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Stephen M. Shortell, leading scholar in health services research, is top choice for dean of UC Berkeley's School of Public Health
09 May 2002

By Sarah Yang, Media Relations

Berkeley - Stephen M. Shortell, a prominent researcher in health policy and organization behavior at the University of California, Berkeley, has been named the top choice to lead the campus's School of Public Health, Chancellor Robert M. Berdahl announced today (Thursday, May 9).

The appointment, which caps a nationwide search, is pending approval by the UC Board of Regents later this month. Shortell would begin the deanship on Sept. 1.

Shortell, 57, is known as a leading academic voice advocating reform of the nation's health system. His research has helped establish determinants of health outcomes and quality of care for health care organizations.

As the Blue Cross of California Distinguished Professor of Health Policy and Management, Shortell holds a joint appointment at UC Berkeley's School of Public Health and the Haas School of Business. He also is affiliated with UC Berkeley's Department of Sociology and UC San Francisco's Institute for Health Policy Studies.

"We are extremely fortunate to have a scholar of Stephen Shortell's eminence and leadership ready to take the helm of the School of Public Health. Because health care today has so many dimensions to it, the scope of his expertise as a leading social scientist is critical to addressing the health care issues of society," said Berdahl.

Shortell has received the Baxter-Allegiance Prize, considered the highest honor worldwide in the field of health services research. He also has received the Distinguished Investigator Award from the Association for Health Services Research and the Gold Medal award from the American College of Healthcare Executives for his contributions to the field. He is an elected member of the prestigious Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences, where he serves on the executive committee of the Governing Council.

"Steve has built a distinguished career in the field of heath services research and is one of the world's leading figures in that field," said Edward Penhoet, current dean of the School of Public Health and co-founder and former CEO of Chiron Corp.

Penhoet is stepping down June 30 after four years as dean to join the San Francisco-based Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, where he will head the organization's programs in science, higher education and health.

Since arriving at UC Berkeley four years ago, Shortell has played a key role in developing relationships with the social and biological sciences departments, partnerships he considers vital to the campus's Health Sciences Initiative.

The Health Sciences Initiative, launched in 1999, unites disparate research fields on campus in an ambitious effort to solve society's most challenging health problems. The initiative began with partnerships in physical and biological sciences and in engineering.

"One of the biggest strengths of a campus like UC Berkeley is its emphasis on interdisciplinary studies," said Shortell. "We encourage our students to develop an ecological approach to health, to learn how various factors interact to affect a person's well-being. The problems we're seeing in health are complex and require an understanding of such fields as genetics, politics, economics, epidemiology, sociology, psychology and public policy."

Such interdisciplinary research is supported by the campus's Center for Health Research, founded and chaired by Shortell. Studies supported by the center range from examining the effects of direct-to-consumer drug advertising on prescription choice to studying social networks and health choices in Kenya.

Born in Wisconsin and raised in the Midwest, Shortell describes UC Berkeley as an ideal environment for this broad approach to health research. "It's extremely eclectic here," he said. "You can feel the buzz and intellectual excitement on campus."

Shortell received his bachelor's degree from the University of Notre Dame, his master's degree in public health from UCLA and his PhD in behavioral science from the University of Chicago. Before coming to UC Berkeley in 1998, Shortell held teaching and research positions at Northwestern University, the University of Washington and the University of Chicago.

Shortell has served as president of the Association for Health Services Research and chairman of the Accrediting Commission for Graduate Education in Health Services Administration and is editor of the journal Health Services Research.

Shortell's appointment will make him the ninth dean of the School of Public Health, which celebrates its 60th anniversary in 2003.