AUSTIN, Texas – Dell Medical School at The University of Texas at Austin and Dell Children’s Medical Center today announced that Z. Leah Harris, M.D., a clinical leader at some of the nation’s leading medical schools and children’s hospitals for more than two decades, has been named chair of Dell Med’s Department of Pediatrics and physician-in-chief at Dell Children’s Medical Center, part of Ascension Seton. Dr. Harris will also serve as a professor of pediatrics and director of the Dell Pediatric Research Institute. Her appointments at both organizations begin in August.
Dr. Harris is currently a professor of pediatrics at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and division chief of critical care medicine at Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago.
“Leah is a veteran critical care physician, an accomplished clinician and researcher, and an award-winning educator,” said Clay Johnston, M.D., Ph.D., dean of Dell Med. “But what makes her an even better fit for our collaborative team in Austin is that she’s an innovator who brings a multidisciplinary approach to health and health care.”
Johnston also noted that Dr. Harris will be a key part of shaping research and graduate medical education efforts in collaboration with Ascension Seton.
"We are honored to have Dr. Harris join our leadership team and bring her extensive knowledge and experience to Austin," said Christopher M. Born, president of Dell Children's. "She will be instrumental in helping to build enhanced models of care and continue to expand access to pediatric care in Central Texas, both of which are priorities for Dell Children's and a critical focus for our community."
Harris received her medical degree from Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science Chicago Medical School and completed residency training in pediatric critical care medicine at the University of Chicago Hospitals. Her early career included pediatric faculty positions at Washington University in St. Louis, and then at Johns Hopkins University, where she became fellowship director for pediatric critical care medicine and held a joint appointment in the Bloomberg School of Public Health. She later joined the faculty of the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine and Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt, where she was vice chair for academic affairs in the Department of Pediatrics, division chief of pediatric critical care medicine and a member of the hospital-based medicine and palliative care teams.
“In addition to tremendous clinical expertise, Dr. Harris brings a vision of best-in-class care for all children, regardless of the community in which they live or the complexity of their medical needs,” said Aliya Hussaini, M.D., an Austin pediatrician and portfolio director for U.S. health at the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation. “Her plan to create even more alignment among Dell Medical School, Dell Children’s and our community’s pediatricians will build on many years of effort among the pediatric community and support Austin to become a destination for the very highest level of pediatric health care in Central Texas and beyond.”
Although Dr. Harris describes her work as broad, her academic and clinical focus is on innovation. She has lectured internationally on the importance of innovation, patient health outcomes and faculty development in science and medicine, and she has also served in leadership roles across various disciplines including health equity, critical care pediatrics and medical education curriculum redesign.
“As an advocate for children’s health, I was attracted to the combination of a forward-thinking medical school, a top-tier hospital partner and a visionary community – all dedicated to supporting better health and health care for children and families,” Harris said about her new role. “I’m looking forward to collaborating with the community of physicians in Austin, and to getting to work. Together – physicians, nurses, nurse practitioners and others – we are going to continue to advance world-class care for the children of Austin and their families.”