The Faculty of Medicine at Dalhousie University is trying to fill its top two leadership positions after one of its main candidates turned down a job to become the new dean of medicine.

The current dean of medicine — Dr. Tom Marrie — planned to leave the school when his five-year contract expires in June. He has instead agreed to stay on for an extra year after the person offered the faculty's top job declined to take it.

At the same time, Dalhousie Medical School's second in command — Dr. Preston Smith — is leaving to become the dean of the University of Saskatchewan's College of Medicine.

The failed search to find a new dean for the Dalhousie Medical School surfaced at a meeting of the university senate earlier this week.

Richard Florizone, the president of Dalhousie University, said $5 million had been cut from the school's funding in the last several years. That affected the search for a new dean, he said.

"Was it a factor in the search? Yes. Was it a defining factor or the only factor? Absolutely not," he said.

"Will it help us to recruit? Absolutely, yes because it will make the institution stronger."

Florizone is hoping the new Liberal government will restore that $5 million in funding.

The candidate who was offered and turned down the dean's job remains confidential. But one of three short listed candidates was Smith — the senior associate dean of regional and rural medical education at the Dalhousie Medical School.

Second headhunting effort

Smith was behind the move to offer students in New Brunswick a medical program where they take the same classes and write the same exams as their counterparts in Halifax.

The creation of Dalhousie Medicine New Brunswick, based in Saint John, was a factor in Saskatchewan recruited Smith to lead its medical school. Smith said Saskatchewan's support for medicine at its university is one of the reasons for his move.

"The public, the university and the government in Saskatchewan have all made it really clear they have high ambitions for the college of medicine," he said.

"They have invested a lot of infrastructure in the medical school, especially new buildings, over the last few years."

Later this year, Dalhousie University will hire a headhunting firm for a second time in order to find a qualified candidate to lead the Faculty of Medicine.

"It's a bit of a disappointment that we haven't found someone yet but I'm really confident with dean Marrie's leadership — that he's agreed to serve another year," said Florizone.

Marrie said he's staying so the school won't be without both of its leaders this fall.

"I thought it might be a bit unfair to have someone appointed as an interim dean who would have to come in cold, essentially taking on both senior positions," he said.

Marrie said recent changes to the Dalhousie Medical Research Foundation mean the school is expected to have a larger pool of money to finance more medical research. He said that boost in funds will make it easier to attract talent and top administrators to Dalhousie University.