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Smithsonian Secretary Skorton to lead AAMC


The Association of American Medical Colleges on Thursday named Dr. David Skorton to succeed longtime CEO Dr. Darrell Kirch, who plans to step down in June 2019.

Skorton, a board-certified cardiologist, announced his resignation as secretary of the Smithsonian Institution on Thursday. Skorton had held the position since 2015, where he oversaw the institution’s 19 museums, nine organizations and its zoo.

Skorton has been credited with the success of the Smithsonian’s largest fundraising campaign, which has netted nearly $2 billion as of 2018.

Under Skorton’s leadership, the institution opened the National Museum of African American History and Culture in 2016 and launched its American Women’s History Initiative, “Because of Her Story”, which is set to open in 2019.

“Dr. Skorton will bring an unparalleled record in higher education, healthcare, and national thought leadership to the challenge of serving and leading America’s medical schools and teaching hospitals,” said Lilly Marks, chair of the AAMC board of directors and a member of the search committee, in a written statement. “The AAMC Board was committed to recruiting a proven national leader who would bring an optimistic and inclusive leadership style, an inspiring vision, and a deep and nuanced understanding of academic medicine and healthcare.”

In his new role, Skorton returns to medicine to oversee the nation’s largest advocacy group for accredited medical schools and teaching hospitals, representing 167,000 faculty members and 88,000 medical students.

“Serving the Smithsonian Institution has been one of the great privileges of my career,” Skorton said. “I am humbled and honored to be returning to my roots in medicine as I commit to build on the transformational leadership of Darrell Kirch.”

Skorton’s last day at the institution will be June 15, with plans to begin at the AAMC on July 15.

Skorton acknowledged that it’s an uncertain time for healthcare since the future of the Affordable Care Act is once again in jeopardy after a federal judge in Texas ruled the ACA was unconstitutional.

“Healthcare in this country faces a number of seemingly intractable problems, and the AAMC—rich with data and intellectual heft through the combination of medical colleges, teaching hospitals and academic societies—can and should be a leading influence in shaping the future of healthcare,” Skorton said in a written statement. “As an eternal optimist, I see tremendous potential in harnessing the strength and creativity of America’s medical schools and teaching hospitals to tackle the formidable challenges facing healthcare, education and research today.”

Skorton previously was president of Cornell University from 2006 to 2015, where he taught in the departments of Medicine and Pediatrics at Weill Cornell Medical College, as well as in the department of Biomedical Engineering at the College of Engineering.

Kirch led the AAMC for 13 years. In an interview with Modern Healthcare in January, Kirch said he and the board created a succession plan in 2017 and that he was confident the organization had the right infrastructure and personnel for its future.