UNM announces next dean of the School of Medicine - Albuquerque Journal

UNM announces next dean of the School of Medicine

Dr. Patricia Finn (Source: UNM)

Copyright © 2022 Albuquerque Journal

The University of New Mexico School of Medicine has a new leader – a first-generation college student and the school’s first female dean.

Dr. Patricia Finn, an associate dean for Strategic Initiatives and associate program director for the Medical Scientist Training Program at the University of Illinois College of Medicine in Chicago, will start in her new role Sept. 1.

Finn, the daughter of Irish immigrants, will be the fifth dean of the medical school, which opened in 1964. The last full-time dean at the school was Dr. Paul Roth, who served in the role for 26 years until he retired in the summer of 2020.

Finn said the challenges facing New Mexico – high poverty rates and varying access to health care across different races and cultures in the state – were what drew her to the position.

“It wasn’t just what enticed me, it was riveting, it was propelling. Throughout my career, I’ve always made it clear that health equity at large is essential for everyone’s benefit,” she said in an interview Friday. “How do we integrate scientific discovery and care with thinking of those who may have been left behind? You may think of it as a challenge, I think of it as an opportunity.”

The School of Medicine’s budget for fiscal year 2022 is $640 million, which funds 1,200 faculty and 2,200 staff. The fall 2020 enrollment was 1,600 students, including 700 medical residents.

Finn will report directly to Dr. Douglas Ziedonis, UNM’s executive vice president for Health Sciences and CEO of the UNM Health System.

“She is a national and international leader who has made a significant impact in her prior leadership roles and is also a very well-respected clinician, teacher, mentor and researcher,” he said. “Her mature leadership abilities, commitment to inclusive excellence and strong sense of the mission to enhance the health of all New Mexicans is quite clear.”

Ziedonis said during Finn’s tenure at the Illinois medical school, the hospital provided exceptional patient care, improved scholarly activities, trained physicians and promoted diversity and inclusion.

Finn has worked at the Harvard Medical School’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital and she was a professor of medicine and director of the Division of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine at the University of California, San Diego, before taking her current job in Chicago.

Finn is the youngest of four children. She grew up in tight-knit Irish community in Manhattan. Neither of her parents were educated beyond the third grade.

Her father was a laborer, working long and odd hours on the docks, breweries and a gas company. Her mother ironed clothes for nuns at convents in Iowa before making her way to New York City, where she cleaned houses and took care of children.

“It was a very tough neighborhood but my parents were very committed to our education,” Finn said. “My father would say, ‘If you got the education, you would be beholden to no one.'”

Finn’s oldest brother died at a young age, but she said her family never learned the cause of his death. She said her family didn’t have access to quality health care when he got sick. Growing up in a family who lost a child guided her path to health care.

“There was this sense that not all the health care was possible, he didn’t receive the best care, there were long delays, (my parents) talked about a loss of a child and that if only they would have gotten care sooner…,” Finn said. “Throughout my life, I really aspired and thought about that. … I really wanted the ability to make an impact.”

She graduated medical school and residency at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York and did her fellowship in pulmonary medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. Finn also has completed a postdoctoral research fellowship in immunology at the Harvard School of Public Health.

Finn in 2007 was inducted into the Association of American Physicians.

Finn told UNM officials that she originally wanted to go into primary care, but she switched to pulmonary medicine after working in the Bronx with women suffering from asthma, a condition that can be exacerbated because of someone’s socioeconomic status.

“Why the University of New Mexico? I think it’s primed to be a role model, a paradigm, for not separating out medicine, interventions, science, health equity and justice,” she said. “I think it’s primed to integrate all of those to advance the health care of the people of New Mexico.”

Finn’s husband, Dr. David Perkins, is a professor with the University of Illinois College of Medicine and the director of the kidney transplant program. He will be joining the faculty at the UNM Department of Internal Medicine.

A search advisory committee of 26 people, including multiple physicians and UNM leaders, was used during the selection.

Finn was chosen from four finalists.

Her contract is for five years with an annual salary of $610,000, Ziedonis said.

“I could not be more pleased by the selection of Dr. Finn as our new dean of the UNM School of Medicine,” said UNM President Garnett Stokes. “I am confident she will enrich the proud legacy of the school and provide a holistic approach to the most critical parts of our unique mission to advance health and health equity for the citizens of New Mexico.”

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