Shapiro to step down as executive vice chancellor and medical school dean

'School has never been stronger,' chancellor says

Larry J. Shapiro, MD, has announced he will step down as executive vice chancellor for medical affairs and dean of Washington University School of Medicine. He will remain in the post until a national search is conducted and his replacement found.
Larry J. Shapiro, MD, has announced he will step down as executive vice chancellor for medical affairs and dean of Washington University School of Medicine. He will remain in the post until a national search is conducted and his replacement found.

Larry J. Shapiro, MD, has announced he will step down as executive vice chancellor for medical affairs and dean of Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.

Shapiro, who has led the school for nearly 12 years, will continue at the helm until a national search is conducted and his replacement found.

Chancellor Mark S. Wrighton will chair the search committee, which will include the provost, university trustees, School of Medicine department heads and others.

Wrighton, referring to Shapiro as “St. Louis’ physician-in-chief” and a leader devoted to the university and School of Medicine, said it is impossible to recount all of Shapiro’s achievements.

“Larry has done a terrific job in every respect: The school has never been stronger, and he has done fabulously well in recruiting outstanding department heads and faculty; recruiting the most outstanding medical students; and building an outstanding and large clinical program, including development of the Alvin J. Siteman Cancer Center.

“He was instrumental in launching the Institute for Public Health and supporting its development, and he played a lead role in enhancing the school’s educational mission and in strengthening the quality and impact of research.”

Shapiro said his leadership role at the university “has been the utmost privilege of my professional career and has provided me with challenges, great satisfaction and much happiness. But I believe it is important to recognize the optimal time for transition and so have asked Chancellor Wrighton to initiate the search for my successor.”

A pediatric geneticist by training, Shapiro is a Washington University legacy. He first arrived in St. Louis 50 years ago as an undergraduate student in Arts & Sciences. He then pursued his medical degree at the School of Medicine and completed his residency at St. Louis Children’s Hospital in 1973.

Afterward, he embarked on a medical career at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and then at the University of California, Los Angeles, and the University of California, San Francisco. He returned to St. Louis in 2003 as a renowned genetics researcher, administrator and pediatrician. That year, he took on the roles of executive vice chancellor for medical affairs, dean of the School of Medicine and the Spencer T. and Ann W. Olin Distinguished Professor.

He is also president of Washington University Medical Center, which includes the School of Medicine, Barnes-Jewish Hospital and St. Louis Children’s Hospital.

Among his myriad accomplishments, Shapiro was instrumental in establishing BioMed 21, an initiative aimed at making St. Louis a biotech powerhouse. It brings together basic scientists and clinical researchers from different disciplines to address the most important questions in biomedical science and rapidly translate findings into new therapies for patients. The program includes faculty from the university’s Schools of Medicine, Engineering and Arts & Sciences.

Among the many other achievements during his tenure:

  • The school has consistently remained a top 10 medical school, according to annual rankings by U.S. News & World Report;
  • The school continues to remain at the top nationwide in student selectivity, a measure of medical student undergraduate grade-point averages and MCAT scores;
  • The school is fourth among all medical schools in NIH funding, with two departments ranked first, three departments ranked second and 10 departments in the top 10;
  • The Washington University Physicians clinical practice has grown significantly. Last year, it earned $874 million in revenue;
  • More than $900 million has been raised for the School of Medicine as part of Leading Together: The Campaign for Washington University.


Shapiro is a vice chair of the Council of the Institute of Medicine (IOM) of the National Academy of Sciences. Membership in the IOM is one of the highest honors bestowed on American physician-scientists. He also serves as a member of the Governing Board of the National Research Council and of the Scientific Management Review Board of the NIH.

He is a member of the prestigious American Academy of Arts & Sciences and a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). The rank of fellow is the highest honor awarded by the AAAS, the world’s largest general scientific society. He is a member of many other societies and organizations and has served as president of the American Society of Human Genetics, the American Board of Medical Genetics, the Society for Inherited Metabolic Disorders, the Western Society for Pediatric Research, the Society for Pediatric Research and the American Pediatric Society.

He is past chairman of the Association of American Medical Colleges Advisory Panel for Research and served on the Advisory Board of the Council of Deans. He is also past chair of the board of directors of the Association of Academic Health Centers.

Shapiro is recognized for his work in human genetics, molecular biology and biochemistry. His research has contributed significantly to the understanding of X chromosome inactivation. Further, he has extensive experience in and received recognition for excellence in teaching and patient care.

Among his dozens of honors and awards, he received the E. Mead Johnson Award for Research from the American Academy of Pediatrics; the Alumni Achievement Award from Washington University; and the Medical Excellence Award from the National Children’s Cancer Society.

Larry J. Shapiro, in a photo from his days as a Washington University medical student and then a resident at St. Louis Children’s Hospital. (Credit: Washington University)

As a student at Washington University, Shapiro distinguished himself academically. He is a member of the Phi Beta Kappa and Alpha Omega Alpha national honor societies. He also received the Robert Carter Medical School Prize and the university’s George F. Gill Prize in Pediatrics.

After completing his residency at St. Louis Children’s Hospital in 1973, he became a research associate at the National Institute of Arthritis, Metabolism and Digestive Diseases of the NIH, in Bethesda, Maryland. In 1975, he joined the medical faculty at UCLA as director of the Harbor-UCLA Genetic Metabolic Laboratory. He later became director of the Alfred Hitchcock Center for Cystic Fibrosis Research, chief of the Division of Medical Genetics and director of UCLA’s Recombinant DNA Core Laboratory.

During his years at UCLA, Shapiro also was a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator.

In 1991, he was named the W.H. and Marie Wattis Distinguished Professor and Chair of the Department of Pediatrics at UCSF. While there, he helped establish its children’s hospital. He also spearheaded the university’s participation in the Glaser Pediatric Research Network, a driving force in improving research and care for children with HIV and AIDS.

A Chicago native, Shapiro is married to Carol Uetake-Shapiro. They have three adult children, two of whom received their undergraduate degrees from Washington University, a major point of pride to Shapiro given his decades-long relationship with the institution.

“Learning and leading here has been an absolute labor of love,” he said. “Washington University School of Medicine is an international treasure populated by students, faculty and staff with an unrelenting commitment to excellence in all that they do. It has been my great privilege to be the steward of this remarkable institution for these past years. The School of Medicine has been and will remain a great source of pride to all who have served here and will continue to be a source of hope for so many whose lives have been directly or indirectly touched by what we do.”

Larry J. Shapiro (left), Oliver H. Lowry, MD, PhD (center), and Philip Needleman, PhD, conduct medical research at the School of Medicine in the late 1960s or early 1970s. Shapiro went on to become executive vice chancellor and dean of the School of Medicine in 2003. Lowry, who was dean of the school from 1955-58, was best known as head of the Department of Pharmacology, a position he held from 1947-76. Needleman succeeded Lowry as head of pharmacology, a post he held from 1976-89. (Credit: Washington University)

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.