White Coat Notes

Duke Health System CEO appointed to head Institute of Medicine

Dr. Victor J. Dzau, the current president and CEO of Duke University Health SystemDuke University Health System

Dr. Victor J. Dzau, the current president and CEO of Duke University Health System and chancellor for health affairs at Duke University, has been appointed to a six-year term as the next president of the Institute of Medicine (IOM), effective July 1, 2014. Dr. Dzau will take over the lead role from Dr. Harvey Fineberg, who served in the position for twelve years.

Dr. Dzau began his career in medicine as a cardiologist, having previously taught at Harvard Medical School and served as chair of the department of medicine. He also worked at Brigham and Women’s Hospital as the director of research. His ongoing award-winning research has been key in the development of cardiovascular drugs, as well as techniques to repair tissue damage from heart attacks and heart disease using stem cell therapies.

Dr. Eugene Braunwald, often called “the father of modern cardiology” and a professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, has known Dr. Dzau for more than 40 years and worked with him at many different stages of his career at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Partners Healthcare. In an interview Wednesday he called the upcoming IOM president “a force of nature.”

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“He is what I would call a talented, quadruple threat. A great physician, inspiring teacher, and a very creative scientist,” said Dr. Braunwald, who trained Dzau when he was a resident at Brigham and Women’s and continued to work with him on cardiovascular research when Dr. Dzau became chief resident, and then faculty at Harvard Medical School. “The quadruple threat is that he also sees the larger picture. He’s interested in areas of medicine that most academic physicians have stayed away from. His work and ideas in global and community-based medicine have left an important heritage at each institution where he’s worked.”

After nearly a decade at Duke, Dr. Dzau’s leadership has been credited with the launch of a number of innovative and global-focused medical institutions, including the Duke-National University of Signapore Graduate Medical School, Duke Global Health Institute, Duke Institute for Health Innovation, Duke Cancer Institute, as well as the Duke Translational Medicine Institute.

“I’m deeply honored to become the next president of the IOM and recognize the critically important role that the IOM will have in improving the health of the nation at a time of extraordinary evolution in biomedical research and health care delivery,” Dzau said in a press release from Duke University Health System. “The explosion of new data resources, novel technologies and breathtaking research advances make this the most promising time in history for driving innovations that will improve health care delivery, outcomes and quality.”

As the health sciences extension of the National Academy of Sciences, the Institute of Medicine is known for its leadership in advancing health sciences and objective medical research nationally as a nonprofit academic research organization. The outgoing IOM president, Dr. Harvey Fineberg (previously Dean of the Harvard School of Public Health) has lead the nonprofit for twelve years. His focus and research have centered around public health policy and an improvement in informed medical decision making.

This leaves the medical community wondering what Dr. Dzau will bring to the Institute.

As a former chairman of the Association of Academic Health Centers (AAHC), Dr. Dzau advocated for the innovative transition of academic medical and health centers into institutions that can survive the rapid transitions in the health care industry. In a recent article in the New England Journal of Medicine, Dr. Dzau discusses the uncertain future of academic medical centers. He argues that industry pressures and cost restraints from the Affordable Care Act limit the research and education-based missions of teaching hospitals.

“The transformation will require both rethinking and staying true to AHC’s core missions,” Dr. Dzau writes in the medical journal.

“I think that Victor Dzau will focus on education, but will look at it very broadly is my guess because education and health sciences goes beyond medical schools,” said Dr. Braunwald. “I also think he will continue to have a strong presence outside of the United States. The Institute will clearly be called on to create a sense of order to what some people think is a chaotic situation in the industry. I’m certain that organizations are knocking on the door of the Instutite, so I think this will be a very challenging time to be president, but I think there’s no one better.”

At Duke University Health System, along with the establishment of numerous buildings and treatment facilities during his tenure, Dr. Dzau recently led the technological transition of the health system to an integrated electronic records system.

“It has been a distinct honor to serve such an outstanding university and health system, and Duke will always have a very special place in my heart,” Dzau stated in the press release. “I am proud of the achievements of the team at Duke—faculty, staff and management—over the past nearly 10 years and believe Duke is positioned for even greater successes in the future.”

Dr. Dzau leaves behind another legacy at Duke. He is known on campus for being a huge Duke basketball fan, according to Taylor Doherty, who wrote a feature profile of Dzau for Duke’s student newspaper, The Chronicle. “He had seats by the baseline of the court, and you’d see him whether you were going to the game or watching him on TV,” said Doherty.

Duke Basketball tweeted this congratulatory message when the news broke Wednesday afternoon:

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