UTRGV forms committee to search for dean of medical school

November 26, 2016 GMT

EDINBURG — The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley announced the formation of a 29-person committee slated to help select a new dean of the School of Medicine.

The medical school’s founding dean, Dr. Francisco Fernandez, stepped down from the position in July right after the formal introduction of the school’s inaugural cohort of 55 students.

The university appointed Dr. Steven Lieberman, dean of medicine at the UT-Medical Branch in Galveston, to serve as interim-dean during the search, which at the time was expected to last approximately one year. At this point, the search is expected to take up to six months.


The university also hired the company Witt Keiffer to aid the search and sent out letters to committee members in September inviting them to take part.

“As I am sure you know, this position is crucial both to the future of UTRGV and the Rio Grande Valley,” UTRGV President Guy Bailey states in the letter. “We would deeply appreciate your help and insight as we move forward to fill this position.”

There are 16 external members, including McAllen Mayor Jim Darling, Doctors Hospital at Renaissance Chief Administrative Officer Dr. Carlos Cardenas, and Dr. Amy Shaw Thomas, UT-System Vice Chancellor of Academic and Health Affairs.

The additional 13 members are part of UTRGV’s faculty and staff, including Dr. Michael Lehker, dean of the college of health affairs; Dr. Sarawathy Nair, chairman of the department of health and biomedical sciences; and Dr. Sara Williams-Blangero, director of the South Texas Diabetes and Obesity Institute.

The university sent an internal memo Friday updating faculty and staff at the School of Medicine of the process and introducing the committee members. Once the final dean candidates are selected, they will be introduced to the community, according to the letter.

“I have confidence that they will work together diligently to find the right person to lead our School of Medicine and to continue forging relationships between the School of Medicine and the communities it serves,” Bailey said in a memo sent to faculty and staff at the School of Medicine.

Darling said he was happy to serve on the committee and thought it was important to include locals in the process.

The committee met for the first time in September, and Darling said it was more of an organizational meeting to explain the process. The next meeting should happen sometime in December or January, he said, at which point they will screen candidates and Bailey and the Provost will select three to five to visit the university.


For Darling, who recently retired as general counsel at DHR, two qualities are of outmost importance when choosing a candidate — experience and understanding of the uniqueness of the Valley.

“It’s a relatively new school, so one to the things I think we’ll be looking for is somebody who had capacity and experience in a new (school), maybe somebody who was working in the development of that,” Darling said. “Secondly, a little bit of understanding of our culture, which it’s a little different here … someone who understands our region and the border a little bit.”