Helen Boucher Named Interim Dean at Tufts University School of Medicine

The infectious disease expert will hold a dual appointment as chief academic officer of the Wellforce health system
A portrait of Helen Boucher, the new interim dean of Tufts University School of Medicine.
Helen Boucher, chief of the Division of Geographic Medicine and Infectious Diseases at Tufts Medical Center, will be the first woman to lead the School of Medicine in its 128-year history. Photo: Courtesy of Helen Boucher
June 16, 2021

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Physician Helen Boucher, chief of the Division of Geographic Medicine and Infectious Diseases at Tufts Medical Center, professor of medicine at Tufts University School of Medicine, and a director of the Stuart B. Levy Center for Integrated Management of Antimicrobial Resistance (Levy CIMAR), has been named to a new, joint position as interim dean for Tufts University School of Medicine and chief academic officer for Wellforce, beginning July 1. Boucher will be the first woman to lead the School of Medicine in its 128-year history.

The appointment marks an important milestone in the relationship between the School of Medicine and Wellforce, the parent health system of the School of Medicine’s principal teaching-hospital affiliate, Tufts Medical Center. In this dual role, Boucher will report both to the president of Tufts University, Anthony Monaco, and to the president and CEO of Tufts Medical Center, Michael Tarnoff. She will also join the senior leadership teams of both Tufts University and Wellforce.

“Helen will be a catalyst for our institutions, strengthening our research alliances and enhancing the student experience,” President Monaco said. “As a strong leader who has demonstrated her ability to innovate as a founding director of Levy CIMAR, Helen has a wealth of experience to draw on in creating the structure of this alignment. She has collaborated with many of our basic and translational scientists at the School of Medicine, the School of Engineering, and Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine. She knows the people of the university and the culture of the medical center and Wellforce and is well positioned to build bridges between our institutions.”

“Helen is a natural leader, a talented communicator and motivator, and the ideal choice for this exciting and important new position that further strengthens the bond between our health system and the medical school, and better positions us for future collaborations across the entire Tufts University community,” said Michael Dandorph, president and CEO of Wellforce. “We have a tremendous opportunity to bring critical research and education programs to our Wellforce members throughout the region and to improve the lives and health of those we serve, including at Lowell General Hospital and MelroseWakefield Healthcare. Helen will help make this vision a reality.”

Boucher said she is eager to lay the foundation for the alliance: “I'm very excited about the partnership that's been created between Mike Dandorph and Tony Monaco and their plan for a truly integrated academic health system. The opportunity to be in this role as we look ahead is a huge honor. I'm very humbled by and excited about the possibility.”

Boucher said that the school will continue to prize its academic partnerships with Tufts Medical Center and its other clinical affiliates, which include Maine Medical Center, Newton-Wellesley Hospital, Lahey Hospital and Medical Center, St. Elizabeth’s Medical Center, and South Shore Hospital. She also plans to explore new student training opportunities in the wider Wellforce system, including through its Home Health Foundation.

“Health care now is increasingly delivered outside the hospital, and as we think about things like population health and the future of personalized medicine, the ability to train the next generation of physicians, physician assistants, and other health care professionals in those environments is very important,” Boucher said. 

“I look forward to spending time with the faculty at Tufts and with my colleagues at Wellforce to better understand priorities, build strategies, and create plans for implementation of a new structure for this alignment in the months to come,” Boucher said. “Together, we will put forth goals for this alliance, and draw a road map to achieve them.”

For the past 15 months, Boucher has helped lead Wellforce’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, establishing herself as a nationally recognized and trusted source on the virus and translating the latest scientific information about transmission—and later, vaccination—into actionable advice for the public.

“Helen showed incredible poise, resilience, and resolve as she helped lead our organization through the greatest public health crisis in more than a century,” said Tarnoff. “She has the unique ability to connect with people on a personal level and mobilize teams to tackle and overcome the most daunting of challenges. I look forward to celebrating future successes in her new role.”

Boucher is internationally known for her research on infections in immunocompromised patients and infections by S. aureus, one of the most dangerous of the staph bacteria, for which she has investigated new anti-infective agents.

As director of Tufts Medical Center’s Heart Transplant and Ventricular Assist Device Infectious Diseases Program, Boucher has seen the dangers that uncontrolled infections pose for vulnerable patients. Her research focus became an institutional mission in 2018, when she became a founding director of Levy CIMAR, a cross-disciplinary initiative between the university and the medical center aimed at combating antimicrobial resistance through not only research but also education and policy. 

Since 2009, Boucher has been included in Best Doctors in America, a nomination-based list that is limited to about five percent of practicing physicians in the U.S. each year. Yet while she says she is a doctor “first and foremost,” her love of teaching dates back to her days as a middle-school science teacher, before she obtained her medical degree from the University of Texas Medical School at Houston (now McGovern Medical School). Her academic experience includes 14 years as director of the Tufts Medical Center’s infectious diseases fellowship program and several years running the clerkship for fourth-year medical students. She has also been very active at her undergraduate alma mater, College of the Holy Cross, where she earned a degree in English and has been a board member for many years.

Boucher succeeds Peter Bates, the former senior vice president of academic affairs and chief academic officer at Maine Medical Center, who became interim dean in January 2020, just a few months before the pandemic began. Among the many challenges he faced was ensuring that medical students received the highest caliber of education while also staying protected from the virus in classroom and hospital settings. As the country reckoned with racial inequality and police violence, he worked with students and faculty to take substantial steps toward dismantling systemic racism at the school, a goal outlined in the school’s new strategic plan, which he spearheaded.

“In setting our strategic goals, we also identified greater integration of research efforts as a school priority,” Bates said. “This new paradigm for the deanship will help achieve just that, and I’ve no doubt Helen’s efforts will open up many opportunities for our faculty at Tufts to partner with the clinical enterprise at Wellforce.”

Julie Flaherty can be reached at julie.flaherty@tufts.edu.