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Memorial roots

Faculty of Medicine welcomes all-alumni leadership team

Campus and Community

By Kelly Foss

The Faculty of Medicine has new leadership at the helm — and they are all alumni of Memorial University.

A group of three people stand on a balcony in front of a glass double height foyer.
From left are Drs. Rod Russell, Dolores McKeen and Danielle O’Keefe.
Photo: Jennifer Armstrong

Dr. Dolores McKeen (B.Med.Sc.’90, MD’92, M.Sc.(Med)’04) was appointed interim dean on Aug. 1, the first time an alumnus has held the role since the faculty was established more than 50 years ago.

She is joined by Dr. Danielle O’Keefe (Dip.Clin.Epi.’03, MD’05, PGY2(FM)’06; M.Sc.(Med.)), interim vice-dean, education and faculty affairs; and Dr. Rodney Russell (B.Sc.’96, M.Sc.(Med.)’00), vice-dean, research and graduate studies.

Interim dean

“As a Newfoundlander and proud Class of ’92 alumna, I feel a personal obligation to give back to the people of Newfoundland and Labrador and to my university, where I received an exceptional medical education,” said Dr. McKeen on her decision to take on the role of dean.

Dr. Dolores McKeen, a white woman in her early 50s, in a portrait studio shot.
Dr. Dolores McKeen
Photo: Jennifer Armstrong

“Memorial University has allowed me amazing career opportunities and the ability to contribute both to clinical and academic medicine. I am honoured and humbled to be chosen as interim dean to lead this amazing team of faculty and staff, who educate some of the best physicians and scientists in the world, and who all collectively impact change to health care and research locally and globally.”

In assuming this position, Dr. McKeen says part of her role is to provide stability for the faculty during a time of transition.

“I will use my medical education administration and academic leadership experiences to provide strategic direction to the educational, research and clinical mandates of the Faculty of Medicine. My career goal has always been, and continues in this role, to improve lives: of patients, learners, and now faculty and staff.”

Prior to her appointment, Dr. McKeen held the role of vice-dean, education and faculty affairs since September 2021. She is also a professor in the Discipline of Anesthesia.

Before coming to Memorial, Dr. McKeen is the former chief of Halifax’s IWK Health Centre’s Women’s and Obstetric Department of Anesthesia and spent more than 22 years working as a professor of anesthesia. She served in many leadership roles, including associate program director in Dalhousie’s Department of Anesthesia and on the Dalhousie Senate.

Dr. McKeen holds doctor of medicine and master of science in clinical epidemiology degrees from Memorial University and completed her residency in anesthesia at Memorial. She also completed a Dalhousie University research fellowship in obstetric anesthesia at the IWK Health Centre. She is a Canadian-certified physician executive.

Vice-dean, education and faculty affairs

Dr. Danielle O'Keefe, a white woman in her late 30s, in a studio portrait shot.
Dr. Danielle O’Keefe
Photo: Jennifer Armstrong

Stepping into the role of vice-dean, education and faculty affairs, effective Oct. 1, is Dr. O’Keefe.

A family physician, Dr. O’Keefe joined the Discipline of Family Medicine in 2011. She completed doctor of medicine and master of science in clinical epidemiology degrees at Memorial, as well as a family medicine residency.

Dr. O’Keefe is a former Family Medicine residency training program director and, until recently, the chair of the Discipline of Family Medicine. She is also a former Memorial University senator.

She has been involved in numerous committees related to the creation of a joint medical degree with the University of Prince Edward Island. Her work on this project will continue in her new role.

“I saw the opportunity of taking on the vice-dean role as a way to contribute to the Faculty of Medicine during a time of transition,” she said. “This position provides me with the opportunity to advocate on behalf of the Faculty of Medicine for priorities in medical education. I look forward to working with our team in support of decisions that will positively impact medical education in the years to come.”

Dr. Rod Russell, a white man in his early 50s, in a studio portrait shot.
Dr. Rod Russell
Photo: Jennifer Armstrong

Vice-dean, research and graduate studies

As vice-dean, research and graduate studies, Dr. Russell “grew up at Memorial” he says, having completed a bachelor’s degree in biochemistry and a master’s degree in medicine studying HIV at Memorial University.

A professor of virology and immunology in the Division of BioMedical Sciences, Dr. Russell completed a PhD at McGill University in the field of HIV research and carried out post-doctoral training at the National Institutes of Health (U.S.), where he switched his research focus to the hepatitis C virus.

In 2008 he established a research program at Memorial that covers fundamental virology, viral immunology and viral pathogenesis, as well as antiviral drug discovery and development.

“When I came back to Memorial, I hoped I could use what I had learned to benefit the division, faculty, and university,” he said. “My main passions are doing research and advocating for research and graduate students. This is the ideal position for me to have a strong voice for both. I felt I could be a recognizable face and voice that will hopefully give stability to everyone involved in research in medicine, as well as the university teams with whom we collaborate.”

His main priority during his term will be to connect people interested in research and to help move ongoing and new research projects forward.

“The pandemic pushed silos that already existed even further apart,” said Dr. Russell. “We have to come back together, somewhat, but not to where we were before. My immediate priority will be to connect and reconnect people with common research interests.”

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