Dr. Robert T. Means (Tony Duncan/Johnson City Press)
After a weather-abbreviated first day on the job, Robert T. Means Jr., settled into his office Tuesday for his first full day as the new dean of the James H. Quillen College of Medicine at East Tennessee State University.
The board-certified physician in internal medicine and hematology was named in January to replace retiring Dean Philip Bagnell.
After a weekend of frantic unpacking at his new Johnson City residence, Means reported to his office Monday in Stanton-Gerber Hall on the Veterans Affairs Medical Center’s Mountain Home campus.
“The first day was mostly folks coming in to say hello, sending out some greetings to the faculty and students, including the students who have been accepted, and mostly just enjoying a warm welcome to the area,” he said.
To take the new position at ETSU, Means left his seat at the University of Kentucky, where he served as executive dean and professor of internal medicine.
The new dean said he looks forward to serving the medical college, especially as it celebrates the 40th anniversary of when it was established.
“ETSU, which is a very young medical school, has in its short life developed considerable strength in areas like rural medicine and primary care where it’s nationally recognized for its excellence,” he said. “I think these are things that obviously need to be maintained, these are matters that are at the core of its identity and its mission.”
Means, whose research into the causes behind anemia seen in chronic illnesses gain him significant attention, said he’s interested in pushing research that finds practical health applications for scientific findings at the college.
“We’ll be able to look at various tools needed to move discoveries through the laboratory,” he said. “By doing that, we can get a better understanding of disease, and move that into the clinic to help improve the health of the region.”
Means earned his medical degree from Vanderbilt University and completed an internal medicine residency at Baylor College of Medicine before returning to Vanderbilt for a hematology fellowship.
He remained at Vanderbilt as an instructor and assistant professor in the hematology division before being recruited by the University of Cincinnati in 1992 to become associate professor of medicine and director of the diagnostic hematology laboratory, as well as associate chief of the hematology/oncology section at the Cincinnati VA Medical Center.
In 1998, he joined the Medical University of South Carolina faculty as professor of internal medicine, associate director of the hematology/oncology division, and chief of the hematology/oncology section at the Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center. He became director of the hematology/oncology division in 2000, serving until his recruitment to the University of Kentucky.
UK named Means as associate chair for research in the Department of Internal Medicine in 2004, when he also became chief of the medical service at Lexington VA Medical Center. He was later appointed interim director of the Markey Cancer Center and senior associate chair of the Department of Internal Medicine. UK promoted Means to executive vice dean in 2011, then executive dean a year later.
Although Means purchased a home in Johnson City, his wife and their two sons, one a high school senior and the other an eighth-grader, will remain in Lexington, Ky., until the boys complete this school year.
His wife, Stacey McKenzie, grew up in Kingsport and graduated from Lynn View High School. She is also a Vanderbilt University School of Medicine graduate and is board certified in internal medicine and infectious diseases. They are the parents of three children, the eldest of which is attending college.