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Neuroscientist named dean of David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA

Dr. Kelsey Martin was inspired to pursue a medical career by her experiences in the Peace Corps

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Kelsey Martin
UCLA

Dr. Kelsey Martin joined the medical school’s faculty in 1999, and has served in various leadership roles including as interim dean since September 2015.

Dr. Kelsey Martin, a neuroscientist and senior administrator, has been named dean of the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA.

Martin, who was inspired to pursue a medical career by her experience as a Peace Corps volunteer, joined the medical school’s faculty in 1999, and has served in various leadership roles including as interim dean since September 2015.

In an announcement to the campus community, Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost Scott Waugh said Martin, who was chosen after a national search, “has demonstrated outstanding leadership, inspired and impactful scholarship, and keen knowledge of the intricacies of academic health care.”

Dr. John Mazziotta, vice chancellor for health sciences and CEO of UCLA Health, said “Dr. Martin is an esteemed scholar, effective administrator and skilled communicator who is extraordinarily well-qualified to continue the medical school’s trajectory as an international leader in medical education, research, patient care and community service. As interim dean and in other leadership positions, Kelsey has articulated her vision clearly to faculty, administrators, students and the community, and forged strong partnerships to deliver results that serve the public.”

The medical school has more than 700 students training to be physicians and approximately 2,700 full-time faculty, 1,000 medical residents and 400 Ph.D. candidates. Its robust research program produces medical breakthroughs that advance patient care and consistently ranks among the best in the nation in the value of funding generated. Faculty and medical residents provide patient care at UCLA Health hospitals in Westwood and Santa Monica and in clinics throughout Southern California.

As dean, Martin will provide the medical school’s overall strategic vision, conceive and manage policies and programs, and allocate resources to achieve results.

“I am thrilled to serve in a position where I am surrounded by extraordinarily talented faculty, physicians-in-training and graduate students and postdoctoral fellows in the biomedical sciences who share my passion for the humanistic and scholarly mission of the Geffen School of Medicine,” Martin said. “It is an honor and privilege to lead an institution committed to serving society in such a powerful way.”

Martin earned an undergraduate degree in English and American language and literature from Harvard University before serving as a Peace Corps volunteer in the Democratic Republic of Congo (known as Zaire when she was there). She helped lead disease-prevention and health efforts in remote villages, wrote grants to fund measles vaccinations and organized outreach programs.

The experience sparked an interest in medicine, and Martin went on to pursue a medical degree and a doctorate degree at Yale University, where she studied molecular biophysics and biochemistry. She completed postdoctoral training in neurobiology at Columbia University, working in the lab of Dr. Eric Kandel, who won a Nobel Prize for his work on memory formation — the field that became the focus of Martin’s research.

At UCLA, Martin is a professor of biological chemistry and of psychiatry and biobehavioral sciences. She is the principal investigator of a molecular neurobiology laboratory that integrates cell biological, molecular and electrophysiological approaches to understand how the brain stores memories. The research lab has received continuous funding from the National Institutes of Health since 1999.

Martin has served as chair of the department of biological chemistry and as co-director of the UCLA–Caltech Medical Scientist Training Program. She has been a leader in UCLA’s efforts to encourage cooperation on brain-related research among scientists from various disciplines.

Prior to being named interim dean, she served as executive vice dean and associate vice chancellor for UCLA Health Sciences.

Martin has been elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Among other recognition, she received the W.M. Keck Foundation Distinguished Young Scholar in Medical Research Program Award, the Jordi Folch–Pi Award from the American Society for Neurochemistry, and the Daniel X. Freedman Award from the National Alliance for Research on Schizophrenia and Depression.

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