Originally created 02/11/01

Physician embraces challenges of change



The University System of Georgia Board of Regents has tentatively set aside time Wednesday to consider who will become the next president of the Medical College of Georgia. University Chancellor Stephen R. Portch likely will recommend either Dr. Russel E. Kaufman of Duke University School of Medicine and Duke University Health Services, or Dr. Daniel W. Rahn of MCG and MCG Health Inc. Both men came to medicine through a love of science. Both are considered skilled clinicians and hard-working administrators with an open style. Their colleagues say they are bright and passionate about their work. Here is a brief look at the two finalists.

There is a framed cartoon from The Far Side in Daniel W. Rahn's office at MCG Health Inc. It shows a dog on a tightrope inside a circus tent.

"High above the hushed crowd, Rex tried to remain focused," it reads. "Still, he couldn't shake one nagging thought: He was an old dog, and this was a new trick."

At age 50, Dr. Rahn is not old, but he has certainly shown he can take on new things. Since he came to the Medical College of Georgia in 1991, not only has he shifted gears and taken on new challenges on more than 40 different committees, he also has helped change the institution around him.

"I believe I am a change agent. I didn't set out to be, but I believe I am," said Dr. Rahn, who is vice dean for clinical affairs in the School of Medicine and senior vice president for medical affairs and chief medical officer for MCG Health.

Dr. Rahn could face his biggest change yet if he is tapped by the University System of Georgia Board of Regents this week to become the next president of MCG. And the challenge doesn't faze him a bit.

"If we succeed in building the research program, preserving the educational excellence and achieving true clinical excellence as well, our ability to contribute to the community is enhanced," Dr. Rahn said. "When I say `we' here, achieving clinical excellence, I'm not speaking just about MCG, MCG Health Inc. I'm really speaking about the medical community of Augusta, which I believe is everybody's goal."

A previous boss, former MCG School of Medicine Dean Darrell G. Kirch, said Dr. Rahn is ready to lead.

"I have no doubt about his ability to do it," said Dr. Kirch, now senior vice president for health affairs and dean of the College of Medicine at Penn State. "He clearly has all the prerequisites for a major leadership position in academic medicine, anywhere."

Because of MCG's early retirement program, which saw more than 700 senior faculty and staff leave, including former President Francis J. Tedesco, the next president will have the ability to hire four of the five deans at MCG and many senior faculty positions.

"I think this is an extraordinary time for MCG, and I think it's an opportunity to consolidate many of the changes already under way, to build on areas of strength and to position us for success going forward," Dr. Rahn said.

One of those opportunities for Augusta and MCG is the cancer centers of excellence envisioned in Gov. Roy Barnes' cancer initiative.

"I think it is extremely important that MCG and Augusta be designated as one of these centers of excellence," Dr. Rahn said. "I think MCG needs to be a key component of Augusta's participation in this and Augusta's designation because of what MCG brings to the table in the areas of education and research in addition to the clinical resources at MCG."

Dr. Rahn's research career is best summed up by his work with others at Yale University to identify, learn to treat and eventually formulate vaccines against Lyme disease.

"Every professional success I've had has involved a team effort and ... something I value is the ability to work as a member of a team for each of the initiatives I've been involved in," Dr. Rahn said.

And now he hopes to lead the team.

Dr. Daniel W. Rahn

Current position: Vice dean for clinical affairs, School of Medicine, Medical College of Georgia; senior vice president for medical affairs and chief medical officer, MCG Health Inc.

Age: 50

Education: B.A. from Yale University; M.D. from Yale University; internship, residency and postdoctoral fellowship at Section of Rheumatology, Yale University

Family: Married, three children

Research interests: Lyme disease, rheumatoid arthritis