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Several pictures of doctors who are featured on the Local Legends web site

MEET LOCAL LEGEND: Barbara Atkinson, M.D.

Picture of Barbara Atkinson
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Barbara Atkinson, M.D.

“I love the opportunity to build new programs and recruit faculty here in the medical center. I enjoy the energy and challenges of the job. It's a way to make a difference.”


Pat Roberts



As a newly minted graduate of Jefferson Medical School in 1974, Barbara Atkinson was drawn to the field of pathology because it combined her strong interests in science and research. Also, it offered a manageable lifestyle in which, as a wife and young mother of two, she could accommodate the twin demands of family and profession.

Thus began a long, meritorious career in which Atkinson quickly rose to national prominence as an assistant professor of pathology, medical educator, clinician, researcher and administrator at the University of Pennsylvania, culminating in her current appointment as Executive Vice Chancellor of the University of Kansas Medical Center, the first woman to do so. She oversees a faculty and staff of 2,500 and a $317 million annual budget.

Senator Pat Roberts (R-KS) proudly nominated her as a Local Legend for her distinguished record of accomplishment and selfless devotion to healing.

As a fledgling pathologist and researcher, she devoted her early work to the identification and characterization of tumor antigens in cells and tissues and to developing techniques to recognize and type tumors. From 1978 until 1987, she was Director of the Cytopathology Laboratory at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania. She has edited several books on cytopathology and gynecologic pathology, including the Atlas of Cytopathology, first published in 1992 and newly in 2003.

She first won national attention as a medical administrator while at the Medical College of Pennsylvania, where she served as Chair of the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine from 1987 to 1994, and subsequently, at Hahnemann University, where she became Annenberg Dean of the MCP Hahnemann School of Medicine in 1996.

Four years later, she left Philadelphia to head the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine at the University of Kansas School of Medicine, rising in 2002 to become Executive Dean and Vice Chancellor for Clinical Affairs. In 2005, she became Executive Vice Chancellor, responsible for the school's efforts to recruit new faculty and expand the center's biomedical research and other programs.

Atkinson has received teaching awards from both the University of Pennsylvania and the Medical College of Pennsylvania. She is a trustee and past president of the American Board of Pathology, a member of the AAMC Committee on Increasing Women's Leadership in Academic Medicine, Chair of the Ethics Committee of the American Society of Cytopathology, and a council member of the American Society for Investigative Pathology. She was elected to the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences in 1997.

She is an avid birder who, along with her husband William Atkinson MD, has identified some 500 species in the United States and Canada.



Appointed Annenberg Dean of the MCP Hahnemann School of Medicine, Philadelphia, PA


Becomes Professor and Chair, Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, University of Kansas School of Medicine


Appointed Executive Dean and Vice Chancellor for Clinical Affairs, University of Kansas School of Medicine


Named Executive Vice Chancellor, University of Kansas School of Medicine




Jefferson Medical College, Thomas Jefferson University, Philadelphia



Sub Specialty

Medical Education