Tenn., for 12 years — being the first alumnus and second dentist to lead the institution.

But Maupin actually has been on his second tour of duty at MSM. He served as its executive vice president and chief operating officer from 1989 to 1994. He also served as executive director of Morehouse Medical Associates, the school’s faculty practice plan.

It was at Meharry that Maupin first met Montgomery Rice, when she chaired the school’s OB-GYN department.

“I was quite impressed with her,” Maupin said, adding that she showed strong leadership and management skills as well as an ability to get people to work together. “As I left Meharry, I named her dean of the medical school.”

Several years later, after the MSM board had decided that it ultimately would like to combine the positions of president and medical school dean, Maupin said a search committee came up with three finalists for a new medical school dean. Montgomery Rice was one of those three.

Although she was the top choice of both Maupin and the board, he added that there were no guarantees that she would be the next president. A full evaluation would be done once Maupin let the board know of his plans to retire. That process began this past April.

“We are appreciative for the service and superior leadership Dr. Maupin displayed during his seven-year tenure as president,” said Anthony Welters, chairman of MSM’s board of trustees and executive vice president of UnitedHealth Group, in a statement.

“Under Dr. Maupin’s guidance, the school has made significant advances, expanding academic programs and clinical affiliations, creating innovative partnerships, modernizing facilities, and strengthening the infrastructure to better support research, patient care and teaching,” Welters added. “The board of trustees is confident that the carefully orchestrated, three-year succession plan will help to maintain business continuity, provide a seamless transition and help to facilitate Dr. Montgomery Rice’s success as the next leader.”

Montgomery Rice also has strong Georgia roots. “I’m from Macon,” she said. “I grew up in a single-parent household with three sisters. My mother rose to be the highest-ranking woman at Georgia Kraft. She raised very independent young ladies. She whispered in our ears at night: ‘You can be everything you want to be.’ ”

So Montgomery Rice ended up at Georgia Tech getting her degree in chemistry. She then received her medical degree from Harvard Medical School and completed her training in obstetrics and gynecology at Emory University Medical School and reproductive endocrinology and infertility at Hutzel Hospital in Detroit.

“I’m excited about this opportunity,” Montgomery Rice said. “And I feel that the experience that I’ve gained in the last 20 years has prepared me for this role.”

Maria Saporta

Maria Saporta, Editor, is a longtime Atlanta business, civic and urban affairs journalist with a deep knowledge of our city, our region and state.  Since 2008, she has written a weekly column and news stories for the Atlanta Business Chronicle. Prior to that, she spent 27 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, becoming its business columnist in 1991. Maria received her Master’s degree in urban studies from Georgia State and her Bachelor’s degree in journalism from Boston University. Maria was born in Atlanta to European parents and has two young adult children.


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