McGill’s new dean of medicine is techno-savvy
McGill University has hired a prominent U.S. physician and academic to
become its next Dean of Medicine. Richard Levin
(pictured), vice-dean for education, faculty and academic affairs
at the New York University school of medicine, is also a top
cardiologist, inventor and researcher
He will start work at McGill this September.
“He’s quite unique in that he is a modern Renaissance man,” Heather
Munroe-Blum, principal and vice-chancellor of McGill, told the Globe and
Mail. “He is deeply committed to medical education. He’s an outstanding
clinician, a scientist of real significance and someone who has cared
not only about research and development but in the delivery of
Dr. Levin also holds four patents, including one for a molecule for
healing wounds and a coronary health-management device and system.
Dr. Levin, 57, said he was impressed with the “extraordinary reputation”
of McGill as one of the “great biomedical universities.”
Another “of the reasons I was attracted to McGill was the opportunity to
observe your invention of the public healthcare system from the inside,”
McGill launched a two-year international search for a dean of medicine
before hiring Dr. Levin, who will also hold the title of vice-principal
of health affairs.
After spending most of his career at Bellevue Hospital in New York, Dr.
Levin is no stranger to public healthcare. “One of the reasons I chose
to go to New York University was the extraordinary history of being in
and of the city and accepting every wave of immigrant, regardless of
ability to pay, with any illness and giving them care that is delivered
by the same [medical] faculty,” he said.
Dr. Levin, who said he was “nearly fluent” in French three decades ago,
is currently taking a French immersion course in preparation for his new
life in Montreal.
He will be moving there with his wife, Jane Ellen Bressman, a New York
lawyer and judge, while his two adult daughters, one of whom is a
lawyer, the other a medical student, will be staying in the United
Dr. Levin told a McGill University newspaper that one of the major
challenges to medical education today is the loss of the hospital as a
human laboratory. He said that when he was doing his training, patients
stayed in hospital for much longer periods of time.
Days, easily weeks, could stretch out from diagnosis to completion of
treatment, allowing students and physicians to get to know the patients,
their families, their life situations, the progress of healing. These
days, it’s considered inefficient for a patient to stay in the hospital
beyond the crisis point.
“This has led to a remarkable loss. Students don’t perceive the
continuity of even a single episode of chronic illness,” Dr. Levin said.
“That six-week adventure and learning experience has been reduced to 24
to 48 hours.”
Another educational issue is that medical school training still takes
four years, just as it did in the mid-1800s, despite the fact that
scientific knowledge has increased by a staggering amount over those
years. “How do we present that knowledge to students in so short a
Dr. Levin believes that students could benefit if schools were to
embrace multidisciplinary learning tools such as information technology
and narrative-based medicine. “Such approaches allow us to recreate the
environment that has been lost,” he said.
He has already helped set up NYU’s Advanced Learning Exchange (ALEX), a
richly layered, computer-based educational environment. “ALEX hearkens
to the library at Alexandria.” At the core of ALEX is its ever-expanding
digital library. “In the world wide web’s peer-reviewed authenticated
components, all biomedical knowledge can be found.”
Dr. Levin received his BS in Biology from Yale University in 1970, his
MD from NYU School of Medicine in 1974, and did a Postdoctoral
Fellowship at Cornell University Medical College from 1979 to 1983.