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Aaron Friedman to take over as medical school pediatrics head Monday

Change and experience are often debated by Presidential candidates, but the University’s department of pediatrics is set to benefit from both.

Aaron Friedman will take over as chairman of the department in the University Medical School Monday, as the first full-time head since June of 2007.

Friedman, 59, will return to the Midwest after spending four years as head of the pediatrics department at Brown University.

“One of the reasons I decided to look at this possibility was the chance to come back to the Midwest,” Friedman said. “The winter notwithstanding.”

Friedman completed his undergraduate education at Cornell University and medical school at the State University of New York in Syracuse, he said.

His residency and fellowship training took place at the University of Wisconsin and, after a one-year stint at Duke University, he returned to Madison to work for 28 years. This included a position as their department head in pediatrics.

Friedman said his experience at Wisconsin will help him adjust to the size of the University.

“I’m not going to for a minute pretend that Wisconsin and Minnesota run things in exactly the same way,” he said. “The sort of sense of it, the big University campus, central location, medical school on that campus, they’re all things that I have some familiarity with.”

Following his tenure in Madison, Friedman took the head of pediatrics position at Brown University in Providence, R.I., a post he has held for the last four years.

Friedman also served as medical director of the Hasbro Children’s Hospital, a position similar to the one he will hold at the University’s Children’s Hospital, Fairview.

Friedman said the dual roles of department head and hospital administrator go hand in hand.

“These things are integrated and their functions have to be integrated,” he said. “We have a responsibility to teach medical students and trainees while we’re doing clinical medicine.”

Friedman said the experience is a “balancing act.”

“It’s very invigorating,” he said. “The combination of working with people who are just starting out in their medical careers and working with people who are very accomplished in their careers is really very exciting.”

Friedman will take over the position for interim head and pediatrics professor Joseph Neglia, who said the department is ready for a new director.

“I think the department, right now, is posed for truly a transformational event and I think that Aaron will be a great leader during that period of time,” he said.

Deborah Powell, dean of the University’s Medical School, said Friedman is a good fit, considering the changes facing the school.

The University and Fairview are opening a new, $175 million children’s hospital at Fairview’s Riverside location, and Friedman’s experience with hospital transitions will assist in that challenge, Powell said.

Friedman helped with the creation of a new children’s hospital during his time in Madison.

“I needed a leader to come in and work Ö to get this building done and to move the faculty and the programs across the river,” she said. “That’s a big thing in itself.”

Powell said a number of other positions are currently open in the Medical School. Friedman said his outside perspective can assist in faculty searches, as well.

“Because the University is so big, and because it’s a campus with a lot of biology going on, I think the opportunity to bring new people to the campus is really strong,” he said. “That’s another thing I’m really looking forward to.”

Friedman was selected from a national search of candidates, Powell said. There are advantages to bringing in someone from the outside – a common practice for major institutions, she said.

“It’s a tradeoff,” said Powell. “Inside people know the institution, know the players, know the people. People from outside bring a different perspective from a different institution.”

Neglia said Friedman’s past positions show his talent.

“I think he brings a breath of experience from being head at other departments,” Neglia said. “I think he is very well-recognized nationally for his leadership skills. Honestly, I’m hoping to learn from that skill set.”

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