Joseph A. Flaherty, MD
Dean and Chancellor, Ross University School of Medicine

Ross University Dean Joseph A. Flaherty

In truth, Joseph Flaherty, MD sees a little bit of himself in every Ross University School of Medicine student that he meets. Growing up on a farm in downstate Illinois, he’ll often joke, is a lot like earning your MD at Ross—it’s rigorous, it’s demanding, and it can be exhausting, but it’s a path well worth taking. Because it measures your resilience, strengthens you as a person, and unlocks doors to opportunities that you may have otherwise never had.

Two Words: Opportunity and Outcomes

That theme—the idea that the path you take to achieve your dreams is what makes you strong enough to make them real—pops up a lot when you’re talking to Dean Flaherty, named the third dean of Ross University School of Medicine in 2011. 

“At Ross, opportunity is central to our school’s mission,” he says, noting that opportunity is not enough. “To fulfill that mission—to prepare our graduates for the careers they have dreamed of—we have to continue matching the opportunity we offer with outstanding academic outcomes.” 

Before his appointment at Ross, Dean Flaherty was dean at University of Illinois College of Medicine (UICOM). One of the largest medical schools in the United States, UICOM has comprehensive regional campuses in Chicago, Peoria, Rockford, and Urbana-Champaign and a highly diverse student population.

Career Highlights

  • Dean of University of Illinois College of Medicine, 2004-2011 (currently Dean Emeritus)
  • Chaired the Department of Psychiatry, University of Illinois at Chicago, 1998-2004
  • Chief of Psychiatry, University of Illinois Hospital, 1996-2004


  • Undergraduate: University of Illinois, Urbana, Psychology
  • Medical School: University of Illinois College of Medicine, Chicago
  • Internship: University of Illinois Hospital, Pediatrics
  • Residency: University of Illinois Hospital, Psychiatry
  • Postgraduate: Administrative Psychiatry Preceptorship, American Psychiatric Association
  • Research Training: University of Illinois (Psychology), University of London, UK (Sociology), Northwestern (Health care administration)

Honors and Distinctions

  • Has published more than 200 professional papers, books, and chapters
  • Is a distinguished fellow in the American Psychiatric Association and a fellow of the American College of Psychiatry
  • Has been selected for a number of “Best Doctor” lists including Castle Connolly’s "America's Top Doctors"
  • Has more than 25 years of NIH funding in the areas of gender, depression and alcoholism
  • Has been funded by many private organizations for a variety of work, such as the psychobiology of depression to the mental health of immigrants in central and South America, Russia and Israel

To date, Dean Flaherty has both maintained and advanced Ross’s legacy of high-quality outcomes. Since his appointment, Ross students have performed on par with U.S. medical school students on Step 1 of the United States Medical Licensing Examination®, and hundreds of graduates routinely beat out U.S. students every year for competitive residencies at teaching hospitals across the U.S.

He has also overseen a reform of the medical school’s basic sciences curriculum, and directed improvements in student services and clinical operations. His “One School, One Mission” initiative helped to strengthen the student experience from the basic sciences semesters through clinical training and preparation for residency. And his reputation in the medical profession has helped open doors to clinical experiences in top teaching hospitals across the country for Ross students.

Heading Off Predictions of a Physician Shortage

Dean Flaherty has championed the Ross medical program, and the thousands of practicing physicians who have graduated from it, as a potential solution to the looming physician shortage. According to the Association of American Medical College’s Center for Workforce Studies, the United States will be short 45,400 primary care physicians by 2020. Unchecked, that number is predicted to rise to 65,800 in 2025.

“The US needs more primary care doctors, plain and simple, and many of our students are positioned to be part of the solution,” he says.  He notes that over 800 students earned residencies at Ross in 2014, beating out every other medical school in the world, and two-thirds of those placements—more than 500—were in primary care programs. If past surveys of Ross alumni hold true for the future, then half of our graduates who entered primary care will stay there for the majority of their careers. 

“Our students possess the attributes sorely needed in our primary care workforce: a sense of social commitment, empathy, and the resilience to surmount the challenges that come with the daily practice of medicine.”

Forward Vision for Ross University School of Medicine

Coming off a record year for residency success, Dean Flaherty is excited about the direction Ross is heading. Inside the classroom, Ross is providing simulation-based instruction to rival U.S. schools, and helping students master organ systems in the school’s reformed curriculum. The Center for Teaching and Learning is providing students with academic support to help more of them progress through the program successfully. Outside the classroom, Ross is changing too. Construction is nearly complete on a new student center that will be the centerpiece of the medical school campus. Ross continues to align with top U.S. teaching hospitals to provide more Ross students with a single academic home for their core clinical rotations.

Opportunity and outcomes remain the two keys for Dean Flaherty. “We are committed to identifying students who are bright, driven, and have the academic potential to allow them to succeed in medical school,” he said. 

Selected Writings

Blog Posts by Dean Flaherty

Social Media

Follow Dean Flaherty on Twitter.