April 2021

Longstanding UMSOM Dean to Step Down in 2022

April 1, 2021    |  

University of Maryland School of Medicine (UMSOM) Dean E. Albert Reece, MD, PhD, MBA, a widely recognized visionary leader who elevated UMSOM into a top-tier biomedical research and patient-focused academic center, announced that he will complete his 16-year tenure as dean at the end of the next academic year. He will return to the UMSOM faculty, where he will lead a new center and continue research and teaching.

Dean Reece gives a high-five of encouragement to a student in the Mini-Med School for Kids Program.

Dean Reece gives a high-five of encouragement to a student in the Mini-Med School for Kids Program.

Reece, who also is executive vice president for medical affairs for the University of Maryland, Baltimore (UMB) and the John Z. and Akiko K. Bowers Distinguished Professor, was appointed as UMSOM’s 30th dean in 2006. During his deanship, he led UMSOM through a period of unprecedented, record-breaking growth and achievements across all its areas of operation, enabling the school to reach major milestones in research, clinical care, reputation, and global impact. He is considered to be one of the most successful deans in the United States as well as in our institution’s rich 214-year history.

Under Reece’s leadership:

  • Research funding more than doubled, achieving record levels of research activity and funding — growing from $323 million to soon approaching $600 million.
  • Clinical revenues also more than doubled since 2006 — growing from $160 million to $351 million, with UMSOM faculty providing outpatient and inpatient care to more than 1.5 million patients a year.
  • Clinical practice locations expanded across the state — growing from six to 60 locations, including a new, advanced health care facility at Waterloo Crossing in Columbia, Md. This facility provides urgent, primary, and specialty care as well as a surgery center.
  • UMSOM’s global footprint expanded to research and treatment facilities in more than 30 countries around the world.
  • Reece built a lasting partnership with the University of Maryland Medical System (UMMS) that is a model for academic medicine (“The Power of Partnership”).
  • UMSOM became a hub of innovation with 576 scientific disclosures, 130 U.S. patents issued, 228 foreign patents issued, 205 technology inventions licensed, and 33 startup companies formed.
  • Reece has provided unwavering leadership through two economic recessions and two pandemics (Ebola and COVID-19). During the COVID-19 pandemic, UMSOM has emerged as one of the medical schools on the front lines, conducting statewide COVID-19 testing, national leadership in vaccine development, clinical trials of two of the three COVID-19 vaccines approved by the Food and Drug Administration for emergency use, as well as research and testing of therapeutics for COVID-19.
  • Despite the COVID-19 virtual paradigm, UMSOM launched an overhaul of the medical education curriculum, now called the “Renaissance Curriculum.”
  • In 2021, UMSOM has climbed to its highest national ranking ever, moving into the top 10 ranking among public medical schools and the top 20 percent among all medical schools in the nation.

“I deem it a distinct honor and privilege to have led the UMSOM over several years,” Reece said. “Much of the accomplishments and successes in UMSOM are due to the excellent team I have been blessed to work with and the support of the UMB leadership over the years. The support from the UMSOM Board of Visitors, the alumni, directors, chairs, dean’s senior staff, and assistants has been truly invaluable. I am most pleased to pass the baton to a new dean who undoubtedly will take the UMSOM to new heights.”

A leading physician-scientist and member of the prestigious National Academy of Medicine (NAM), Reece has served on NAM’s Governing Council and Executive Committee. He holds faculty appointments as professor in the Departments of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Medicine, and Biochemistry & Molecular Biology. During his entire deanship, Reece remained active in his National Institutes of Health (NIH) multimillion-dollar research laboratory group, studying the biomolecular mechanisms of diabetes-induced birth defects. This laboratory was transitioned to become the Center for Birth Defects Research. Reece promoted his mentee and lab associate, Peixin Yang, PhD, professor, Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology, and Reproductive Sciences, to direct the center with him. The center is now supported by seven NIH RO1 grants. Notably, Reece and his colleagues have unraveled the molecular mechanism into the causation of diabetes-induced birth defects and have identified and patented molecular targets to be used in preventive and therapeutic strategies.

At the national level, Reece is well-known among medical school deans for his mentoring of faculty across the U.S. who aspired to leadership positions. Through his active participation in the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) Dean’s Fellowship Program, many senior faculty members have “shadowed” Reece during his tenure and received valuable mentoring from him.

Reece has served on many medical, governmental, and civic organization committees, including serving as chair of the Council of Deans of AAMC. He currently serves on the board of Research America and recently was named to the board of the Lasker Foundation. During his career, he has served additional organizations, agencies, and cultural/educational institutions, including the secretary of Health and Human Services’ Committee on Infant Mortality, the March of Dimes Birth Defects Foundation, the Harvard/ Massachusetts General Hospital Scientific Advisory Committee, and the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra.

Reece is a sought-after visiting professor and lecturer at numerous institutions nationally and internationally. He has published extensively in the scientific literature — 12 books including revisions and more than 500 publications. He has received numerous special awards, citations, and honorary degrees from universities and governmental organizations in recognition of his distinguished leadership, lifetime achievement, and major contributions to science and medicine.

“I was heavily involved in the recruitment of Dean Reece when he came to UMSOM as dean,” said former University System of Maryland (USM) chancellor William “Brit” Kirwan, PhD. “I consider his appointment to be one of the most important efforts I was involved in as chancellor of the University System of Maryland. Under Dr. Reece’s leadership, our School of Medicine has soared to new heights of excellence as a powerhouse in medical research, a highly regarded institution for training the next generation of doctors, and a valued source of community engagement. His irrepressible commitment to excellence in all aspects of the school’s mission has been transformative. He leaves a legacy of accomplishment that will endure for the benefit of generations to come.”

A Leader in Service

As dean, Reece also has been a prominent leader in the local business and health care communities. He has been a visible member of the local community and a familiar face to residents who attend UMSOM’s various community programs. Each year at Thanksgiving, Reece has been a fixture at Project Feast, where he serves dinner and engages with community residents. He also is well-known by the hundreds of participants (adult and children) who are “students” in UMSOM’s highly successful and longstanding Mini-Med School and Mini-Med School for Kids programs. At each Mini-Med School Graduation Ceremony, Reece greets and delivers special completion certificates to each community participant.

With a new charter and new leadership, UMSOM’s Program in Health Equity and Population Health, directed by Erin Hager, PhD, associate professor of pediatrics, and Laundette Jones, PhD, MPH, associate professor of epidemiology and public health, now combines research, education, and service to advance health equity by addressing the critical health issues often influenced by the social determinants of health. In recent years, the program has generated 331 active grants with funding of $128 million.

Bruce E. Jarrell, MD, FACS, president of UMB, said, I wish to thank Dean Reece for his outstanding leadership in creating an even stronger medical school and wish him all the best as he transitions out of the deanship. Dean Reece leaves the School of Medicine in an excellent position for a new leader to take the school into a post-COVID world.”

Growth of the Academic Enterprise

During his deanship, Reece presided over dramatic growth of an academic enterprise that now totals 45 academic units, including 25 departments and 20 research centers, institutes, and programs. He expanded UMSOM’s academic facilities to 17 buildings, covering more than 2.5 million square feet of research and academic space, and led the planning and construction of a 430,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art advanced research facility. Subsequently, he launched a nationwide investigator recruitment effort, resulting in 30 teams of top NIH-funded scientists from leading institutions across the country joining UMSOM’s faculty of more than 3,500 physicians and scientists. He also led the complete renovation of Leadership Hall into an elegantly designed 700-seat, theater-style structure that hosts major conferences and special events.

Over the past five years, Reece has successfully recruited a new generation of department chairs with the appointment of top physicians and scientists from inside and outside UMSOM.

From the beginning of his tenure as dean, Reece was keenly focused on elevating UMSOM’s leadership position in biomedical research, building on the foundation laid by his predecessor, also a visionary leader, Dean Emeritus Donald Wilson, MD. Reece laid out a specific plan to focus on “Big Science Research,” with the goal of fundamentally changing the health care landscape and making a lasting and direct impact on patients’ health and well-being.

Soon after joining UMSOM as dean, Reece and Jarrell, who served as UMSOM executive vice dean), successfully recruited two well-known and highly accomplished scientists and their research teams to the school: Claire Fraser, PhD, who established the Institute for Genome Sciences (IGS), and Robert Gallo, MD, who transitioned the Institute of Human Virology (IHV) to UMSOM. In the ensuing years, Reece launched additional centers, such as STAR (Shock Trauma, Anesthesiology Research Center) and the Center for Epigenetic Research in Child Health and Brain Development, the Center for Blood Oxygen Transport and Hemostasis, and others, now totaling 20. He also significantly expanded the Center for Vaccine Development and Global Health.

In 2013, in the midst of a challenging economy and a dearth of commercial construction, Reece embarked on an ambitious plan to construct a new world-class research facility for UMSOM. Despite significant challenges, Reece, along with then-USM chancellor Kirwan and former UMB presidents David Ramsay, DM, DPhil, and Jay Perman, MD, relentlessly pursued and successfully implemented a multifaceted plan to make the new facility a reality.

In December 2017, UMSOM opened its new 430,000-square-foot research building Health Sciences Research Facility III (HSRF III), the largest building ever constructed in USM, setting a new standard of excellence in biomedical research, innovation, and discovery. Working in HSRF III’s state-of-the art laboratories with cutting-edge genomic technology, faculty physicians and scientists are working together on breakthrough treatments for cancer, diabetes, and heart disease.

In 2013, Reece launched Accelerating Innovation and Discovery in Medicine (ACCEL-Med), a major UMSOM initiative designed to increase the pace and scope of clinical and basic sciences research. The ACCEL-Med initiative was launched with the first UMSOM Festival of Science, which has become an annual full-day symposium highlighting the breakthrough research being conducted by UMSOM faculty. A cornerstone of ACCEL-Med was the dean’s formation of UMSOM’s first Scientific Advisory Council (SAC) to review and evaluate UMSOM’s research efforts on an annual basis. The council, which included preeminent scientists, Nobel laureates, and National Academy members, continues today.

At the inaugural Festival of Science, Reece announced the opening of new core biomedical research facilities with funding from NIH, the Center for Innovative Biomedical Resources. It was the first time that UMSOM had established a center of excellence for state-of-the-art technologies, high-tech instrumentation, and expertise to support biomedical research, clinical practice, and health care. Dean’s Challenge Awards also were established to provide seed funding to UMSOM scientists and encourage collaborations across departments. In 2021, UMSOM has climbed to the top tier of medical schools in federal research funding.

“Dean Reece’s mark on the School of Medicine is unmistakable; he's been integral to its enormous success,” said Perman, now USM chancellor. "It’s fitting that Dean Reece leaves the deanship at a time when the school is enjoying such well-deserved acclaim, nationally and internationally. I wish him all the best as he transitions into a role that gives him the same personal and professional satisfaction as have his 15 years leading UMSOM.”

Major National Designation and Clinical Expansion

Reece led significant growth of UMSOM’s clinical practices across the state of Maryland during his tenure as dean: 

  • Clinical revenue has increased by more than 118 percent since 2006 (from $160 million to $351 million), and total patient volumes increased by 62 percent, from 951,000 in Fiscal Year 2006 to more than 1.5 million in FY 2020.
  • In collaboration with UMMS, the UM Cancer Network was established across UMMS, with locations at the University of Maryland Medical Center (UMMC), Baltimore-Washington Medical Center’s Tate Cancer Center, UM-St. Joseph’s Medical Cancer Institute, UM Chesapeake Health Cancer Center, and UM Shore Regional Cancer Program.
  • The University of Maryland Marlene and Stewart Greenebaum Cancer Center was awarded the National Cancer Institute’s highest designation as a Comprehensive Cancer Center. The prestigious distinction recognizes the Cancer Center’s high caliber of scientific leadership and robust programs in basic, clinical, and population science research, placing it in the top tier of cancer centers nationwide.
  • The Medical Scientist Training Program (combined MD/PhD) secured a special designation and award from NIH; subsequently, the award was renewed and funding increased, enabling the program to nearly double in size.
  • Specialized training is now offered through six dual-degree programs, including: MD with Master of Public Health (MD/MPH), Clinical Research (MD/MSCR), Cellular and Molecular Biomedical Science (MD/MS CMBS), Bioengineering (MD/MS BIOE), Health Administration (MD/MHA), Public Policy (MD/MPP) and Business Administration (MD/MBA), offered in conjunction with the Robert H. Smith School of Business at University of Maryland, College Park.

Said Cynthia Egan, current chair of the UMSOM Board of Visitors: “There are many grateful patients whose care and cures have come from the exemplary leadership of the School of Medicine under Dean Reece. His relentless focus for excellence in research, academics, and developing extraordinary faculty and practitioners has advanced UMSOM to be a powerful force in delivering the best of medicine. It has been and will continue to be a true privilege to work with Dean Reece.”

Commitment to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

Reece is known by faculty, staff, and colleagues for his “relentless pursuit of excellence” mantra and his sincere dedication to making an impact on people’s lives every day. He has been recognized for initiating a long-term school-wide culture transformation in diversity, equity, and inclusion. Through his leadership and close collaboration with faculty, students, and staff, the Culture Transformation Initiative has become a top priority for the institution, with new programs aimed at ensuring equity in opportunity, recruitment, promotion, and compensation.

Reece’s commitment to increasing diversity across UMSOM has ignited positive changes and resulted in growing numbers of women (40-60 percent) and underrepresented minorities among senior leadership, faculty, and students. Specifically, women now make up more than 40 percent of UMSOM’s senior leadership; the percentage of women faculty has increased to 40 percent, with underrepresented minorities making up 11 percent. In the UMSOM student body, 60 percent of students are now women and 25 percent are underrepresented minorities.

Shaping the Future of Medical Education

Reece, as a scholar and educator, shaped the future of medical education in significant ways. He launched the first program for MD students in the nation on the Foundations of Research and Critical Thinking, ensuring that the new generation of physicians would be equipped with the problem-solving and decision-making skills required for the future. Reece himself has consistently taught in the course. To further provide MD students with experience in data analysis and personalized medicine, UMSOM also was the first medical school to offer pharmaco-genetic testing to all of its MD students to determine individualized responses to medication.

In 2020, despite the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic that restricted in-class instruction for MD students, Reece and his team in Academic Affairs successfully renewed and launched a new innovative MD program of medical study and training — the Renaissance Curriculum. Developed over several years, this fully integrated curriculum takes a systems-based, holistic approach to learning, combining instruction in both the health and disease processes of the body related to major organ systems. Given its optimized format, the Renaissance Curriculum also allows students to enter the clinical portion of medical school earlier.

Reece has overseen the significant growth of UMSOM’s Community Education Pipeline Program. The program, directed by two biomedical scientists, Greg Carey, PhD, associate professor of microbiology and immunology and director of Student Summer Research and Community Outreach in the Office of Student Research, and Bret Hassel, PhD, professor of microbiology and immunology and assistant director for training and education. They have established education programs for undergraduate and high school students as well as educational opportunities for STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) research and mentoring of students from a wide variety of backgrounds.

Michael Cryor, president of the Cryor Group, who served with Reece for 10 years as chair of UMSOM’s Board of Visitors, said, “As Chair Emeritus of the medical school’s Board of Visitors, I have been witness to many facets of unparalleled growth at the medical school under Dean Reece’s leadership — increased research funding, pivotal roles in vaccine development here and around the world, and an increasing focus on student education. I was a member of the search committee to select the candidate who would follow the celebrated tenure of Dr. Donald Wilson. We were convinced Dean Reece was the right choice. His successful tenure is proof positive that we made the right selection.”

The Power of Partnership

Reece’s career at UMSOM has been marked by a collaborative approach to leadership and management at every level. 

His close collaboration with UMMS was highlighted as a national model in a 2012 article that he co-authored with former UMMS president & CEO Robert Chrencik, MBA, CPA, in the journal Academic Medicine. The article, titled “Fully Aligned Academic Health Centers: A Model for 21st-Century Job Creation and Sustainable Economic Growth,” described the unique and highly effective alignment established between UMSOM and UMMS. Reece and Chrencik coined the phrase “The Power of Partnership,” noting that alignment of the clinical and research missions resulted in significant economic benefits for the state of Maryland.

The close partnership Reece established between UMSOM and UMMS also resulted in expanded UMSOM faculty clinical practice locations in UMMS hospitals as well. New multispecialty locations were established in Harford, Howard, and Prince George’s counties, with state-of-the-art facilities for urgent care, vascular surgery, trauma, orthopaedics, and other specialties.

“Throughout his tenure as dean of the University of Maryland School of Medicine, Dr. Reece has been an unabashed champion of discovery-based medicine,” said UMMS President and CEO Mohan Suntha, MD, MBA. “His relentless focus has led to incredible advances and recognition for the university while simultaneously advancing our patient care mission. I have been truly blessed to call him a friend, mentor, and colleague throughout his 15 years at the helm of the School of Medicine.”

Added Bert W. O’Malley, MD, president and CEO of UMMC: “From working with Dean Reece and knowing of his many accomplishments, it is clear that he has a unique combination of visionary talent along with the ability to execute with surgical precision and exceed all expectations. I’ve greatly enjoyed our partnership in advancing the mission of academic medicine and look forward to continuing to work with him during his transition and in his new role.”

Reece also prioritized opportunities for UMSOM’s collaboration with other universities in USM and with other schools at UMB. During his tenure, there was a significant increase in collaborative research efforts across USM, with marked growth of interdisciplinary funding between UMSOM — both with the other schools at UMB as well as with other USM institutions.