Anantha Shekhar Named Pitt’s Senior Vice Chancellor for Health Sciences and Medical School Dean

Anantha Shekhar

Anantha Shekhar, MD, PhD, a nationally recognized educator, researcher and entrepreneur with major contributions in medicine and life sciences, has been named senior vice chancellor for the health sciences and John and Gertrude Petersen Dean of the School of Medicine at the University of Pittsburgh. His start date is set for June 2020. 

Shekhar joins Pitt from Indiana University (IU), the nation’s largest medical school, where he holds a number of leadership roles. These are: executive associate dean for research affairs, distinguished professor, associate vice president for university clinical affairs and research, executive vice president of academic affairs for clinical research at IU Health, and founding director of the Indiana Clinical and Translational Sciences Institute, the only statewide institute of its kind. 

“This is a critical hire for the University of Pittsburgh,” said Chancellor Patrick Gallagher. “Anantha’s capacity to envision solutions, galvanize partnerships and produce results is second to none, and his record of propelling both people and institutions to success is unparalleled. I could not be more excited to welcome Anantha into our community, and I am already looking forward to his arrival in June.” 

Shekhar’s career has been defined by innovation, transformation and sweeping and successful collaborations across the private, public and philanthropic sectors. In addition, he has received continuous funding from the National Institutes of Health for basic, clinical and translational research since 1989 and has authored more than 200 articles in peer-reviewed publications.  

His many professional accomplishments include: 

  • Growing the IU School of Medicine’s research funding from the National Institutes of Health by 73% since 2015.
  • Leading the Precision Health Initiative—a major strategic investment at IU with more than $140 million in clusters such as genomic medicine and big data sciences. This transformative and innovative initiative resulted in an estimated economic impact of nearly $200 million in just four years, the hiring of more than 126 scientists, as well as the creation of four companies and recruitment of another to Indiana.  
  • Co-founding or leading five biotech companies, including Anagin, a startup company that is developing treatments for post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injury, neuropathic pain, depression, Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease. 
  • Demonstrating a novel mechanism of action—the first in more than 70 years—that is being developed as a new approach to treating schizophrenia.
  • Forming two commercial incubators within the Indiana Clinical and Translational Sciences Institute—one for therapeutics and another for medical devices—that currently host more than 15 companies in various stages of commercialization. 
  • Directing a laboratory that has developed highly regarded translational models for panic and related anxiety disorders that resulted in patents for novel therapies and the discovery of new treatments.   

“I am honored and inspired to be joining one of the most respected medical and research communities in the world,” Shekhar said. “Building on the University of Pittsburgh’s exceptional record of health sciences education, innovation, clinical excellence and research preeminence is my top priority, and I look forward to advancing this goal in partnership with UPMC—for the greater good of society—in the months to come.”

Shekhar will succeed Arthur S. Levine, MD, who has announced his intent to transition to a new research role within the University. In February, the University of Pittsburgh’s Board of Trustees will vote on making Shekhar an officer of the board, which is the final step in his hiring process. Once at Pitt, Shekhar will oversee all six health sciences schools, the work of more than 6,000 faculty and staff, and the academic success of approximately 5,000 students while working closely with the institution’s clinical partner, UPMC.   

“The University has chosen a distinguished physician-scientist to lead the schools of the health sciences, following in the footsteps of Dr. Arthur Levine,” said Jeffrey A. Romoff, president and chief executive officer of UPMC. “Dr. Shekhar’s bold vision and collaborative spirit will further the successful partnership between UPMC and Pitt, enabling us to continue pushing the boundaries of academic medicine to the benefit of patients around the world.”

Shekhar, who was born in India, earned his medical degree from St. John’s Medical College and PhD in neuroscience at IU. He and his wife, Dr. Gina Laite, have two children.

Additional praise for Dr. Shekhar:

“Anantha’s exceptional and deep experience in basic research leading to novel, patentable therapeutics and in directing large, multi-institutional research initiatives, as well as being an award-winning teacher, will provide transformative contributions to our efforts going forward.”

— Ann E. Cudd, PhD, provost and senior vice chancellor, University of Pittsburgh, chair of search committee

“Dr. Shekhar’s talent, drive and leadership will allow him to step right in and continue the incredible trajectory of Pitt’s medical school in partnership with UPMC.”

— Steven Shapiro, MD, executive vice president and chief medical and scientific officer, UPMC,  vice chair of search committee

“Dr. Shekhar is a true scholar with very broad interests and expertise who excels at essentially everything in which he is involved. Throughout his career, he has demonstrated great facility and respect for all types of science along the fundamental, basic science to translational-clinical spectrum. His research accomplishments and research leadership and administrative skills are clearly at the very top nationally.”

— Jeremy Berg, PhD, associate senior vice chancellor for science strategy and planning in the health sciences, University of Pittsburgh

“I’m delighted Anantha will join Pitt to lead the University’s health sciences. He is well known and widely respected in the national CTSI arena and in the interprofessional practice and training community. He has a rich and diverse experience to bring to the position, and we are looking forward to working with him to forge new and deepen existing efforts under his leadership.”

— Jacqueline Dunbar-Jacob, PhD, RN, FAAN, dean and Distinguished Service Professor of Nursing, professor of psychology, epidemiology and occupational therapy, University of Pittsburgh

“Dr. Shekhar is a national visionary known for transforming the approach to medical research and its integration into health. He worked closely with the most senior leaders at NIH and from universities across the country to create translational science as an academic discipline, which changed our approach to research. We are fortunate that he is coming to Pitt. His extensive basic and clinical research activities, entrepreneurial experience and role in creating educational programs will serve the University well. He values interdisciplinary approaches to the integration of science, education and health care and understands how this approach will directly benefit individuals, communities and populations.”

— Steven E. Reis, MD, associate vice chancellor for clinical research, health sciences, director, Clinical and Translational Science Institute, Distinguished Service Professor of Medicine, School of Medicine, University of Pittsburgh 

“Dr. Anantha Shekhar is a superb choice to capitalize on the remarkable success we have had over the past 20-plus years with a research-focused effort to make Pitt one of the very best institutions in the country while capitalizing on even more team-based care and science. Given his experience in leading collaborative and interdisciplinary health science teams, we are excited to have him join us at Pitt. He has also led one of the most successful clinical research collaborations in the U.S. and is familiar with our own CTSI as a result.” 

— Bernard J. Costello, DMD, MD, FACS, dean and Thomas W. Braun Endowed Professor, program director, Pediatric Craniomaxillofacial Surgery Fellowship, School of Dental Medicine, University of Pittsburgh