Dermatology Alumnus Looks Back

Jerry Lazarus, M.D. '63, stresses importance of faculty commitment to residency programs

In the summer of 2013, Gerald (Jerry) Lazarus, M.D. ’63, celebrated 50 years as an alumnus of GW’s School of Medicine and Health Sciences (SMHS). “When I look back at what transpired in my career, I am eternally grateful for the extraordinary guidance I had from faculty members during my time at GW,” says Lazarus, founder of the Johns Hopkins Wound Healing Center and professor of dermatology and medicine at Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center.

Lazarus, who is also a member of the GW Board of Trustees and the SMHS Dean’s Council, recalls the encouragement of faculty members such as Harold Stevens, M.D. (neurology), Benjamin Manchester, M.D. (cardiology), Frank Miller, M.D. ’48, B.S. ’43 (pathology), and Brian Blades, M.D. (surgery). “Their unwavering support was a signature of the kind of commitment that the faculty had to medical students,” Lazarus recalls.

Half a century has passed since his time at SMHS, but Lazarus still encourages medical students to select their residency program based on the dedication of its faculty. “Alison is committed to an outstanding program,” Lazarus says of Alison Ehrlich, M.D. ’96, M.H.S., chair of the Department of Dermatology at SMHS. “The diversity of interests and initiatives indicated by her recruitments has been extraordinary,” he says. “The facilities are magnificent and the future is extremely exciting for the program.”

Lazarus, who was previously the chairman of dermatology at Duke University and the University of Pennsylvania, and served as dean and CEO of the UC Davis School of Medicine, has had a lifelong interest in the biology of wounds. “Dermatology is a very attractive specialty, in part because of the breadth of opportunities within the field,” he says. “It can include pathology, immunology, and dermatologic surgery. Dermatology also offers opportunities beyond skin disease in education, research, policy, and administration,” he continues. “My present field of wound care, for example, blends internal medicine, surgery and dermatology. And now we are shaping policy for major health challenges as our population ages.”

Lazarus received the American Skin Association’s 2014 David Martin Carter Mentor Award at this year’s Annual Meeting of the Society for Investigative Dermatology. The award is given annually to an academic dermatologist who demonstrates: superior achievement in dermatological research, long-term involvement as a trainer of research fellows, a pattern of long-term career advice and support for colleagues, and personal characteristics that merit the trust, respect, and emulation of colleagues.

“For me, this award is an extra dollop of joy, since my greatest professional happiness is watching my colleagues, students, and friends succeed as they follow their dreams and maximize their potentials,” Lazarus says. “Those of us who are honored for our contributions to medicine and dermatology should remember our obligation to pay it forward.”

Lazarus is thrilled to see the reputation that SMHS has obtained as an institution for superior medical education. “All you have to do is look at where our medical students are matching, all those wonderful places, to see the strength of our reputation. To me, that speaks to the warmth, caring, and commitment of the faculty members who make up the institution.”