Brooks Jackson, MD, MBA, is a runner. He’s up early every morning, jogging several miles to start his day.

Running is an apt metaphor for what it takes to lead an academic medical center: commitment, discipline, stamina, coordination and balance, and the ability to adjust to prevailing headwinds.

Jackson joined the University of Iowa in late November 2017 as vice president for medical affairs and dean of the Carver College of Medicine after four years in a similar leadership role at the University of Minnesota. He shares his thoughts on his role as the new leader of UI Health Care and what he sees as the path to success.

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One question you’ve probably heard from colleagues here and across the country has been: Why Iowa?

Well, why not Iowa? UI Health Care has an outstanding reputation across the country. If you look at the amount of NIH research funding per faculty member, for example, it’s impressive, as are our clinical trials programs. The medical school curriculum is dynamic, and the quality of the students is quite high. We have world-class facilities. And we do a great job providing care for the people of Iowa and the surrounding region.

The other important piece to this, and a big advantage over other academic medical centers, is that UI Health Care is a fully integrated system with the medical school, practice plan, and hospitals and clinics in alignment. Not every health system, especially in academic medicine, has this kind of organizational structure. It’s a big advantage in terms of strategic planning, setting priorities, reaching consensus on major decisions and initiatives, and allocating resources.

What are your goals for UI Health Care?

To be successful in academic medicine, it is very important that the faculty are successful. What differentiates academic medicine from most private practice is the push toward discoveries that will truly advance the care of patients. It’s finding the cures for disease, optimizing current standards of therapy, and creating valuable learning experiences for students and residents.

But health care is not just about the doctors, of course. Every person in our organization—the nurses, pharmacists, research assistants, and others—makes a great difference. It’s a team effort, so working collaboratively and having common goals is very important.

Generally speaking, I want UI Health Care to grow and continue as a destination academic health center—attracting the best students, faculty and staff. I want to increase our national rankings, which will enhance our faculty recruiting efforts, which in turn will boost efforts to attract extramural research funding. And I’d like to see us stay strong in terms of philanthropy—especially in the areas of student scholarship support. A key determinant in attracting some of the very brightest students in Iowa and across the country is whether we can provide scholarships to offset the costs of medical education.

What are some of the challenges?

Every health system in the country is facing levels of decreased reimbursement. Regulatory constraints and higher costs associated with IT and staffing are among the additional challenges.

At academic medical centers, and especially public institutions, there is sometimes an expectation or demand to be everything to everybody. I believe we’ll need to focus on selective areas of excellence and build on those strengths.

What are the areas we can invest in and excel at?

Determining those areas that are great but have potential to be even greater has been one of my priorities. This takes time, but I’ve been meeting with people from across our research, education, and clinical care missions.

How would you describe your leadership style?

I’m sort of a method-driven, data-driven type of person. I tend to look at problems in terms of, "Where do we want to be five years from now?” And then, "How do we get there?”

How do you gauge success?

Again, I go back to the faculty. Are they meeting the promotion criteria because they’re making advances in research and teaching, and developing national and international reputations as experts in their fields? If we can continue to recruit and retain faculty who are doing these things, I think the quality of our medical students and the care we provide patients will continue to be outstanding.

Brooks Jackson

  • MBA (1977), MD (1982), Dartmouth College
  • Clinical pathology resident (1982-85) and blood bank fellow (1984-85), University of Minnesota
  • Chairman, Department of Pathology (2001-14), Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine
  • Vice President for Health Sciences and Dean of the Medical School (2014-17), University of Minnesota
  • Clinical expertise: Clinical pathology, blood banking, and transfusion medicine
  • Research expertise: Diagnostics, treatment, and prevention of transfusion-transmitted viruses, particularly HIV




Featured in Medicine Iowa Spring 2018

You're reading one of the features included in the Spring 2018 issue of Medicine Iowa. Read more news and features about the people and programs focused on teaching, healing, and research in the UI Roy J. and Lucille A. Carver College of Medicine.