Patrice Delafontaine, new Medical School dean, 'delighted' to join MU

Tuesday, July 15, 2014 | 6:39 p.m. CDT; updated 8:56 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 15, 2014

COLUMBIA — Patrice Delafontaine said he is excited to try Shakespeare’s Pizza once he arrives in Columbia.

DelafontainePatrice Delafontaine will begin his job as dean of the MU School of Medicine on Dec. 1, according to an MU news release.

He is chief of cardiology at Tulane University in New Orleans, where he has worked since 2003. Delafontaine also served as the Sidney and Marilyn Lassen Chair of Cardiovascular Medicine and director of the Tulane University Heart and Vascular Institute.

"I’m delighted to be coming to Mizzou," Delafontaine said. "I’m honored to be chosen for this position."

Delafontaine was the first scientist to establish the critical link between the human hormone system that regulates blood pressure and a protein that is essential for childhood growth, which provided insight into muscle-wasting diseases, according to the news release. He has authored more than 115 articles about his research.

Delafontaine said that during his career, he has focused on three areas — education, clinical and research — and will continue to do so at MU.

"I’ve worked with students all of my life," he said. "I look forward to working in a campus with a whole range of students and, hopefully, we keep making it a great academic opportunity for them."

After three visits to the MU School of Medicine and other medical facilities on campus, Delafontaine, 63, said he and his wife, Mary, are excited for the chance to live in a community like Columbia.

"Columbia is a very appealing place to live," he said.

They have two sons: Jean-Luc, 25, and Laurent, 21.

Before Tulane, Delafontaine worked at the University of Kansas Medical Center, Emory University in Atlanta and University of Geneva in Switzerland, where he received his doctor of medicine degree, according to the news release. He completed a research and clinical fellowship in cardiology at Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.

"My research and academic opportunities in the United States have been second to none," said Delafontaine, who was born in Alexandria, Egypt, and raised in South Africa before going to medical school at Geneva. 

The former dean of the MU School of Medicine, Robert Churchill, retired in October 2012, according to previous Missourian reporting. The move followed a federal investigation that revealed fraudulent billing practices of two doctors in the Department of Radiology at MU Health Care. Churchill was not implicated in the investigation. Les Hall has served as the interim dean.

A search firm, Witt/Kieffer, contracted by the School of Medicine approached Delafontaine about the position. 

"I was intrigued by the opportunity to come here," Delafontaine said. "I’m really impressed by Mizzou and the Health Sciences Center."

Delafontaine's annual salary will be $600,000, said Mary Jenkins, MU Health System public relations manager.

Supervising editor is Elizabeth Brixey.

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