PROVIDENCE — After nearly eight years leading biology and medicine as the dean of Brown University’s Warren Alpert Medical School, Dr. Jack Elias is transitioning to a new position where he will be solely focused on the anticipated merger between Lifespan Corporation and Care New England.
In his new role as special advisor for health affairs, which was announced Thursday afternoon, Elias will “guide the integration of medical education and research with clinical practice across the merged system’s hospitals,” according to the news release. He will report to university President Christina Paxson and Provost Richard Locke.
For decades, the two health care systems have been competitors in a relatively small market, each with their own set of financial pressures. The two have attempted to merge several times in the past without success, but in June 2020 announced in June that they were going back to the drawing board where their leaders would sit down together again.
After 90 days of talks, they signed a letter of intent in September 2020 and, in late February, a definitive agreement to merge. This time, however, they were joined by a major player: Brown University’s Warren Alpert Medical School, which committed a minimum of $125 million over five years in support of the development of the integrated academic health system.
“If you learned from your doctor the devastating news that you had cancer, you want to go to a place that maximizes your chances of having a great outcome,” Elias told the Globe at the time. “You want to go to a place where you have the best care you can get from a diagnostic and therapeutic perspective — a place that does cancer research, but that also has the latest in protocol-driven therapies so you can be with your family for many years to come. And, this is the difference that an integrated academic health system can make in patient lives. This is real.”
In a news release posted on the university’s website, Elias is lauded for transforming medical education and biomedical research in his eight years at the university. He previously told a Globe reporter that an integrated medical center with teaching hospitals will also allow students to see population health management and an integrated clinical experience during their rotations.
“I am very excited to play a part in helping to do for Rhode Island what academic health systems have done for Boston, Pittsburgh and other cities across the country,” Elias said in a statement Thursday. “One of the things I talk about is the dream that the next dean will look out the window of the dean’s suite at 222 Richmond and see a mass of biotech companies in the Jewelry District, all of which are making new products based on Brown, Lifespan or Care New England intellectual property, and all of them employing people and turning Rhode Island into a biotech hub.”
He added, “There’s no reason that biotech is booming in Boston and stops at the Rhode Island border.”
During his time as dean, Elias introduced new academic programs and degrees, boosted Brown’s focus on research and biomedical innovation, and led the development of multiple centers and programs, including the Cancer Center at Brown, which was established last year, according to a statement made by Paxson.
The university said a national search for his successor will be launched in May. Until then, Elias will continue in his current roles, which include overseeing the university’s Division of Biology and medicine and serving as senior vice president for health affairs.