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SLU's medical school removes dean lauded for preventing student depression

Dr. Stuart Slavin, associate dean for curriculum at Saint Louis University's School of Medicine, in his office.
File photo | Durrie Bouscaren | St. Louis Public Radio
Dr. Stuart Slavin, associate dean for curriculum at Saint Louis University's School of Medicine, to take leave.

Saint Louis University’s School of Medicine is removing an administrator who drew national attention for his work to prevent student depression and suicide. The decision comes as the school faces probation by the accrediting body for U.S. medical schools, which gave SLU two years to make recommended changes.

Administrators notified students and staff this week that Dr. Stuart Slavin, the associate dean of curriculum, would be placed on sabbatical “so that he can transition to the next phase of his career.”

“It’s a complete travesty,” said state Rep. Keith Frederick, R-Rolla, who has sponsored legislation to establish a statewide suicide prevention program for Missouri’s medical students. “Stuart Slavin is an absolute innovator. He has saved lives at Saint Louis University’s School of Medicine, without a doubt.”

Slavin declined to comment.

More than a quarter of medical students in the United States likely have depression, according an American Medical Association survey. Slavin’s curriculum changes, which included wellness classes and grading first- and second-year students on a pass/fail basis, brought the school’s rate of reported depression among first- year medical students to just 4 percent.
The review by the Liaison Committee on Medical Education identified 20 elements of the curriculum that were deemed unsatisfactory. The school is the only M.D. program on probation in the country at this time. Dr. Kevin Behrns, who became the dean of SLU’s medical school in January, chose not to appeal the ruling.

“I apologize for the deficiencies found by the LCME. We must own them and fix them,” Behrns said in a statement. “These accreditation findings are unacceptable, and we will address them in the shortest possible time.”

The school’s students expressed dismay over Slavin's departure, circulating a petition and planning a protest for May 11.

“Dr. Slavin and his initiatives are a huge part of why this school is great, and what makes us valuable," said Robert Fisher, a 4th year student who came to the school because of Slavin’s curriculum. "Regardless of the status of the accreditation, he’s the educator that we want helping make us future doctors.”

Follow Durrie on Twitter: @durrieB