New dean has plenty of practice

It's almost like fulfilling a family legacy.

Dr. Peter F. Buckley, whose grandfather was dean of a medical school, had the interim tag removed from his title when he was approved Thursday as the new dean of Medical College of Georgia at Georgia Health Sciences University. His appointment was approved during a joint meeting by teleconference of two boards that oversee the university's clinical system, MCG Health Inc. and MCG Health System.

Buckley has been interim dean since August, when Dr. D. Douglas Miller resigned after serving as dean of the medical school since 2006. Buckley had previously been chair of the Department of Psychiatry and Health Behavior and senior associate dean for leadership.

"This is a privilege for me and an honor," Buckley said.

The position had been originally slated for a national search, but Buckley's work as the interim would have put him at "the top of the ranks even if there had been a search," GHSU President Ricardo Azziz said. Instead, the university formed a committee, chaired by College of Nursing Dean Lucy Marion, to hear input from colleagues and faculty about Buckley, "and it was through the committee's recommendation that we are now moving forward," Azziz said.

The dean is "an extraordinarily important position" at the university, not only because it heads up the sixth-largest medical school in the country by class size, but also because its faculty play a key role in clinical services and research, Azziz said.

"This position requires somebody who knows how to build bridges, knows how to be collaborative, and has the respect of and respects his fellow deans in other schools," he said. "We believe that Dr. Peter Buckley, through his experience as a chair here, his experience as an associate dean and finally his experience as interim dean for the last sixth months, demonstrates these qualities of collaboration, partnership, alignment and loyalty to the institution."

While Buckley said it was too early to discuss specific programs, he will continue efforts he is already making to reach out to the community and build up relationships, particularly with alumni. Recruiting will also be a key focus, and the university has identified 30 or so positions within the school that need to be recruited immediately, Azziz said.

Having a permanent dean in place will help, Buckley said.

"Inevitably as you're recruiting, people want to know that there is an institutional team in place," he said, adding that developing faculty and leadership will also be key.

He will also continue working to develop strategies for clinical growth and to involve physicians with key initiatives in quality and in information technology, Azziz said.

"(There are) lots of things on his plate so we don't expect him to take even a moment's breath before he proceeds on," he said.

Buckley said he was "fortunate that Dr. Azziz turned to me and obviously over the passage of time he felt I would work well as a colleague with him. I'm excited by his leadership and feel privileged to join that more permanently."

As he becomes dean today, the native of Dublin, Ireland, is following in the footsteps of his grandfather, who was dean of the Royal College of Surgeons there.

"It's a wonderful privilege," Buckley said.