Other Features: A Champion of Academic Medicine
As noted in my editorial, this issue of the journal contains a number of articles describing key programmatic activities conducted by faculty and staff of the University of Washington School of Medicine (UWSOM). Given that, the members of the journal’s editorial staff and I thought it would be appropriate to pay tribute to Robert G. Petersdorf, MD, for the extraordinary contributions he made to UWSOM and to the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) during the course of his career.
Bob served as the chairman of the Department of Medicine at UWSOM from 1964 to 1979. During that period, the department became widely recognized within the academic medicine community as one of the very best medicine departments in the country. Bob was responsible for recruiting and mentoring a large number of distinguished faculty members, many of whom continue on the faculty today. At the same time, he was extremely supportive and helpful to many young faculty serving in medical schools across the country. His commitment to his roles as teacher and clinician is well-known, and his devotion to the individuals whom he mentored both at UWSOM and elsewhere is legendary. His legacy exists in perpetuity at UWSOM, since the chair of the Department of Medicine will always serve as the Robert G. Petersdorf Endowed Chair.
Bob served as president of the AAMC from 1986 to 1994. During that period, he was a leading advocate at the national level for supporting and advancing the academic missions of medical schools and teaching hospitals, while at the same time encouraging the academic community to become more actively involved in addressing important societal problems. He provided particular leadership in calling upon the academic community to commit to increasing both the number of students planning to pursue careers as generalist physicians and also the number of underrepresented minorities studying medicine. He had a special interest in the role the AAMC’s journal could play in disseminating information about how those holding leadership roles in academic medicine were addressing important contemporary challenges, and was responsible for greatly expanding the scope of topics covered by the journal and changing its name from the Journal of Medical Education to Academic Medicine.
When Bob retired as AAMC president in 1994, he returned to Seattle, where he served for a while as a senior advisor to the vice president for medical affairs and dean. He continues to live in Seattle.
Michael E. Whitcomb, MD