Westerhouse named associate vice chancellor for Medical Public Affairs

Joni Westerhouse, a longtime veteran in public affairs at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, has been named associate vice chancellor and associate dean for Medical Public Affairs.


Westerhouse, most recently assistant vice chancellor for Medical Public Affairs, succeeds Don Clayton, who retired in May after 32 years at the university.

“Joni is exceptionally qualified for this role and has done an outstanding job for the School of Medicine’s public affairs office for the past 27 years and most recently, with Don Clayton’s retirement, as the office’s interim leader,” said Larry J. Shapiro, MD, executive vice chancellor for medical affairs and dean of the School of Medicine, who announced the appointment. “I am confident that under Joni’s leadership, Medical Public Affairs will continue to grow along the path of excellence and will remain a stellar office and integral part of our school.”

Westerhouse will oversee the School of Medicine’s public relations, communications and marketing efforts. She will lead a professional staff responsible for media relations, brand strategy and integrated marketing communications. The appointment is effective Oct. 1.

As assistant vice chancellor, Westerhouse has been known for having a collegial and collaborative management style that builds bridges and consensus among individuals and organizations. She has managed staff responsible for bringing local, national and international media attention to the school. Her group produces science, medicine and health news articles, and radio, web and social media communications, and plays key roles in strategic planning and crisis communications.

Westerhouse also has collaborated with Barnes-Jewish Hospital and St. Louis Children’s Hospital to co-brand and market medical center programs and services. In addition, she has worked closely with colleagues at the Danforth Campus to coordinate public relations activities that enhance shared goals.

“I have trained under a tremendous mentor in Don Clayton, and I will carry on his tradition of leading with the mindset of doing what is honorable and in the best interest of the school,” Westerhouse said. “The integrity of Washington University and my desire to work at a place that is noble, intellectually stimulating and of great benefit to society is what has kept me here for nearly three decades. It is such an honor to represent one of the top medical schools in the country.”

Westerhouse joined the Medical Public Affairs staff in 1987 as editor of the Medical Record and as a media relations specialist. Over the years, she took on several roles, as a spokesperson, writer, editor and director and executive director of medical communications prior to her appointment in 2011 as assistant vice chancellor. She also performed leadership roles in events on the Danforth Campus. Among them, she served on the Presidential Debate Planning Committee in 1992, 2000 and 2004 and the Vice Presidential Debate Planning Committee in 2008.

She has been an active leader in the Association of American Medical Colleges Group on Institutional Advancement (GIA), which includes public relations, marketing, fundraising and alumni affairs professionals from medical colleges and teaching hospitals nationwide. She was national chair of the GIA in 2012 and continues to be actively involved in the organization.

Before she came to Washington University, Westerhouse worked in public relations and marketing for four years at St. Elizabeth’s Hospital in Belleville, Ill.

She attended the University of Maryland at its Munich, Germany, campus and graduated in 1982 from Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and a minor in psychology.

Washington University School of Medicine’s 2,100 employed and volunteer faculty physicians also are the medical staff of Barnes-Jewish and St. Louis Children’s hospitals. The School of Medicine is one of the leading medical research, teaching and patient-care institutions in the nation, currently ranked sixth in the nation by U.S. News & World Report. Through its affiliations with Barnes-Jewish and St. Louis Children’s hospitals, the School of Medicine is linked to BJC HealthCare.