Dear Members of the Brown Community,
We’re excited to share that, after eight years leading Brown’s Division of Biology and Medicine, Dr. Jack A. Elias will transition in the coming months to the new role of senior advisor for health affairs.
In this position, Jack will report jointly to the president and provost working with University leadership to advance the development of Brown’s partnerships to create the first integrated academic health system for Rhode Island. Plans for the dean’s transition began with conversations in fall 2020, after Lifespan and Care New England signed a letter of intent to begin their merger negotiations. In this role, Jack will continue to play a key part in the implementation of plans announced in February to combine merged health system operations with Brown’s leading-edge research and renowned medical expertise to improve the quality of health care for patients across the state and region.
A national search for the next dean will be launched in May. Until his successor is in place, Jack will continue in his current roles as dean overseeing the Warren Alpert Medical School and Brown’s Division of Biology and Medicine and senior vice president for health affairs.
Jack has been a transformative leader who has shaped the Division of Biology and Medicine through his vision for translational science focused on treating disease. Through his drive and determination, he has fueled exceptional growth in research and teaching, achieved dramatic increases in grant awards, raised the national profile of the Warren Alpert Medical School, and expanded the impact of its physician-scientists and its graduates.
Jack has strengthened medical education, including introducing new academic programs and degrees, and bolstered Brown’s focus on evidence-based research and biomedical innovation. Funding for research in the division has increased more than 150% since Jack became dean; he has led the development of multiple centers and programs, including the Cancer Center at Brown University established last year; built record-breaking philanthropic support; and helped the Warren Alpert Medical School climb to be ranked among the Top 10 most selective medical schools in the country.
At the same time, Jack expanded Brown’s clinical practice and the University’s relationships with physician groups and affiliated health systems. This laid the foundation for the work he’ll build upon in his new position working with leaders at Care New England and Lifespan.
Jack will play an essential role partnering with the health systems to integrate medical innovation and pioneering research to inform clinical care in such areas as cancer, women’s health, and brain diseases like Alzheimer’s and ALS. These are all areas where Brown has expertise and Jack has deep experience. He has provided leadership in all discussions and arrangements regarding clinical, research and teaching activities involving Brown University and its clinical faculty and current affiliated hospital partners.
Jack will advise the president and provost on the development of an integrated academic health system with Lifespan and Care New England, helping to guide the integration of medical education and research with clinical practice across the merged system’s hospitals.
New role builds on eight years of accomplishments
A physician-scientist specializing in immunobiology and pulmonary and critical-care medicine, Jack arrived at Brown to serve as the dean in biology and medicine in September 2013. In 2017, he continued to serve as dean while being appointed to the new position of senior vice president for health affairs.
The inaugural appointment recognized the growing importance and complexity of academic medicine and health sciences at Brown, and in the state and the region. Jack spearheaded the development of a strategic plan that established a path of concrete actions necessary to advance the academic excellence of the Warren Alpert Medical School and biology at Brown, as well as the relationships among our campus and community stakeholders.
In 2015, Jack formed the Brown Institute for Translational Science (BITS), establishing numerous research teams within BITS as part of a major restructuring of research areas in the medical school. These include the Brown Center for Biomedical Informatics; Center on the Biology of Aging; program in Vaccine Biology and Global Health; joint programs with Lifespan in cancer biology and the Center for Digital Health; and the Center for Translational Neuroscience with the Carney Institute for Brain Science, among others.
Jack also launched Brown Biomedical Innovations to Impact (BBII), a “proof of concept” commercialization and entrepreneurial fund that is designed to bridge the gap between federal funding for research and private investment in a product, drug or biologic. In addition, last year he oversaw the formation of Brown’s new Cancer Center dedicated to research and clinical developments. An outgrowth of the Joint Program in Cancer Biology previously established by Brown and Lifespan, the center is focusing efforts on world-class research, developing new therapeutics and addressing patients’ unique needs.
Building investment in the programs in medicine and biology has been a central part of Jack’s efforts. Under his leadership, the Division of Biology and Medicine has raised more than $222 million through the BrownTogether fundraising campaign. This includes 19 endowed professorships, which give Brown the means to attract and retain the best teachers and scholars. Research funding increased from almost $37 million in Fiscal Year 2013, the year that Jack arrived at Brown, to $95 million in the most recently completed 2020 fiscal year.
In addition, Jack has worked to strengthen the medical school community through mentoring and training programs, including re-launching Brown’s M.D./Ph.D. program with a $27 million gift from the Warren Alpert Foundation. The medical school also established the Gateways to Medicine, Health Care and Research master’s program to prepare students for medical school or careers in health care.
Numerous clinical and biology department chairs were recruited during Jack’s tenure, and student recruitment and retention initiatives have resulted in an increasingly diverse student body. About 25% of Brown’s medical school students now come from backgrounds that are historically underrepresented in medicine.
The body of Jack’s work in the Division of Medicine and Biology — and the improved strength of the academic, research and clinical program — has helped lead Jack to the new role he will assume as senior health advisor.
Those familiar with Jack know that his vision for Brown becoming part of an integrated academic health system dates back to the time he first interviewed to become dean in Providence. The first major step in the effort was forming Brown Physicians, Inc. (BPI) in 2017. By bringing together the medical school and six medical practices employing about 550 physicians, BPI has enabled a new level of coordination for research, teaching and clinical care in Southern New England.
Now, the partnership between Care New England, Lifespan and Brown aims to advance biomedical discovery, educate future leaders in medicine and health care, and create a vibrant economic nexus in the state and the region based on the health care industry.
Jack himself continues to be actively engaged in research, and during the past two years has co-founded two biomedical companies based on his lab’s research, Elkurt Therapeutics and Ocean Biomedical. He has published more than 250 peer-reviewed research papers, holds several patents, and has received numerous prestigious honors and awards. He is a member of the National Academy of Medicine, serves on the Council of Councils of the NIH, and served on the NIH’s advisory council of the National Heart, Blood and Lung Institute (2009-2012), and as president of the Association of American Physicians (2010-2011). Jack has also trained scores of young researchers.
His expertise and background position Jack very well to work with leaders at Care New England and Lifespan to make the integrated academic health system a reality. In addition to his significant work as a physician-scientist and educator, Jack has extensive administrative experience both in clinical and academic settings. He has directed outpatient clinics and intensive care programs and other clinical services, and served on many key administrative and academic committees.
Prior to arriving at Brown, Jack served as chair of medicine and physician-in-chief at Yale New Haven, beginning in 2006. Jack earned his bachelor’s degree and his M.D. at the University of Pennsylvania.
We hope you’ll join us in congratulating Jack and thanking him for all he has done and continues to do for Brown.
Christina H. Paxson, President
Richard M. Locke, Provost