A new chancellor: Washington to fill Dzau’s shoes after nationwide search

January 14, 2015

By Emma Baccellieri on January 14, 2015

Dr. A. Eugene Washington has been selected as the next chancellor for health affairs and president and CEO of Duke University Health System after a nine-month search to fill the position.

Washington comes from the University of California at Los Angeles, where he has been the dean of the David Geffen School of Medicine and vice chancellor of health sciences since February 2010. He is also a widely published researcher, a noted health policy scholar and a professor of gynecology. When Washington assumes the position in April, he will replace Dr. Victor Dzau, who stepped down as chancellor in June to head the Institute of Medicine at the National Academy of Sciences.

In looking for Dzau’s successor, the search committee focused on finding someone who could manage the different needs of DUHS in terms of research, education and clinical practice alike, said University Secretary Richard Riddell, an ex officio member of the search committee

“You have healthcare, the education and training of medical students, faculty research.…So [the committee desired] someone who had demonstrated ability in bringing all that together to align into a vision for the organization, and Gene Washington had done that,” Riddell said.

The University’s announcement Tuesday came after a nine-month search that began with more than 250 candidates from across the nation and around the world. The committee had narrowed the pool to a group of finalists by December 2014 before selecting Washington, whose appointment was approved by President Richard Brodhead, the Board of Trustees and the DUHS Board of Directors

We were fortunate to have such a strong field of candidates,” Riddell said. “I don’t think the committee could be happier.”

In the months since Dzau’s departure, the clinical and financial parts of the role have been split from the education and research components. Dr. Nancy Andrews, dean of the School of Medicine, has assumed the latter, and Dr. William Fulkerson, vice president of DUHS, the former.

“Nancy and Bill have had a great partnership and made things work, but they both have significant responsibilities in their own arenas,” Provost Sally Kornbluth said. “Gene will be a great integrator of the clinical and academic missions…. The three of them will work together really well as a team.”

Andrews expressed her support for Washington Tuesday, saying that she has known him for several years and thinks him an “outstanding choice” for the position.

Fulkerson could not immediately be reached for comment.

“I feel honored and privileged to assume this key leadership role, and I look forward to working with my new colleagues to realize our full potential,” Washington said in a statement to Duke News. “Duke is uniquely positioned among the very top health sciences institutions to take advantage of the opportunities available.”

Washington assumes the position during a time of change for the world of healthcare—leading DUHS through developments with the Affordable Healthcare Act on the clinical side and handling diminishing federal funding on the research side.

“He’s going to be a key determinant in how Duke navigates that changing healthcare landscape,” Kornbluth said. “These are problems not just at Duke but on a national landscape in academic medicine.”

Washington’s resume is highly decorated, with several awards, including most recently the David E. Rogers Award from the Association of American Medical Colleges and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation for his “major contributions to improving the health and health care of the American people.

Before joining UCLA, Washington was the executive vice chancellor and provost at the University of California at San Francisco. He graduated from the UCSF School of Medicine in 1976 and received his undergraduate degree from Howard University

Washington has large shoes to fill—Dzau was widely praised during his decade in the position, establishing the Duke Cancer Institute, the Duke Translational Medicine Institute and a system-wide electronic medical records system across DUHS. Dzau has also helped form Project Access of Durham County, a community care system that aids specialty care needs of local patients. But Dzau’s former colleagues feel Washington is

up to the challenge.

“Gene has a reputation as a really thoughtful, energetic leader,” Kornbluth said. “He clearly has a positive, can-do attitude.”

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