Before he steps down from his position as executive vice president for medical affairs Wednesday and begins pursuing his goals as a researcher again, Gil Omenn is taking a vacation.

Paul Wong

He has spent the last week traveling around the country talking to others about his research specialties – proteins and genetics – and will continue to travel around the world in coming weeks to lecture about health policy. He also plans on taking a year sabbatical before he begins teaching classes.

Omenn, the first person to hold his current position, came to the University in September 1997 after being dean of the School of Public Health at the University of Washington.

He graduated summa cum laude from Princeton University in 1961 and magna cum laude from Harvard Medical School in Boston in 1965, gaining his Ph.D. in genetics from Washington in 1972.

Despite his ties to other universities, Omenn now speaks highly of his five years here and said he is looking forward to his future here and seeing the development of the Life Sciences Initiative.

“For myself, I’ve had a large role in the development in the Life Sciences Initiative, for the campus and the state. I’m still very active on the scientific side, not just the management side, of the health system,” Omenn said. “This is my chance to get deeply immersed in the modern medical sciences again.”

He said he is looking forward to continuing his research in proteonics and sees the next couple of years as a key period in the field.

“Everybody has heard about sequencing the human genome, so once you know what the genes are, you want to understand what the genes do. To understand what the genes do, you have to understand the proteins,” he said. “I am confident that this decade will be the protein decade, just like last decade was the decade for genes.”

Though he said he has no plans to return to administrative duties, he said there are some things he will miss about his position, such as the role it had on the rest of the University’s medical community.

“I really greatly enjoyed the leadership role for the health system as part of the university leadership, in the community, and nationally. We gained a lot of attention around the country by our concept of the health system and our performance,” Omenn said.

“The University of Michigan, as you know, ranks very high among hospitals, medical schools, and M-Care. It’s very unusual to have all three components, and even more so to have them all healthy,” he added.

Omenn’s position is only one of many vacant spots in the University’s administration. Among those positions are a dean for the College of Literature, Science and Arts, a director for the LSI and a University provost.

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