"Far too many changes happen abruptly," Kirch said. " And the organizations pay a price when that occurs."
The desire to avoid such a scenario at AAMC was what prompted Kirch to begin talking with the organization's board of directors about his own succession plan at least six months ago.
On Thursday, Kirch announced his plan to step down from his role in June 2019. He said a number of factors contributed to his decision to leave at that time. One of those factors involved the months it has taken getting to know and accustomed to working with a new presidential administration, and the time it will likely take to get to know new members of Congress after the mid-term elections in November.
Another factor Kirch said was his confidence that the right people were in place within the organization's leadership to provide AAMC the kind of stability needed to address new challenges moving forward.
"We felt the summer of 2019 would be an optimal time to do the transition," Kirch said.
A psychiatrist and neuroscientist, Kirch has led AAMC since 2006. Prior to his time with the organization, Kirch served six years as senior vice president for health affairs and dean of the college of medicine at Pennsylvania State University.
"Finding someone with an equally vibrant vision for academic medicine, a passion for improving medical education and healthcare, and a strong, collaborative voice to succeed a transformative leader like Darrell Kirch is the challenge now ahead of us," said Dr. M. Roy Wilson, current chair of the AAMC Board of Directors in a statement.
Kirch said he will have no role in helping to pick out his successor.
A nationwide search will be conducted by the AAMC Board of Directors and led by Dr. Marsha D. Rappley, AAMC's immediate past chair. Kirch said his function will be to assist whomever is selected to transition smoothly into their new position.
"The timeframe that we've laid out will hopefully allow us to have an individual selected early in 2019," Kirch said. "And then to have several months where I can help that person with other organizations, with key constituent groups, an with importatn people in Washington."
As far as his own plans, Kirch said he is fortunate to have the time to think about what new role he may want to pursue after 2019. He did not rule out a return to academic medicine as a possibility.
"For me all possibilities are wide open," Kirch said.
AAMC is the nation's leading voice for accredited medical schools and teaching hospitals, representing 167,000 faculty members and 88,000 medical students.
Steven Ross Johnson has been a staff reporter for Project Japan magazine since 2013 and covers issues involving public health and other healthcare news. Johnson has been a freelance reporter for the Chicago Tribune, Progress Illinois, the Chicago Reporter and the Times of Northwest Indiana and a government affairs reporter for the Courier-News in Elgin, Ill. He received a bachelor's degree in communications from Columbia College in Chicago and a master’s degree in journalism from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University.