Provost Kaufman appoints Dimitri Azar, MD, MBA Dean of the College of Medicine

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Provost Kaufman appoints Dimitri Azar, MD, MBA Dean of the College of Medicine

December 16, 2011

Provost Kaufman appoints Dimitri Azar, MD, MBA Dean of the College of Medicine

Dimitri Azar, MD, MBA begins his appointment as Dean of the College of Medicine today, December 16, 2011. Dr. Azar, a renowned clinician-scientist and ophthalmologist, served as Interim Dean since May 1 of this year, and as Head of the Department of Ophthalmology since 2006.

The UIC News Bureau issued the following release on Friday, December 2, 2011, following University of Illinois Board of Trustees approval of Dr. Azar’s appointment.

“Dimitri T. Azar, MD, MBA a renowned physician-scientist and expert on diseases of the cornea, has been named dean of the University of Illinois at Chicago College of Medicine, effective Dec. 16.

“The University of Illinois Board of Trustees approved the appointment at their meeting today in Springfield.

“Azar has served as interim dean since May. He came to UIC in 2006 from the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary, where he was tenured professor at Harvard Medical School. At UIC he became professor and head of ophthalmology and visual sciences and B.A. Field Endowed Chair of Ophthalmologic Research.

“With his experience as a researcher, administrator and clinician, Dr. Azar is uniquely qualified to lead the College of Medicine in this era of translational, collaborative science and medicine,” said UIC Chancellor Paula Allen-Meares.

“Our College of Medicine is poised to become one of the nation’s premier urban-serving medical institutions, focusing on outstanding basic and translational research directed at those issues effecting urban populations, and the education of a uniquely diverse medical corps trained to deliver excellent health care to all persons, and especially to those from underserved populations,” said Lon Kaufman, provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs. “I am confident that as dean, Dr. Azar, through his own commitment to these virtues and his certain excellence in these areas, is the leader we need to move us towards our goal.”

“The UIC College of Medicine is our nation’s largest and most diverse medical school. It is also one of the best. I am honored to lead our students and distinguished faculty in our mission of academic achievement and leadership in education, research, and patient care,” Azar said. “I take this opportunity to thank the faculty, Provost Kaufman, Chancellor Allen-Meares, Vice President for Health Affairs Garcia, and President Hogan in trusting me with the leadership of the College.”

“The college, with campuses in Chicago, Peoria, Rockford, and Urbana, traces its roots to 1882. The College is committed to providing medical education to the greatest number of underrepresented minority medical students and to ensure that there are doctors for underserved areas throughout Illinois. One in six doctors in Illinois received their training at UIC.

“As dean, Azar said he hopes to “spur academic excellence and leadership in medical education, to stimulate new discoveries through clinically relevant basic and translational research, and to serve the needs of our local community, especially the underserved minority population.”

“Azar brings experience in administration, research, education and clinical practice to his new position. He earned an executive MBA with high honors at the University of Chicago. As department chair, he presided over a patient-care center seeing 55,000 patients each year; a laboratory and clinical research enterprise engaged in treating the most serious and complicated eye conditions; and the training of medical students, residents and clinical fellows, including one of the most sought after residency training programs in the U.S.

“Azar began his medical training at the American University of Beirut, Lebanon, where he received his medical degree. He started his fellowship and residency training at the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary at Harvard Medical School and also received a research fellowship at the Schepens Eye Research Institute.

“Following his clinical fellowship at the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary at Harvard, Azar moved to the Wilmer Ophthalmologic Institute at Johns Hopkins Hospital School of Medicine, where he launched the institute’s first refractive surgery service and became associate professor of ophthalmology. In 1996 he returned to the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary as the director of the cornea and external disease service. In 2003, he became professor of ophthalmology with tenure at Harvard Medical School and senior scientist at the Schepens Eye Research Institute.

“Azar is an innovative researcher who has made significant contributions to the treatment of corneal diseases and refractive surgery through sophisticated analysis and advanced optics. His research has resulted in better understanding of corneal wound healing, the applications and complications of laser keratectomy, and the molecular organization of the normal and injured cornea. He has published more than 190 peer-reviewed articles, more than 300 book chapters and abstracts, and he holds 15 patents. He is the editor or co-editor of 14 books on cornea and refractive surgery.

“Azar has mentored more than 100 clinical and research post-doctoral fellows and countless residents, many of whom occupy academic leadership positions. He sits on the boards of the Association of University Professors of Ophthalmology and the Association of Research in Vision and Ophthalmology. He was named a University Scholar in 2009 and was the recipient of the Lans Distinguished Award from the International Society of Refractive Surgery of the American Academy of Ophthalmology.”

In an earlier message to the University community on November 30, 2011, Lon S. Kaufman, Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs and Provost of the University of Illinois at Chicago, announced the appointment and summarized the highlights of Dr. Azar’s illustrious career:

“I am very pleased to announce the appointment of Dimitri T. Azar, MD, MBA as Dean of the College of Medicine, effective December 16, 2011, pending Board of Trustees approval. This appointment follows extensive consultation with representatives of the faculty, students and college leadership which yielded enthusiastic endorsement for the appointment. Dr. Azar has served as Interim Dean since May 1 of this year, and as Head of the Department of Ophthalmology since 2006.

“Dr. Azar is a renowned ophthalmologist and an accomplished clinician-scientist, academic leader, and educator. Dr. Azar has mentored more than 100 clinical and research post-doctoral fellows, many of whom occupy academic leadership positions. As head of the Department of Ophthalmology he has presided over a patient care center serving 55,000 patients per year; a laboratory- and patient-based research enterprise engaged in treating the most serious and complex eye conditions; and the training of medical students, residents and clinical fellows, including one of the most sought after residency training programs in the nation. Under Dr. Azar’s direction the department updated its facilities and established a new office in Chicago’s Millennium Park, secured three endowed professorships and several endowed lectureships, established two international resident exchange programs, and was successful in renewing its departmental core grant from the National Eye Institute. In addition, Dr. Azar established the department’s first clinician-scientist readiness program and received a 5-year K12 award from the National Eye Institute to support the “UIC K12 Independent Clinical Scientist Development Program.” As a result of these efforts, the number of NIH-funded clinician-scientists in the department has grown from two to nine over the past five years. These clinician-scientists are part of a group of 18 highly talented young faculty recruited during the past five years primarily at the assistant professor level.

“Dr. Azar is an internationally recognized ophthalmic surgeon and has been named one of The Best Doctors in America or one of the Castle Connolly Top Doctors in America annually since 1994. His research on matrix metalloproteinases in corneal wound healing and angiogenesis has been continually funded with the National Eye Institute R01 award since 1993. He is on the editorial boards of several ophthalmology journals and is the editor or co-editor of 14 books in ophthalmology. He has published over 190 peer-reviewed articles and reviews, more than 300 book chapters and abstracts and holds 15 patents.

“Dr. Azar holds multiple committee positions with the American Academy of Ophthalmology, is a member of the American Ophthalmological Association, and sits on the Board of Trustees of the Association of University Professors of Ophthalmology and the Association of Research in Vision and Ophthalmology. He has received multiple leadership awards, including the 2009 Lans Distinguished Award from the International Society of Refractive Surgery. In 2009, UIC selected him for a University Scholar Award, among our highest faculty honors.

“Dr. Azar received his medical degree at the American University of Beirut, Lebanon. In 1986, he started his Ophthalmology residency training at the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary at Harvard Medical School and also received a research fellowship at the Schepens Eye Research Institute. Following his clinical fellowship in cornea and external disease at the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary at Harvard, “Dr. Azar joined the faculty of the Wilmer Eye Institute at Johns Hopkins Hospital School of Medicine, where he launched the institute’s first refractive surgery service. In 1996 Azar returned to the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary as the Director of the Corneal and Refractive Surgery Services and became a Senior Scientist at the Schepens Eye Research Institute and a full Professor with tenure at Harvard in 2003.

“The UIC College of Medicine traces its roots to 1882 and is the largest medical school in the United States. One in six doctors in Illinois received their training at UIC. The College is committed to providing medical education to the greatest number of underrepresented minority medical students. The Rural Medical Education Program at Rockford insures that there are doctors for underserved areas throughout Illinois.”

Joel Sugar, MD, starts his service as Interim Department Head today, December 16, 2011, a position he held in 2005 during the search for a department head that resulted in the selection of Dr. Dimitri Azar.

“I am very pleased to serve the Department by continuing the positive trajectory of growth we have enjoyed under Dr. Azar’s leadership,” stated Dr. Sugar. “I look forward to helping Dean Azar with the search for a new department head,” he added, noting that the department’s last search resulted in “a stellar choice.”

Dr. Sugar has had a long and distinguished career in clinical research in the cornea and external diseases subspecialty, particularly in studies of Fuchs disease and keratoconus. His contributions as a member of influential National Eye Institute study groups and also a principal and co- investigator on basic science research grants sponsored by NEI have led to significant improvements in the surgical treatment of Fuchs disease and keratoconus. He has served as the Medical Director of the Illinois Eye Bank for 25 years. He received the Life Achievement Honor Award from the American Academy of Ophthalmology in 2008, and he has been named one of America’s Best Doctors® every year since the list was first published in 1989. He joined the Department in 1975 and served as Director of the Cornea Service from 1976 to 2002.

In a 2010 investiture ceremony conducted by then Provost Michael Tanner, Dr. Sugar was named the Joel Sugar MD Endowed Professor in Ophthalmology.

Dr. Sugar earned a BA Magna Cum Laude from the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor and an MD Cum Laude from its Medical School. He completed his residency in ophthalmology at the Washington University School of Medicine and a Clinical Fellowship in Cornea and External Disease at the University of Florida, Gainesville.

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