ST. PETERSBURG — A prominent University of South Florida pediatric immunologist who heads a research laboratory at All Children's Hospital is leaving for a top position at the Duke University School of Medicine.
Dr. John Sleasman's pending departure comes amid lingering questions about USF's future role at All Children's, which in 2011 became part of Johns Hopkins Medicine.
Although USF and All Children's last year signed an eight-year agreement extending their longtime collaboration, Sleasman said uncertainty persists.
"The investigators who are here are feeling caught between the two institutions," said Sleasman. He holds the Robert A. Good chair in immunology, which is jointly funded by USF and All Children's. Outside universities — in his case, Duke — have come recruiting amid that uncertainty.
Two other USF pediatric immunologists, Drs. Elena Perez and Morna Dorsey, left for the University of Miami and the University of California at San Francisco, respectively, he said.
Sleasman, who starts his new job in October, has been the medical director of the Children's Research Institute's Immunodiagnostics Laboratory at All Children's for more than a decade. USF Health officials say his departure won't affect other programs at the university's Children's Research Institute, located in the building known for the giant Band-Aid sculpture by James Rosenquist on the outside.
But when he goes to Duke, so do the federal grants awarded to him as principal researcher, funds that have covered salaries for the half-dozen staffers working with him.
Dr. Patricia Emmanuel, chairwoman of USF's Department of Pediatrics, said she too had worried about USF's role at All Children's after the pediatric hospital joined forces with Johns Hopkins. But she said the agreement hammered out last year reflects a strong commitment on both sides.
The agreement reaffirms that USF medical students and residents in surgical specialties can continue to train at All Children's. It also says research collaboration between the two will continue and expand.
"We spent a lot of time last year working on that relationship," Emmanuel said. "I feel a lot more confident now."
All Children's spokeswoman Cindy Rose said the agreement with USF establishes new ventures, including the addition of two endowed chairs. "I believe our relationship with USF is stronger than ever, and it continues to grow and flourish," she said.
USF must decide what to do with the employees working with Sleasman. "We want to retain these highly trained technicians," Emmanuel said.
She also said USF and All Children's will begin recruiting for the Robert A. Good chair, which honors the late pioneer in immunology and bone marrow transplantation. She added that USF hopes to continue the work in the diagnostics lab, though she could not yet say how.
Jodie Tillman can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 226-3374.