The George Washington University (GW) health care community turned out both in person and online to support Barbara L. Bass, MD, RESD ’86, FACS, during her formal installation as the Walter. A Bloedorn Chair of Administrative Medicine at the GW School of Medicine and Health Sciences (SMHS), May 18, 2022.
The Walter. A Bloedorn endowed chair, one of 25 such endowed positions at GW SMHS, was established in 1983 to honor Walter A. Bloedorn, MD, HON 1948, MA 1916, BA 1915, who served as the director of the GW Hospital beginning in 1932 and as dean of GW’s medical school from 1939 to 1957.
“It’s really rewarding for me to be able to participate in an important installation ceremony like this,” said GW President Mark S. Wrighton, PhD. “This is a symbol, to be sure, but there is substance behind it. We’re honoring a truly great contributor to medical enterprises both here and earlier in her career.”
Bass, who serves as the vice president for health affairs, dean of the GW SMHS, and chief executive officer of The GW Medical Faculty Associates (GW MFA), joined the university in January 2020 and was immediately immersed in negotiations to expand the clinical reach of the university as well as lead the emergency response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“[Dean Bass] has been working extremely hard over the past two years on behalf of the medical enterprise, on major projects to help realize her vision and to successfully propel us into the future,” said Anton N. Sidawy, MD, MPH ’99, FACS, Lewis B. Saltz Chair of the Department of Surgery at GW SMHS.
Sidawy offered a glimpse of the magnitude of the Dean’s achievements since her arrival, in particular her COVID-19 response work; her efforts to secure GW MFA and SMHS as the health care providers at the new Cedar Hill Regional Medical Center-GW Health, serving southeast Washington, D.C.; and her role in delivering a new Clinical Research Center for human clinical and translational research to serve investigators at both GW SMHS and GW MFA. She has championed two key initiatives to serve the faculty, staff, and students of the academic medical enterprise with renewed efforts to promote diversity, equity, and inclusive excellence with commitment of resources to launch the GW Anti-Racism Coalition, and establishment of the GW Center for Resiliency and Well-Being. Guiding the MFA through challenging times exacerbated by the pandemic, Bass has worked with university and MFA leadership to modernize the 25-year-old agreement with Universal Health Services.
“[Dean Bass] has been laser-focused,” Sidawy said, “on improving the financial health of the enterprise and the well-being of the faculty in the midst of a once-in-a-century pandemic that began very shortly after she arrived.”
Jon C. White, MD, RESD ’87, FACS, FCCM, Professor Emeritus of Surgery at GW SMHS, recalled his experiences with his longtime colleague and friend, having known Bass for more than 40 years. As a resident at GW, White trained alongside Bass, who was a year ahead in GW’s surgical residency program.
“At the time, there weren’t a lot of women going into surgery, and people wondered about these pioneering women and how well they would do [in the field],” said White. “I met Barbara, and within a short period of time, I had my answer. She was simply the best. And over the next several years, I think the rest of the community found the same thing.”
In her remarks, Bass described the importance of serving as a role model for those who follow. She recalled several of her mentors who played a key role in guiding her and helping her achieve her potential.
“I found [Kathryn D. Anderson, MD, FACS] a pediatric surgeon at the time at Children’s National Hospital who was a pioneering leader in surgery,” said Bass. Anderson, she continued, would go on to serve as the first woman president of the American College of Surgeons, a position Bass would later fill as the third Presidentof the professional association. “I had great mentorship along the way from Dr. Anderson and many other faculty in the GW department of surgery. Particularly notable was Dr. Paul Shorb [Professor Emeritus of Surgery at GW], who was the surgery residency program director at the time, and a fabulous surgeon. He was the epitome of clinical excellence, professionalism, and leadership.
“I really treasured his mentorship,” recalled Bass. “He was the one who engaged me. He said, ‘Own this profession; don’t just sit on the sidelines and let somebody else decide what to do with our profession.’ ”
In an interview shortly after Bass took the helm as dean of SMHS and CEO of GW MFA, Shorb, who passed away in February 2021, recalled the qualities he saw in Bass that so impressed, describing her as “brilliant, passionate, and kind.”
“I was delighted, just delighted,” he said about the university’s selection of Bass as dean of GW SMHS and CEO of the GW MFA. “I knew how good she was as an organizer and a thinker, as well as a practical surgeon. Those qualities are so rare. Many of us, who pride ourselves on our technical expertise within our field, shudder to think about the different viewpoints you have to have to serve as the top administrator. It’s good to have somebody who is so capable, and has been in the trenches, to serve at the top.”