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New medical dean wants college to grow

CHRIS CODUTO/Arizona Daily Wildcat
Dr. Keith Joiner, dean of the College of Medicine, explains his vision for the medical college, hoping to expand its clinical, educational and research missions.
By Jessica Lee
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Monday, April 5, 2004
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Dr. Keith Joiner can't stop smiling after one month as the dean of the College of Medicine.

"I love this job. I keep telling people, ╬You can't wipe the smile off of my face,'" said Joiner, who left behind Yale University's Investigative Medicine Program to come to Arizona.

Joiner's vision for the College of Medicine is illustrated by the construction of a medical research complex north of East Speedway Boulevard.

"The simplest way to put that is that (the College of Medicine) needs to grow," Joiner said. "It needs to grow to meet the clinical mission, the educational mission and the research mission. We just aren't big enough. We can't grow without having more space."

The space issue is slowly being overcome with the construction of the new medical research complex, which will house the Institute for Biomedical Science and Biotechnology, Drachman Hall and another medical research building.

As the buildings go up, Joiner is expected to improve communication between the university and the biosciences.

"While we can talk about collaborative interactions, if the campuses are physically separated, it will always be harder than if there are physical buildings that are there starting to bridge the gap between people from both sides of campuses working side by side," Joiner said.

With a background in clinical medicine, research, administration and business, Joiner said working with Arizona's Bioscience Roadmap is a top priority.

In recent years, the Arizona Board of Regents, the state and various university programs have united with private industry to encourage the growth of biotechnology in Arizona.

"(Research) is very invigorating challenge. A lot of the entities that are identified as priority items (in the Roadmap) are exactly the things we are either good at here or we certainly want to expand. Cancer therapeutics, neurosciences and biomedical engineering stand out as the main ones," Joiner said.

Beyond the intellectual gain that will come with research, it's anticipated that the biotech field will bring the state money and jobs.

Beneath the plan to expand the research activities lies Joiner's initiative to improve the education medical students receive.

Joiner was hired with the hope he would establish a modern curriculum.

"We have to train the students to be lifelong learners who have a curiosity about medicine that stays with them," Joiner said.

He anticipates that one of the biggest issues those students face will be the "astonishing" changes in the medical field in the near future.

"I think about medicine in 1974 and medicine now. There are connections between the two, but in terms of our opportunities for diagnosing disease, treating disease and preventing disease, it is a different universe," Joiner said.

An avid bicyclist and lacrosse fan, Joiner admits he may need time to get adjusted to Arizona's basketball tradition.

"I am a sports fan in general, so it won't be a difficult transition to be more focused on basketball," Joiner said.

Setsuko Chambers, his tandem bicycle partner and wife, will become the director of Women's Cancer, a new section created in the Arizona Cancer Center July 1. She is a gynecologic oncologist who researches ovarian and breast cancer.

While most will know him as "Dean Joiner," Joiner saidthere is always another side to every dean.

"You know, whenever someone refers to me as ╬Dean Joiner,' I think, ╬Wait a second. That's not me. I'm Keith. I am the same person I always was,'" Joiner said.

Joiner said he likes the UA because it is very different from Yale culture and lacks the East Coast institutional politics.

"The thing I like so much about Arizona is that there is a directness and a nonpretentiousness and an honesty about the people here that makes it possible to be oneself," Joiner said. "Here people are so genuine that it makes it easy to be genuine and say what you think and be content with that."

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