The University of Maryland School of Medicine will soon have a new dean - Dr. E. Albert Reece, who is currently dean of an Arkansas medical school.
Reece, an obstetrician-gynecologist whose research has focused on birth defects and the consequences of maternal diabetes, will start in September. He will succeed Dr. Donald E. Wilson, who is retiring after 15 years as medical school dean and vice president for medical affairs - a position Reece will also hold.
Wilson presided over a period of unprecedented growth, with research grants increasing from $77 million when he took office to $349 million in 2005, according to a university spokesman.
"This is a wonderful opportunity to be coming on the heels of Dr. Wilson, who has a tremendous legacy and track record," Reece, 56, said yesterday from his office in Little Rock.
"You get a sense of institutions around the country that are really on the move, that have momentum. Maryland is one of those. ... It has a very strong research-intensive environment with enormous research growth in the last 10 to 15 years that is very impressive."
Reece's appointment was announced yesterday by Dr. David J. Ramsay, president of the University of Maryland, Baltimore, who said he was impressed with Reece's leadership skills and ability to connect with people of varying interests.
"He's one of those people who, when he walks into a room, can make an immediate contact," Ramsay said. "He can reach out and engage you no matter what the topic. It's an important quality for a dean in an institution with so many stakeholders."
University Chancellor William E. Kirwan called Reece a "visionary who can articulate a sense of what a medical school must be like in the decades to come.
"He sees the close connection between world-class research on one hand and clinical practice on the other ... activities that many see as separate silos in medical schools."
Reece has served as dean of the University of Arkansas School of Medicine the past four years. He is a member of the prestigious Institute of Medicine, a division of the National Academy of Sciences, and was recently named by the academy to a committee that will monitor and revise standards for embryonic stem cell research. It's an area of growing interest for the Baltimore medical school, which plans to construct a building that will house laboratories for regenerative medicine including stem cell research.
Reece was raised in Jamaica. His mother was a schoolteacher, and his father a homebuilder. After graduating from high school there, he attended Long Island University in New York, graduating magna cum laude. He went on to earn his medical degree from New York University and complete an OB/GYN residency at Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center and a fellowship in maternal-fetal medicine at Yale.
Additionally, he holds a doctorate in biochemistry from the University of the West Indies in Kingston, Jamaica, and a master's in business administration from Temple University in Philadelphia. He later held faculty positions at Temple and Yale, where he served for 10 years.
Reece is the author of four books and 450 peer-reviewed articles, many of them on diabetes among pregnant women. His research has focused on why diabetic women have an elevated risk of delivering malformed babies, and on the destructive effects of glucose on cells.
He is married to Sharon Reece, a professor at the University of Arkansas law school. They have three daughters, Kellie, Sharon-Andrea and Brynne, an accomplished pianist who has performed in Russia and at Carnegie Hall in New York.
A classical music lover, Reece serves on the board of the Arkansas Symphony, but said he gave up music lessons as a child so he could pursue what were then his true passions - cricket and soccer.