Oakland University William Beaumont School of Medicine has promoted two associate deans who had previously been serving on an interim basis.

Pitts, Thomas promoted to associate deans at OUWB
Dee Pitts and Dave Thomas
Pitts (left) and Thomas were recently promoted to associate deans at OUWB.

Oakland University William Beaumont School of Medicine has promoted two associate deans who had previously been serving on an interim basis.

Deirdre Pitts, Ph.D., was named associate dean for Academic Affairs, Faculty Affairs, Diversity & Inclusion, effective Sept. 1. In the role, she functions as a key advisor to the dean on key organizational issues, is responsible for supporting more than 1,400 faculty members, managing staff & faculty human resources, and oversees the Diversity and Inclusion efforts for the OUWB community.

David Thomas, Ph.D., was appointed associate dean for Preclinical Education. He is responsible for the development, implementation, and delivery of the undergraduate preclinical component of the OUWB curriculum.

Previously, Pitts and Thomas held their respective positions on an interim basis.

“I never approached the role on an interim basis,” said Pitts. “When I was given the opportunity, from day one I’ve approached the appointment as if I was a permanent associate dean. I felt I had to approach it that way otherwise I would not have been able to be successful.”

Thomas said removal of the “interim” status makes him feel “very supported and assured that I’m doing the right things and I should keep doing them.”

“Removal of interim is a sign to me that perhaps I can go ahead and start shaping things a bit more,” he added. 

‘I promise I won’t let you down’

Pitts earned a bachelor of science in Business Administration from Central Michigan University, a master’s degree in Organizational Management from Spring Arbor University, and her Ph.D. in Education from Oakland University.

Her professional background includes more than 30 years of human resources and labor relations experience in the areas of retail management, health care administration, municipal government and higher education. 

She joined OUWB in 2011 as the founding director of Faculty Affairs and Professional Development.

When Linda Gillum, Ph.D., retired as associate dean for Academic and Faculty Affairs in early 2019, Pitts was appointed to the position on an interim basis (Pitts maintained the duties she had already).

“I never will forget the conversation that I had with (Stephan Sharf Interim Dean Duane Mezwa, M.D.),” she said.

“I told him ‘If you give me this opportunity, I promise I won’t let you down and I will do a good job.”

Today, Pitts said she wears a lot of hats.

“When I introduce myself to students, I try to keep it simple and tell them that ‘I make sure there are faculty here to teach you,’” she said.

Her duties include: oversight of human resources for OUWB faculty and staff; administration of the faculty life cycle for more than 1,400 faculty (including the clinical faculty affiliated with Beaumont Health), faculty appointments, promotion, tenure, reappointments and meaningful participation, diversity and inclusion initiatives; and faculty and staff professional development.

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Deirdre Pitts receives 'Dissertation of the Year' award

By nature, several of Pitts’ responsibilities overlap. For example, due to the wave of protests in the U.S. over the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Eric Garner and countless others, faculty professional development has been focused on many elements of diversity, equity, and inclusion; including race, racism, unconscious bias and effective bystander training. Professional development sessions have also been expanded to include staff and students.

“Professional development surrounds things like being effective teachers and ensuring a safe and welcoming learning environment where people can thrive,” she said. “But what has become even more important is ensuring that the learning environment and our work environment are inclusive and equitable for all individuals regardless of their race, creed, sexual orientation, and their ability or disability.”

With the “interim” status gone, Pitts said she has several short-term goals.

They include stabilizing staffing for the areas she’s responsible as well as bringing forth programming that continues to reflect societal trends and that have been identified as especially important to OUWB students.

“I hoping that in a year I’m able to look back and say that we provided the programming that creates an environment where everybody knows that the culture is one of dignity, respect, and open dialogue — where individuals can feel comfortable expressing concerns and know that those concerns are going to be addressed,” said Pitts.   

‘I truly enjoy it’

Thomas is a graduate of the State University of New York at Buffalo, received his doctorate in Biological Sciences from Wayne State University, and completed postdoctoral training at the University of Michigan Medical School.

He joined Wayne State University as a research assistant professor in 2003 and was appointed assistant professor of Pharmaceutical Sciences in 2007.

Thomas became a founding faculty member and master educator in the Department of Biomedical Sciences at OUWB in 2011.

“I was really drawn by the mission, vision, and values of the school— they resonate with who I am,” he said.

Thomas was promoted to associate professor with tenure in 2014 before being named assistant dean of Medical Education. In 2019, Thomas was named interim associate dean for Preclinical Education.

Throughout his time at OUWB, Thomas has held leadership positions in medical education as course director for the endocrinology course, Biomedical Sciences representative of the Academic Success Team, chair of the Curriculum Evaluation Subcommittee and secretary of the Curriculum Committee.

Thomas is a certified Team-Based Learning Consultant-Trainer of the TBL Collaborative (TBLC), and served as chair of the TBLC Educational Development Committee and as a member of the TBLC Steering Committee.

Thomas said that his duties as associate dean for Preclinical Education are to oversee the curriculum for first- and second-year medical students at OUWB and “ensure that students are getting as great an experience as possible.”

On a daily basis, Thomas said he handles various responsibilities, ranging from acute student and faculty concerns that need immediate attention to more long-term projects such as those related to OUWB’s accreditation.

Thomas said that he’s thankful that his level of engagement with students has not changed profoundly in his move from faculty to administration. Not only does he teach first-year students, but said he makes it a priority to interact with them regularly — whenever possible.

“In the non-COVID world I would make an effort to spend time with students everyday — show up in the lecture hall or meet them in a study room to say ‘Hello’ and interact with them,” said Thomas. “It’s more than just letting them know that I’m here. I truly enjoy it. It reinvigorates me and give me a sense of purpose to what I do.”

For more information, contact Andrew Dietderich, marketing writer, OUWB, at adietderich@oakland.edu

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