New Feinberg dean plans to improve NU Medicine brand

Jillian Sandler

A notable clinician and researcher has assumed the position of dean and vice president for medical affairs for Northwestern’s Feinberg School of Medicine.

Dr. Eric G. Neilson officially assumed his role on September 1. He succeeds Dr. J. Larry Jameson, who held the position from 2007 to 2010, and Dr. Jeffrey Glassroth, who served as interim dean starting January 1.

Neilson said he is excited to begin working with what he calls a “world-class medical school.”

“(Feinberg) is a great medical center and health system, and it’s growing and adding important value to American medicine today, ” he said. “It’s an organization that’s going to create a national identity and going to make Chicago proud of its accomplishments.”

Neilson has had years of experience in clinical practice, research and administrative tasks in academic medical centers.

Before assuming his position at NU, he served as chair of the Department of Medicine at Vanderbilt University from 1998 to 2010. Prior to that, Neilson spent 23 years working at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, where he held the positions of C. Mahlon Kline Professor of Medicine and Pediatrics and director of the Penn Center for Kidney and Hypertensive Diseases.

Neilson said he and others at Feinberg are currently in the planning phases of implementing new facilities and programs, including renovating 100,000 square feet of space in the medical center. He did not disclose any other details about future projects, but said part of the job of working in an academic medical center is constantly surveying what can be improved.

“It’s a question of going from great to superb,” he said. “It’s an intimate process that needs to be paid attention to.”

Neilson also praised the students and faculty of Feinberg and cited them as the reasons behind the school’s esteem and success.

“All of these individuals have to come to work believing the place would fall apart if they weren’t there … there’s an important element of pride of ownership and being able to help the place be as successful as possible,” he said. “It’s mobilizing the talent and thoughts of those groups that brings us to a different place over time.”

Although he has a strong base of students and faculty to support him in further elevating Feinberg’s status, Neilson has a unique challenge ahead of him. According to University Provost Daniel Linzer, Feinberg’s three major branches, the hospital, the medical center, and the physician practice plan, which oversees contracts and billing, are all separate legal entities. This makes it more difficult for each to work together because they all report to different boards and have different goals, Linzer said.

Linzer said he believes Neilson will be successful in unifying these branches and improving operations at Feinberg.

“The big challenge for Dr. Neilson, and what I have confidence in him being able to do, is to bring those three major units into real alignment so that they’re all working together for the greater good of a unified enterprise called Northwestern Medicine,” he said. “It takes working and real leadership to achieve this, and Dr. Neilson is going to be just tremendous in bringing this about.”

Neilson said he is looking forward to working toward this unification.

“We’re building a brand around Northwestern Medicine. It’s a place of great accomplishment that adds value to the health of people.”

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