Health Care

UPDATED: Dean of UVM medical school to retire

Dr. Frederick “Rick” Morin plans to retire next summer. File photo by Morgan True/VTDigger

(This story was updated and expanded Aug. 30 at 8:30 p.m.)

The dean of the University of Vermont Larner College of Medicine has announced his plan to retire next summer.

Dr. Frederick “Rick” Morin, 68, has been dean since 2007. In addition to leading the medical school, he sits on the board of directors for the UVM Medical Center, the UVM Health Network and the UVM Health Network’s Medical Practice Group.

When he came to the medical school 10 years ago, Morin said, he was the fifth person to serve as dean in seven years. He said it was hard for the medical school to live up to its potential with such high turnover among leadership.

“My goal was to come in, stay for 10 years, and then be able to decide whether the College of Medicine needs me,” Morin said. “It’s been a wonderful 10 years at the college almost by any measurement you want to make.”

Morin is trained as a pediatrician and neonatologist specializing in treating critically ill newborns. His research focused on lung diseases in premature babies. He attended the University of Notre Dame and Yale University School of Medicine.

Among his accomplishments, Morin was dean when the UVM medical school saw its total philanthropic gifts from Dr. Robert Larner surpass $100 million. The medical school subsequently was renamed for Larner, an alumnus.

Morin said the money is being used specifically to make the medical school’s education “second to none.” The college is nine months into a five-year plan to implement sweeping changes to the curriculum, he said.

The transformation includes a recent decision to eliminate lectures in favor of “active learning” and the creation of a simulation laboratory where medical students and even practicing physicians use machines and actors to simulate procedures and diagnoses.

“It’s not the fanciest or biggest or flashiest, but we surveyed all the other academic medical centers, and we haven’t found one that’s as busy as ours,” Morin said. “We’re actually using it. … It’s just another example of how real innovation makes just a great big difference.”

Morin said now is the right time for him and his wife to spend more time on other interests, such as fly fishing. He compared the situation at the medical school to catching a really big wave when surfing.

“The wave we’re on is a wave that doesn’t occur in a decade often, or in most people’s careers, and we’re on the front of one of those. But at the same time, it’s been 10 years.

“My wife and I want to spend more time on our personal interests, on our families, on our travel, and all sorts of things like that, and you can’t be in the front of that wave and have a split second of inattention because it’s not able to surf on it.”

Tom Sullivan, the president of UVM, called Morin “truly extraordinary.” He added: “His creativity, persistence and strong leadership have created a legacy for the Larner College of Medicine that will last for generations. I will be forever grateful for his remarkable leadership of the college and his many contributions across the university.”

Dr. John Brumsted, the CEO of the UVM Health Network and UVM Medical Center, said in a statement that Morin “has been an important and steadfast source of support throughout a period of enormous change in health care, and we will miss having the benefit of his guidance.”

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