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MEMPHIS — A veteran administrator with experience in government and higher education will lead the search for a new head of the University of Tennessee Health Science Center.

Dr. Michael J. Blackwell, dean of the UT College of Veterinary Medicine, will chair the committee

Dr. Michael Blackwell

that identifies candidates to succeed William R. Rice as vice president and chancellor for health affairs, UT President John W. Shumaker said Thursday.

Rice announced earlier this month he will step down Oct. 31 as head of the Memphis campus to lead a coordinating counsel of Memphis hospitals.

“This will be a very thorough, national search, and I am happy Dr. Blackwell has agreed to lead it,” Shumaker said. “His contacts in government and higher education will be a great asset in identifying candidates for one of the most important positions in the university.”

Shumaker said an interim chancellor and the full search committee membership will be named soon. The committee will include faculty, students, alumni, and health care professionals, he said.

Shumaker and Blackwell soon will visit Memphis to discuss the search process with faculty, staff, students and community leaders.
The UT president said he hopes the new vice president will be on the job by next fall.

“I expect we will have a number of excellent candidates. In addition to heading one of the country’s leading health sciences centers, the new head will direct our partnerships with St. Jude Children’s Hospital and the Memphis Biotechnology Foundation and its research park, making this one of the most attractive openings in the health care arena,” Shumaker said.

Blackwell came to UT in August 2000 after serving as chief of staff of the Office of the U.S. Surgeon General. He also held the title of assistant surgeon general in the U.S. Public Health Service.

He served as deputy director of the Food and Drug Administration’s Center for Veterinary Medicine and as chief veterinarian for the public health service.

Blackwell received the doctoral degree in veterinary medicine from Tuskegee University and a master’s in public health from Loma Linda University. He was a practicing veterinarian for 22 years.