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Hunt narrows for a Harvard dean

Medical school eyes doctor, researcher

Harvard University's incoming president, Drew Gilpin Faust, is close to making a key hire, a dean for Harvard Medical School, and the finalists include a nationally known cardiologist and a leading Harvard diabetes researcher, according to several Harvard doctors and officials with knowledge of the search.

Dr. Elizabeth Nabel, a cardiologist who trained at Brigham and Women's Hospital and is director of the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute, is a top finalist for the position, according to two of the sources. Just as Faust is the first female president of Harvard, Nabel would be the first female dean of the medical school if she were offered the job and accepted.

Nabel and the agency's spokeswoman did not return calls seeking comment. While at the University of Michigan in the 1980s and 1990s, she rose to become chief of the Division of Cardiology and became known for her research into the molecular genetics of cardiovascular diseases, according to the institute's website.

The sources said that Dr. Jeffrey Flier, chief academic officer at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and a nationally known researcher on diabetes and obesity, also is a serious contender for the job. Flier, through a spokeswoman, said he would not comment on the search.

Harvard spokesman John Longbrake said the university would not comment on the search until it is completed.

The next dean of the medical school will replace Dr. Joseph Martin, who will step down next month, ending a 10-year tenure during which he oversaw dramatic changes to the school's curriculum. Martin, a neurologist, plans to take a sabbatical for one year and then increase his work with the Harvard Center for Neurodegeneration & Repair, which is trying to develop new drugs for Parkinson's and Alzheimer's disease as well as other neurological disorders.

The Interim Harvard president, Derek Bok, convened a faculty search committee to recommend potential replacements for Martin. But he left the final decision to Faust, partly because of the medical school's importance: It has 11,000 faculty members and $1.2 billion in National Institutes of Health research grants awarded to the medical school and its affiliated hospitals.

The medical school dean also will have a key role in the development of Harvard's new Allston campus, where a major stem cell research institute and other scientific laboratories will be located.

The search committee evaluated an initial list of several hundred candidates, the sources said. Faust conducts the final interviews, makes the ultimate decision, and negotiates the new dean's salary, resources, and fund-raising responsibilities. Faust is closely involved in other dean searches, particularly for the Faculty of Arts and Sciences.

Liz Kowalczyk can be reached at