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Dr. Julio Frenk named first Latino chancellor of UCLA

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Dr. Julio Frenk
Dr. Julio Frenk. Credit: David Esquivel/UCLA

University of California President Michael V. Drake, M.D., announced today (Wednesday, June 12) the selection of Julio Frenk, M.D., a global health expert and current president of the University of Miami, as UCLA’s next chancellor.

The UC Board of Regents approved the appointment today during a special meeting held at UCLA.

Dr. Frenk will succeed Chancellor Gene Block, who announced in 2023 his intent to return to his teaching and research. His appointment caps a seven-month-long search process that yielded a strong and diverse pool of candidates. An advisory committee chaired by President Drake and comprised of Regents, university faculty, staff, students, alumni, and foundation representatives led the search.

“Dr. Frenk has demonstrated a powerful commitment to the health and well-being of people, institutions, and systems around the world,” said President Drake. “His leadership will build on the growth and strength the campus has achieved under Chancellor Block and accelerate UCLA’s brilliant trajectory in service to Los Angeles, the nation, and the world.”

A transformative global leader and pragmatic consensus-builder, Dr. Frenk will advance UCLA’s tradition of excellence and global impact. During his tenure at the University of Miami, Dr. Frenk led the institution through the COVID-19 pandemic and achieved a dramatic turnaround of its academic health system, drawing on the strengths of its Miller School of Medicine. During his tenure, the university made strategic investments in educational innovation and interdisciplinary research, as well as Miami Hurricanes athletics. He successfully orchestrated a $2.5 billion fundraising campaign toward the university’s centennial in 2025. Dr. Frenk championed a culture of belonging across the institution, where everyone is valued and has the opportunity to add value. Under his leadership, the University of Miami was inducted as a member of the prestigious Association of American Universities (AAU), a testament to the breadth and quality of the university’s research.

“At this crucial moment for higher education, returning to the public sector to lead one of the top research universities in the world — including one of the 10 largest academic health systems — is an exciting opportunity and a great honor for me,” said Chancellor-designate Frenk. “I look forward to adding my lifelong commitment to public service in education and health care to the vibrant, diverse, and cosmopolitan community that is Los Angeles.”

In addition to serving as a highly regarded higher education administrator and distinguished global health scholar, Dr. Frenk is a professor of public health and sociology whose scholarship centers on health systems. His work spans public policy implications of health transitions, health professions education, and global health governance. He co-chaired the influential Lancet Commission on the Education of Health Professionals for the 21st Century, which catalyzed major reforms around the world. Dr. Frenk has authored 196 papers in academic journals, 182 articles in cultural magazines and newspapers, and 29 books, including two best-selling novels for young adults, explaining the functions of the human body. His scholarly work has been cited more than 35,000 times. He is a member of the National Academy of Medicine and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

“I am thrilled to welcome Dr. Frenk as the next chancellor of UCLA,” said Richard Leib, chair of the UC Board of Regents. “Dr. Frenk’s strategic and inspirational leadership, along with his extensive background in education and health, including his time as the Federal Secretary of Health of Mexico, uniquely positions him to guide UCLA into a future of impact and innovation. Dr. Frenk also makes history as the first Latino chancellor of UCLA, and I believe that his values of equity and access will help UC continue to serve the diverse Los Angeles community. Chancellor Block’s visionary approach and steadfast service for the past 17 years have propelled UCLA to new heights of success. I am convinced that Dr. Frenk’s clear ability to take on complex challenges creatively and effectively makes him the right person to lead UCLA into the next era.”

From 2009-2015, Dr. Frenk served as the dean of faculty at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. As dean, he quadrupled fundraising for the school and secured an unprecedented $350 million naming gift for the school, the largest philanthropic donation in Harvard’s history at that point.

Through leadership and scholarship, Dr. Frenk has made substantial contributions to the field of global health, impacting millions of lives. As Federal Secretary of Health of Mexico from 2000 to 2006, he reformed the nation’s health system and expanded access to health care for more than 55 million previously uninsured persons. He also founded the National Institute of Public Health in Mexico, a pioneering institution in the developing world. Dr. Frenk also held senior positions at the World Health Organization and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Dr. Frenk obtained a medical degree from the National University of Mexico, as well as a Master of Public Health and a joint Ph.D. in Medical Care Organization and in Sociology from the University of Michigan.

“The pool of candidates to lead this premier public university was remarkable, yet Dr. Frenk stood out for his unique combination of scholarly, medical, administrative, and political expertise,” said UC Academic Senate Chair James Steintrager. “How he straddles the worlds of university research and health care delivery makes him an excellent fit for UCLA, and he is well-positioned to enhance our students’ educational experience and to expand further UCLA’s scholarly influence in Los Angeles, in California, and, indeed, globally.”

He is married to Felicia Marie Knaul, Ph.D., the director of the Institute for Advanced Study of the Americas and of the Office for Hemispheric and Global Affairs at the University of Miami, where she continues to serve in that capacity and as a tenured member of the faculty. She also directs the Secretariat of the Hemispheric University Consortium, supporting the presidents of 14 leading universities in the Americas. Dr. Knaul previously served as an associate professor at Harvard Medical School and the director of the Harvard Global Equity Initiative. As a globally recognized health economist and advocate who has authored over 300 high-impact journal papers and books, she has leveraged research to catalyze policy change in Mexico and across the globe on health system strengthening, cancer control, and ending violence against women and children. As a result of her breast cancer journey, Dr. Knaul founded Cáncer de Mama: Tómatelo a Pecho, a Mexican non-profit that champions research, advocacy and awareness on key issues for the health of women. A citizen of Canada and the United Kingdom, she has held senior positions in the nonprofit and governmental sectors in Mexico and Colombia, participated in national health system reforms, led multiple global research initiatives including several The Lancet Commissions, and has worked for leading international organizations, including WHO, the World Bank, and UNICEF.

Drs. Frenk and Knaul have two children together, Sofia Hannah and Mariana Havivah.

The board approved Dr. Frenk’s base salary at $978,904. UC chancellors are among the lowest-paid university leaders when compared with their Association of American Universities (AAU) peers.

“Dr. Frenk is an excellent choice to take up UCLA’s chancellorship,” said Chancellor Block. “He is widely respected across academia and well-known as an exceptional thinker, an administrator of considerable ability and a brilliant public health leader. UCLA is in great hands, and I am certain that our university’s star will rise even higher under him.”

Dr. Frenk will begin his role as UCLA’s new chancellor on January 1, 2025. Darnell Hunt, UCLA’s executive vice chancellor and provost, will assume the role of interim chancellor when Chancellor Block steps down on July 31, 2024. Having served as UCLA’s chief academic and operating officer since 2022, Hunt is uniquely positioned to lead the campus through this period of transition. A dedicated UCLA campus leader since 2001, Hunt has also served as the dean of the division of social sciences, a professor of sociology and African American studies and on numerous campus and UC committees.

“In addition to being one of the world’s great public research universities, UCLA is a vibrant, visionary institution whose scholarship is rooted in service — whether to the dynamic metropolis that surrounds it, or to the betterment of the planet,” said President Drake. “Dr. Frenk’s academic achievements and global perspective make him a wonderful asset to help UCLA turn to a new chapter of its ever-growing excellence.”

Media can access photos of Dr. Frenk here (all photos by David Esquivel/UCLA).

Versión en español: https://www.universityofcalifornia.edu/press-room/dr-julio-frenk-es-nombrado-el-primer-rector-latino-de-ucla

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