Renowned Expert in Geriatrics and Medical Ethics to Head OHSU School of Medicine

10/05/01    Portland, Ore.

Dr. Christine Cassel returns to Oregon as medical school's dean

Christine Cassel, M.D., M.A.C.P., a leading expert in geriatric medicine, medical ethics and the quality of clinical care, will join Oregon Health & Science University as dean of the School of Medicine on Jan. 1, 2002.

Cassel, 55, is currently professor and chairwoman of the Henry L. Schwartz Department of Geriatrics and Adult Development at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City. She also directs the Geriatric Research, Education and Clinical Center at the Bronx Veterans Affairs Medical Center. A member of the Institute of the Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences, Cassel was the first woman president of the American College of Physicians and is past chairwoman of the American Board of Internal Medicine.

"Dr. Cassel is an outstanding choice to be the new dean of medicine at Oregon Health & Science University," said Jordan J. Cohen, M.D., president of the Association of American Medical Colleges. "She is one of the most highly respected medical educators in the country, an international authority on the care of older people, and an experienced and gifted administrator. She will bring great energy and vision to her new responsibilities, and I congratulate the university on her selection."

Cassel is prominent in health policy and medical ethics. She chairs the board of the Greenwall Foundation, which supports work in bioethics, and is president-elect of the American Federation of Aging Research. In addition, she serves on committees for the Institute of Medicine related to quality of care and medical errors, serves on the Advisory Committee to the Director at the National Institutes of Health, and participated in the President's Advisory Commission on Consumer Protection and Quality in the Health Care Industry.

Early in her career Cassel spent four years in Portland, Ore. From 1979 to 1981 she was a fellow in geriatrics at OHSU and the Portland Veterans Affairs Medical Center. From 1981 to 1983 she was assistant professor of medicine, and public health and preventive medicine at OHSU.

"With the recruitment of Dr. Cassel as dean of the School of Medicine, OHSU is returning a national leader to Oregon," said Peter Kohler, M.D., OHSU president. "She will provide exceptional leadership as the medical school continues its rise to the top ranks of medical education in America. We are extremely fortunate to be bringing her to Oregon at this important time for OHSU."

"I am very pleased to be joining the OHSU leadership team," Cassel said. "OHSU has a wonderful combination of top-notch science and health care, as well as a statewide commitment to public health. You don't often find that combination together. I am especially excited about the opportunity to work in an interdisciplinary context, together with the Schools of Dentistry and Nursing, and the OGI School of Science and Engineering."

"Dr. Cassel's ability to listen, persuade, shape consensus and effect change will be an extraordinary asset to the institution and to the education of Oregon's future doctors," said Harry R. Kimball, M.D., president of the American Board of Internal Medicine.

Among her goals for the medical school, Cassel said, are achieving a measurable standard of excellence in health care delivery, strengthening research in aging and geriatric medicine, and strengthening academic rewards for exceptional teachers. "I'm extremely impressed by the curriculum already in place at OHSU and by the staff and faculty," she said.

Three recent deans of the OHSU School of Medicine - Joseph Bloom, M.D. (1994-2001), John A. Benson Jr., M.D. (1992-1994) and John W. Kendall, M.D. (1983-1992) - developed the school's innovative curriculum. It is nationally recognized for bringing students closer to patients earlier than do most other schools' programs and preparing them to be lifelong learners. Joseph Robertson Jr., M.D., M.B.A., has been interim dean since Bloom retired in July 2001 to return to the Department of Psychiatry.

Cassel will be the school's 13th dean and first woman to hold the position. Two other women currently serve as deans at OHSU. Sharon Turner, D.D.S., J.D., heads the School of Dentistry, and Kathleen Potempa, R.N., D.N.Sc., F.A.A.N., heads the School of Nursing.

After receiving her bachelor's degree in 1967 from the University of Chicago, Cassel did pre-med studies at Boston University and, in 1976, earned her M.D. from the University of Massachusetts Medical School. She did postdoctoral training at Children's Hospital of San Francisco, the University of California in San Francisco, OHSU and the Portland VAMC. Before joining Mount Sinai she taught at the University of Chicago.

Her publications include a seminal textbook, "Geriatric Medicine," now in its fourth edition; "A Practical Guide to Aging" (1997), described by The New York Times as "a forthright advice book, which tackles varied and unpleasant topics like memory loss, nursing homes, living wills and incontinence"; and the forthcoming "Medicare Matters." She is on the editorial boards of the New England Journal of Medicine, Geriatrics and other journals.

Note to editors: An .eps and a high-resolution .jpg (300dpi) of Christine Cassel are available online at http://www.ohsu.edu/newspub/cassel.zip. An interview with Christine Cassel, "Pushing Quality of Life Until the End," published in The New York Times on Sept. 18, 2001, is available for purchase at www.nytimes.com.

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