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UTHSC Names Jones and Johnson as Vice Chancellors


UTHSC announces the naming of two new vice chancellors to fulfill the academic health science center’s missions of community service and research.

The University of Tennessee Health Science Center (UTHSC) announced today that two new vice chancellors have been selected to fulfill the academic health science center’s missions of community service and research. After a nationwide search, La Don Jones, PhD, was selected for the position of vice chancellor for community affairs. Leonard R. Johnson, PhD, was named vice chancellor for research, after serving in this position on an interim basis since last fall.

Assuming his new position on April 3, Dr. Jones comes to the UT Health Science Center with extensive experience in healthcare delivery and administration, as well as higher education. For the last three years, he served as vice president of technology and instructional resources at Baptist College of Health Sciences in Memphis. In his new role, he will be responsible for identifying, prioritizing, facilitating and coordinating system-wide opportunities that will enhance UTHSC engagements with community partners.

Since earning his doctorate in health services administration from the University of Alabama at Birmingham, Dr. Jones has held increasingly responsible leadership positions. Prior to his most recent position, Dr. Jones worked as the vice president of clinical integration for two years at Baptist Memorial Health Care Corporation and as the director of student services for two years at Baptist Memorial College of Health Sciences.

In addition to his professional career, Dr. Jones has donated a great deal of his time to the Memphis community. Last year, he served as the board chair of both Leadership Memphis, an organization designed to encourage future community leaders, and Porter-Leath Children’s Center, a multifaceted social services agency.

According to search committee co-chairs, Ann Cashion, PhD, and Grant Somes, PhD, “The search committee believes that Dr. Jones’ demonstrated community leadership through organizations such as Leadership Memphis, as well as his academic administrative experience at Baptist College of Health Sciences uniquely qualified him to spearhead UTHSC’s efforts to strengthen collaborative community relationships and promote community service.”

Assuming the position of vice chancellor for research immediately, Dr. Johnson is no stranger to the workings of research or the Health Science Center. He came to UTHSC in 1989 to chair the Department of Physiology and serve as the Thomas A. Gerwin Professor in that department. Prior to these positions, Dr. Johnson was a professor in the Department of Physiology at the University of Texas Medical School at Houston. He also served as an associate and assistant professor in the Department of Physiology at the University of Oklahoma Medical School. Dr. Johnson began his illustrious academic career as an instructor at the University of California, Los Angeles, after he earned a doctorate in physiology from the University of Michigan.

Throughout his distinguished career, Dr. Johnson has garnered numerous honors and awards. A two-time winner of the National Institutes of Health Merit Award, most recently Dr. Johnson was honored as the John H. Walsh Memorial Lecturer at the UCLA College of Medicine. With over 225 peer-reviewed publications, Dr. Johnson continues to produce groundbreaking research. He currently is the principal investigator of two NIH funded projects and is a co-investigator for two additional NIH research studies.

Dr. Johnson led the UTHSC Department of Physiology for 16 years until he assumed the role of interim vice chancellor for research. Since that time, he has instituted new programs and is pursuing several initiatives to fulfill UTHSC’s research mission. In this new position, he will also oversee the allocations of research space and help develop more robust rewards systems for UTHSC scientists. Oversight of regulatory and safety committees will also reside within the Office of Research.

“As we continue to shape our transforming vision and strategy for the future of UTHSC, Drs. Johnson and Jones will play fundamental roles in the success of our research enterprise and of our expanding role as a community service leader,” said William F. Owen, Jr. MD, UTHSC chancellor.