Dr. LouAnn Heath Woodward, an emergency medicine physician and academic administrator who has served as second-in-command of the University of Mississippi Medical Center for the last five years, has been named the institution's next vice chancellor for health affairs and dean of the School of Medicine.
UM Chancellor Dr. Dan Jones made the announcement Wednesday afternoon following a meeting of the board of the Mississippi Institutions of Higher Learning.
Woodward, 51, a native of Carroll County who serves as associate vice chancellor for health affairs and vice dean of the School of Medicine, will succeed Dr. James E. Keeton, who held the post for five years. Keeton, 75, had earlier announced he would retire no later than June 30, depending on the appointment of his successor.
"It's not a surprise to me that a robust national search led us to Dr. Woodward as the best fit for this key leadership position, and I look forward to working with her on our shared passion for making health and health care better for all Mississippians," Jones said. "She has earned a national reputation in medical education and has contributed greatly to our medical school's recognition as one of the very best in the country. I am grateful to her for offering herself for leadership here at home, when large opportunities exist for her nationally."
Woodward's appointment follows a national search by a committee that ultimately narrowed the field of candidates to two finalists, including Dr. Stephen J. Spann, a family medicine physician who is chief medical officer for the Johns Hopkins Medicine-affiliated hospital in the United Arab Emirates. Jones made the final selection, which was affirmed by the IHL board.
"I'm grateful to Provost Morris Stocks for his leadership in the selection process while I was out with illness, to Dr. Patrick Smith and other members of the search committee, and to members of the medical center and broader community who participated in the process," Jones said. "I'm particularly grateful to the IHL board for accepting the selection of Dr. Woodward."
Hank M. Bounds, commissioner of higher education, said, "Dr. Woodward is an exceptional physician, educator and leader. I am certain she will continue the University of Mississippi Medical Center's rich tradition of excellent patient care, important research on Mississippi's most pressing health problems and training the next generation of health care providers."
Aubrey Patterson, President, Board of Trustees of State Institutions of Higher Learning, said, "Dr. Woodward's years of experience with the University of Mississippi Medical Center make her the perfect choice to lead the institution. She understands every aspect of the UMMC mission and will provide leadership to expand the medical center's service to its patients, its students and the state."
Woodward thanked the chancellor, Provost Stocks, IHL board members and Bounds for the opportunity.
"I am deeply grateful to the Medical Center family - faculty, staff, and students - for the tremendous support that has been extended to me," Woodward said. "It is my earnest desire to continue the positive momentum to advance the Medical Center as the foremost leader in Mississippi for health care, health sciences discovery and health sciences education. I feel a personal responsibility to accelerate the shared vision of everyone who works, learns and teaches at UMMC to improve health in Mississippi."
By tradition, the leader of the Medical Center holds the dual role of vice chancellor for health affairs and dean of the medical school. The vice chancellor essentially acts as CEO of the Medical Center, with responsibility for 10,000 employees, 3,000 students, four teaching hospitals and two community hospitals, five health professions schools and the state's largest health care research enterprise. The Medical Center's operating budget is $1.6 billion annually, about 11 percent of it from the state.
Keeton said Woodward has been instrumental in leading many of the recent initiatives at the medical center and is highly respected in Mississippi's broader health care community. "She will serve UMMC and our state very well in the years ahead."
A native of Carroll County in north central Mississippi, Woodward graduated from Mississippi State University and attended medical school and completed a residency in emergency medicine at UMMC. After residency training, she joined the faculty in the Department of Emergency Medicine, where she holds the rank of tenured professor. She is a fellow of the American College of Emergency Physicians.
While serving in the emergency department, she gradually became more involved in educational administration of the medical school, first as director of the emergency medicine residency program and later as associate dean for academic affairs. In the last few years, she has overseen not only a substantial expansion of the medical school's class size but the successful 2012 re-accreditation of its academic programs.
In 2013, Woodward was invited to serve on the Liaison Committee on Medical Education, the accrediting body for U.S. and Canadian medical schools, and chairs its subcommittee on international relations.
During a town hall-style forum Jan. 29 at the Medical Center, then-candidate Woodward said lessons she learned growing up on a Carroll County farm and spending long hours treating patients in the emergency department showed her Mississippi's vast need for quality, accessible health care. Work in the ED also gave her "a comfort level in making hard decisions."
Woodward is the 10th person and the first woman to serve as institutional head in the 60-year history of UMMC in Jackson. She and her husband, Jon, live in Madison and have four children.