OUWB Founding Dean Steps Down

Dean Vaglia, Staff Reporter

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Oakland University William Beaumont School of Medicine’s (OUWB) Dean Dr. Robert Folberg announced Tuesday, Jan. 22, he will be stepping down.

Folberg was the founding dean at OUWB, tasked to grow the 8-year-old medical school from his “office in O’Dowd Hall along with a box of paper clips” to the institution it is today.

“It was not easy to start a new medical school when Michigan became the epicenter of a crushing recession,” Folberg said in his letter to the OUWB community. “I remember relating that the biggest challenge to us at the time was convincing Michiganders that something good could happen in this state, and as jobs were leaving the area, we were recruiting top talent to come here because of the vision of OUWB was so compelling.”

Before OUWB, Folberg spent 20 years as a researcher funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Prior to joining the OU community, he was at the University of Illinois Cancer Center in Chicago studying cancers of the eye.

Eye cancer is a personal topic for Folberg, as he underwent a corneal eye transplant because of eye cancer, according to a 2008 Oakland Post article by Lindsey Wojcik.

“I could only see a hand moving in front of my face, I couldn’t even count fingers,” Folberg said to Wojcik. “The first thing I saw when they took the patch off my eye was the edge of a table coming to a point at the corner. I forgot what it was like to see something like that.”

Despite creating a career as a researcher and publishing a field altering paper on cancer biology, Folberg did not hesitate about joining OUWB. From the limited resources that were provided, Folberg and the OUWB research team were able to create a medical school distinct among others, focused on crafting “virtuoso physicians.”

“At OUWB, we also ask that each of our students and our graduates tether mastery of knowledge and technique to a generous personal expression of humanity through service to others,” Folberg said in his letter.

This distinction Folberg strove for is there, as new OUWB professor Dr. Ramin Homayouni, can attest to.

“[Folberg] was instrumental for me to come here,” Homayouni said. “It was part of his vision which I really liked.”

Homayouni is building a graduate program in population health informatics, and Folberg wanted to use data from Beaumont clinics to help with the program.

As Folberg gets prepared to leave the OUWB Dean position at the end of June this year, Provost James Lentini is working to install an interim dean. Lentini will also be working with Beaumont Health to establish a committee for a national dean search.

“I think [Folberg] has done an excellent job,” assistant professor and Embark Program co-director Dwayne Baxa said. “I worked closely with him on the Embark Program, and I think his vision for the program was very good, and I think it’s made quite a benefit to many of our students.”

Folberg will remain at OUWB as a professor in foundational medical Studies, pathology and ophthalmology, according to a statement by Lentini.