Skip to main content

Golden named dean of UW School of Medicine and Public Health

February 13, 2006

Robert N. Golden, vice dean of the University of North Carolina (UNC) School of Medicine and former chair of the UNC Department of Psychiatry, has been named the dean of UW–Madison School of Medicine and Public Health (SMPH).

Photo of Ken Golden


In more than 20 years at UNC, Golden, the Stuart Bondurant Distinguished Professor, has proven himself a highly effective leader in academic medicine at a major public university similar to UW–Madison. As vice dean of the UNC School of Medicine for the past two years, he has played a key role in running the school and launching several creative new programs. As chair of psychiatry for a decade, he guided the expansion of the department’s research, clinical operations, training programs and development.

UW–Madison Chancellor John D. Wiley made the announcement today (Feb. 13), following an extensive national search. “Bob Golden has a great mix of experience, vision and passion for the job that will serve him well in leading the School of Medicine and Public Health,” Wiley says. “We’re delighted to have him on board.”

Golden, 52, will assume the SMPH top leadership position in July. He will be the ninth dean of the school, which will celebrate its centennial anniversary in academic year 2006-07.

Golden will succeed Philip M. Farrell, who had announced that he would step down as dean in December 2005. In his decade as dean, Farrell led the school through many changes, overseeing, for example, construction of the Health Sciences Learning Center, groundbreaking on the Interdisciplinary Research Complex, and the transformation of the school into an integrated school of medicine and public health.

“Bob Golden brings a wealth of experience, leadership, energy and vision to the job,” says Paul DeLuca, vice dean and senior associate dean for research and graduate programs. “We anticipate that the great success our school has enjoyed in the past decade will be followed by more success – and perhaps even greater success.”

Golden was invited to become vice dean of the UNC School of Medicine in 2004, when the new dean, William Roper, took over. At UNC, the dean is responsible not only for running the school, but also for the affiliated hospitals and the physician group practice. Hoping to share the responsibilities, Roper asked Golden to join his six-person leadership team and be the school’s chief operating officer.

“Bob and I have had a splendid, happy working relationship in which, in every respect, he has run the school. He has been deeply involved in everything we do here,” Roper says. “We will miss him tremendously.”

Roper adds that he’s not surprised that Golden was offered the top job at UW–Madison’s School of Medicine and Public Health. “Other places have come asking for him,” he says. “But Wisconsin is a wonderful university, and the medical complex is strong. Bob’s talents will be put to very good use there.”

For Golden, the job as vice dean provided many opportunities.

“I loved the chance to work collaboratively with the rest of campus and create outstanding interdisciplinary programs that can only occur when a school of medicine is embedded at a strong university, which is also the case at UW–Madison,” he says. “I also enjoyed the chance to work intensively with the state government to develop new programs, and I look forward to doing that in Wisconsin.”

North Carolina Rep. Verla Insko collaborated with Golden for several years on mental health reform in the state.

“Bob has the ability to articulate a clear vision and a talent for getting people to work together to reach that vision,” Insko says. “He has genuine personal warmth and a style that makes people want to do better, to reach higher.”

Golden worked with several members of the North Carolina legislature to create a stream of support for a new UNC School of Medicine program in translational medicine that pairs young faculty with senior mentors in both the basic and clinical sciences. The small teams serve dual purposes – to train the young faculty members to do research and to develop new research agendas that result in advances that move quickly from laboratory to clinic.

Golden also was the driving force behind a new compensation plan that offers incentives and rewards for outstanding performers in the basic sciences. Another program launched on Golden’s watch, the Academy of Educators, intensifies the school’s commitment to medical student education by providing substantial support for faculty and staff who dedicate their careers to teaching. And with the input of many committees and individual faculty members, Golden also initiated the school’s first strategic planning process, which he will be finishing in the next few months.

Golden, who joined the UNC School of Medicine faculty in 1985, says he first realized that he loved being an administrator when he served as associate director of the UNC General Clinical Research Center, a federally funded unit that serves as a setting for medical investigators to conduct safe and controlled clinical research.

“That experience from 1990-95 made me realize that I love many aspects of academic medicine that go beyond my own field of psychiatry,” he says.

Nevertheless, he went on to fine-tune his leadership skills as chair of psychiatry. He helped expand the department’s National Institutes of Health research portfolio from approximately $3 million to more than $29 million. He guided the complete redesign and expansion of the department’s clinical operations to include 76 inpatient beds and an array of outpatient and partial-hospitalization services.

Under Golden’s chairmanship, the general psychiatry residency training program became one of the most respected in the field, and its fellowship programs for child and adolescent psychiatry and research gained national recognition. An active development program executed during Golden’s chairmanship created a substantial endowment for the department, including the creation of six new endowed professorships.

The key to his successes, Golden says, has been building strong collegial relationships and partnerships with a variety of people. “I surround myself with very bright, committed people who share a vision,” he says. “I start out by getting as much input from as many people as I can, and I then synthesize the various perspectives and ideas into the best possible plan in a collaborative way.”

Golden, who grew up in South River, N.J., earned a bachelor’s degree (cum laude) from Yale University, with distinction in his major of psychology. He graduated from Boston University School of Medicine in 1979 and completed his residency in psychiatry at UNC, where he was selected to serve as chief resident in 1982-83.

He undertook a research fellowship at the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) from 1983-85. His research focused on the biology and pharmacology of mood disorders. His teaching activities revolve around the neurobiology and treatment of depression. In his clinical practice, Golden concentrates on providing “second opinion” consultations for physicians with patients who have severe and difficult-to-treat depression.

Golden says that once he begins in Madison this summer, he will rely on the strong teams already in place at the school. The only “team member” he will bring from UNC, he says jokingly, is his wife, Shannon C. Kenney. A highly regarded physician scientist, Kenney will have appointments in the UW–Madison departments of Medicine and Medical Microbiology and Immunology.

Golden and Kenney have four children: Troy, 23; Blair, 20; Sean, 15; and Max, 7. All six members of the family are big basketball fans and have been avid supporters of the UNC Tar Heels for years – an allegiance that may soon change.

Golden uses a basketball metaphor to explain his work philosophy.

“Watching the Tar Heels, I realized that my heroes are not the individual stars, like the Michael Jordans. My heroes have been the coaches, the Dean Smiths, who recognize and recruit talented players and help them develop, both individually and as a team,” he says. “My aspiration at UW School of Medicine and Public Health will be to become the best coach that I can possibly be.”