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Keeping the Promise: Lefton and Whelton

April 5, 2005

Tulanian Staff
Michael DeMocker

Lester A. Lefton, Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost: I serve as the university provost and in that capacity coordinate the quality of the academic programs on the uptown campus. This includes admissions, housing, the Howard- Tilton Memorial Library, all undergraduate departments, as well as all graduate programs.

tulspr_05_lefton_1I spend my time developing people as intellectual and social leaders, advancing programs and promoting ideas to move Tulane University along its path of excellence -- its academic destiny. I wake up every day bounding out of bed looking forward to the challenges and opportunities that present themselves. The reason for my enthusiasm and energy for my work is the people at Tulane.

I've been in the business of higher education as a faculty member and administrator for more than 30 years but at no place have I ever met a more committed group of individuals -- deans, faculty, students and staff -- than at Tulane University. Tulanians love this place. They love New Orleans. They love the historic architecture of Tulane. They have developed a work ethic and a sense of place and purpose that is quite extraordinary and exciting.

I use this excitement to create opportunities so everyone makes the most of their time at Tulane. We recruit and hire the very best people who are at the cutting edges of their disciplines to do research, teach and involve themselves in our community. I find that the deans here understand the research enterprise, are committed to excellence in teaching, and do all of this while attempting to reach out to the local and wider community in service of the broader goals of higher education.

Whether this is in service-learning courses where our students perform 24,000 hours of community service each year, or whether it is in hiring faculty to do path-breaking biomedical engineering research to create new heart valves, our faculty and students work hard and long every day to be the best that they can be. I am energized by the exceptional intelligence of our students, the extraordinary commitment and unparalleled achievements of our faculty, and the superb dedication of our staff.

The people at Tulane thrive in making it the best university that it can be. They're writing grants; they're writing books; they're singing; they are putting on plays. They're creating new materials in laboratories and writing creative novels, designing buildings, interpreting laws, helping shape public policy, and engaging in textual exegesis.

When I meet with faculty and students, I find that they ask the thoughtful, sometimes difficult questions but always do so in a positive way, with the goal of gaining a better understanding of this institution or this community. Working with them, I try and help inch Tulane along its path of doing transdisciplinary scholarship and teaching moving from strength to strength. What a great place to be provost.

Paul Whelton, Senior Vice President for Health Sciences: In July 1970, I came to Baltimore from Ireland for what I thought would be a one-year internship in medicine at the Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions. Instead, I remained at Johns Hopkins, where I subsequently joined the faculty at both the school of medicine and school of public health.

tulspr_05_whelton_1My days at Hopkins were busy, exciting and rewarding. I had no plans to leave but in 1996 was presented with a unique and irresistible opportunity -- to come to Tulane as dean of the School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine. I was excited by the prospect of leading one of the most historic schools of public health in the world, with a strong commitment to global public health and a well-established tradition of excellence.

Tulane was founded in 1884 in response to the epidemics of the day -- yellow fever, cholera and malaria. Now we address contemporary public health challenges such as cardiovascular disease, cancer, substance abuse, AIDS, violence and teenage pregnancy. I have spent most of my career focused on the epidemiology and prevention of hypertension and other risk factors for cardiovascular and kidney diseases.

New Orleans and Louisiana have rates of cardiovascular and kidney disease that are among the highest in the United States, representing substantial public health challenges. Tulane's ongoing commitment to respond to the health needs of its local community, as well as those of the nation and countries around the world, is a constant source of encouragement for me. From the outset, my goal has been to work with faculty, students and staff to implement our academic mission at home and abroad and to ensure that we continue the longstanding tradition of excellence in the health sciences -- a hallmark of Tulane for 170 years.

During the past eight years, Tulane has given me unparalleled opportunities as the dean of the School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine, as interim dean of the School of Medicine and, since 1999, as senior vice president for health sciences, providing senior oversight of the two above-mentioned schools as well as the Tulane National Primate Research Center. I believe the mark of a great university is having talented faculty, students and staff who have the potential to have a positive impact on the world in which we live.

Tulane has made great strides in advancing its academic mission during recent years. It has been especially gratifying to see Tulane grow in stature as a research-intensive university. Given the quality of our faculty, students and staff, I have every confidence that we will continue to strengthen as an organization in the years to come.

I feel fortunate to be a part of the Tulane family -- a family that includes my son, Seamus, now a first-year student in the School of Medicine, and my daughter, Megan, a recent graduate of Newcomb College, who began pursuing an MPH in the School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine this semester.

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