Dr. W. P. Andrew Lee, a world leader in hand transplantation at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, joined UT Southwestern as the new Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs, Provost, and Dean, UT Southwestern Medical School in 2019. Photo take on December 10, 2018.

We recently had the opportunity to sit down with W. P. Andrew Lee, M.D., Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost, and Dean, University of Texas Southwestern Medical School to learn more about how he is driving excellence in medical education.

Q: What initially attracted you to come to
UT Southwestern and what were the main institutional goals you envisioned for UT Southwestern?

A: UTSW is a premier academic medical center on a steep upward trajectory. Its remarkable tradition in basic science research provides a foundation for further advances in translational and clinical sciences, and its health enterprise encompasses a broad spectrum of patient populations with a rapidly expanding University Hospital and Clinics and highly successful regional partnerships. UTSW has deep talents among its faculty body with the potential for attracting additional stellar scientists and clinicians that will elevate the institution to new heights. My vision, therefore, is to build upon its extraordinary strength in basic science and expand its preeminence to include translational and clinical research.

Q: In the two years since you formally became Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs, Provost, and Dean, UT Southwestern Medical School, what are the achievements you are proudest of?

A: I am proud of enhancing the leadership at UTSW at various levels, including the recruitment of new department chairs in Internal Medicine, Neurology, and Neurological Surgery, as well as a Vice Provost and Senior Associate Dean for Clinical Research to lead a new priority area. We selected four women leaders to bring important perspectives and experiences to their respective faculty functions, including an inaugural Assistant Dean for Faculty Wellness, Associate Dean for Graduate Medical Education, and Co-Chairs for the Promotion and Tenure Committee and the Faculty Compensation Committee. These leaders are outstanding physician-investigators with exceptional track records and proven skills to develop and nurture young faculty. In the critical area of diversity and inclusion, we established new positions and recruited an Associate Dean for Faculty Diversity in the Medical School and a new Assistant Dean for Diversity and Inclusion in the Graduate School, and promoted a leader to the same position for the School of Health Professions. These positions represent the institutional emphasis in further promoting equity and inclusion among our faculty, trainees, and students.

Q: What are the areas of improvement you would like to see addressed at UT Southwestern Medical School?

A: Despite its economic growth, Texas lags the country in a number of key health care indices, and the lack of public health expertise was painfully evident during the COVID-19 pandemic in the ineffective implementation of preventive interventions, epidemiologic crisis response, surveillance, and contact tracing. To address the significant void in regional expertise, we will establish a research-intensive, 21st century School of Public Health at UTSW by building upon our existing strengths in biomedical sciences and clinical care of diverse patient populations. Leveraging clinical informatics and data sciences are institutional priorities at UTSW, where we established a Center for Clinical Informatics. We will launch a Master of Science in Health Informatics program and an ACGME Fellowship in Clinical Informatics in the next 1-2 years. Finally, we aim to enhance the infrastructure and support in clinical research for our faculty to engage in productive clinical investigation and trials.

Q: What are your future goals for UT Southwestern Medical School especially as it looks to maintain its place as one of the world’s elite academic medical centers? How can it best position itself to recruit the next generation of exceptional physicians and researchers?

A: As we expand our clinical enterprise and provide top-quality patient care, we will maintain our focus on education and research of the highest caliber. Important goals include: expanding the pipeline of minority students and trainees so the faculty composition resembles its patient population and community; producing the next generation of scientists and physicians to continue the UTSW tradition of discovery and excellence; and enhancing UTSW’s reputation for developing clinical innovations and translational research as we continue to excel as a leading international scientific medical institution. As the only academic medical center in a fast-expanding metropolis, I am optimistic that we will reach our goals by building upon our deep heritage of scientific excellence, commitment to education, wide community support, robust health system, and abundant faculty talents.

Dr. Lee is a professor of plastic surgery and holds the Atticus James Gill, M.D. Chair in Medical Science