Meet the Dean: Dr. Charles Cairns

Meet the Dean: Dr. Charles Cairns

By Amy WilliamsUniversity Relations – Communications
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Dr. Charles Cairns (Photo courtesy of UAHS)
Dr. Charles Cairns (Photo courtesy of UAHS)

They're experts in their fields and essential campus leaders, but how well do you know deans across the University?

This regular Lo Que Pasa series introduces deans across campus and provides insight into their motivations, challenges and reasons for choosing to work at the UA.

This week, meet a dean who was a competitive runner in college and values transparency and inclusiveness as a campus leader.


Name: Dr. Charles Cairns
College: College of Medicine – Tucson
Number of years as dean: I served one year as interim dean and was named permanent dean in April.
Fun Fact: I am a sake aficionado and even won a sake tasting contest in Tokyo, Japan.

What do you enjoy most about serving as dean of the College of Medicine – Tucson? 

Working with our remarkable group of College of Medicine – Tucson students, trainees, faculty and staff and UA colleagues to transform academic medicine, not only in Tucson, but across Arizona.

When and why did you choose to join the UA? 

I came to the UA from the University of North Carolina and Duke University before that because of UA's strong background in medical education, the renewed interest in medical research and the potential of working with Banner Health as a health care delivery partner for education, training, research and clinical care.

What are some of the challenges and rewards of serving as dean? 

Over the past year, we have undergone a remarkable transformation in the College of Medicine. We have formed and solidified our partnership with Banner Health, expanded our medical education offerings for students, developed five new residency and fellowship training programs, implemented nationally recognized health system-wide clinical research programs, and approved a significant expansion in clinical faculty positions.

What's one thing happening in your college right now that people should know about? 

We have had a record number of medical student applicants, 6,500, for our 115 positions. We have enrolled the most diverse medical student class in the history of the college – 37 percent under-represented minorities – and had a record 98 percent of our graduating students who got their choice of residency positions in the national residency "match."

What does the future hold for the College of Medicine – Tucson? 

We are poised to be one of the leading medical schools in the country to translate new discoveries, technologies and care models to the care of patients and populations. This will allow us to be a leader in aligning health care delivery with inter-professional education, training, research and innovation. We will focus on educating and training physicians and health care providers for how health care will be in the future by fostering the development of professional intelligence, emphasizing expertise in technology in addition to clinical skills and competence. We are well-poised to contribute to medical research discoveries and innovations given our recently developed leading edge programs in precision medicine, microbiome and host responses, and medical informatics.

What is your leadership philosophy?

I strive to be a transformative leader in academic medicine, incorporating an open, transparent and inclusive approach focused on institutional results with local, state, national and global impact.

What is something most people do not know about you? 

I was a competitive runner in college and thoroughly enjoy running in the canyons around Tucson.

What do you enjoy doing in your free time? 

I enjoy outdoor activities year-round, including running, hiking, swimming and skiing.

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