Cornea Specialist Named Dean of UIC College of Medicine

Article ID: 583594

Released: 2-Dec-2011 4:00 PM EST

Source Newsroom: University of Illinois at Chicago

Newswise — Dr. Dimitri T. Azar, a renowned physician-scientist and expert on diseases of the cornea, has been named dean of the University of Illinois at Chicago College of Medicine, effective Dec. 16.

The University of Illinois Board of Trustees approved the appointment at their meeting today in Springfield.

Azar has served as interim dean since May. He came to UIC in 2006 from the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary, where he was tenured professor at Harvard Medical School. At UIC he became professor and head of ophthalmology and visual sciences and B.A. Field Endowed Chair of Ophthalmologic Research.

“With his experience as a researcher, administrator and clinician, Dr. Azar is uniquely qualified to lead the College of Medicine in this era of translational, collaborative science and medicine,” said UIC Chancellor Paula Allen-Meares.

"Our College of Medicine is poised to become one of the nation's premier urban-serving medical institutions, focusing on outstanding basic and translational research directed at those issues effecting urban populations, and the education of a uniquely diverse medical corps trained to deliver excellent health care to all persons, and especially to those from underserved populations," said Lon Kaufman, provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs. "I am confident that as dean, Dr. Azar, through his own commitment to these virtues and his certain excellence in these areas, is the leader we need to move us towards our goal."

"The UIC College of Medicine is our nation's largest and most diverse medical school. It is also one of the best. I am honored to lead our students and distinguished faculty in our mission of academic achievement and leadership in education, research, and patient care," Azar said. "I take this opportunity to thank the faculty, Provost Kaufman, Chancellor Allen-Meares, Vice President for Health Affairs Garcia, and President Hogan in trusting me with the leadership of the College."

The college, with campuses in Chicago, Peoria, Rockford, and Urbana, traces its roots to 1882. The College is committed to providing medical education to the greatest number of underrepresented minority medical students and to ensure that there are doctors for underserved areas throughout Illinois. One in six doctors in Illinois received their training at UIC.

As dean, Azar said he hopes to "spur academic excellence and leadership in medical education, to stimulate new discoveries through clinically relevant basic and translational research, and to serve the needs of our local community, especially the underserved minority population."

Azar brings experience in administration, research, education and clinical practice to his new position. He earned an executive MBA with high honors at the University of Chicago. As department chair, he presided over a patient-care center seeing 55,000 patients each year; a laboratory and clinical research enterprise engaged in treating the most serious and complicated eye conditions; and the training of medical students, residents and clinical fellows, including one of the most sought after residency training programs in the U.S.

Azar began his medical training at the American University of Beirut, Lebanon, where he received his medical degree. He started his fellowship and residency training at the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary at Harvard Medical School and also received a research fellowship at the Schepens Eye Research Institute.

Following his clinical fellowship at the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary at Harvard, Azar moved to the Wilmer Ophthalmologic Institute at Johns Hopkins Hospital School of Medicine, where he launched the institute's first refractive surgery service and became associate professor of ophthalmology. In 1996 he returned to the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary as the director of the cornea and external disease service. In 2003, he became professor of ophthalmology with tenure at Harvard Medical School and senior scientist at the Schepens Eye Research Institute.

Azar is an innovative researcher who has made significant contributions to the treatment of corneal diseases and refractive surgery through sophisticated analysis and advanced optics. His research has resulted in better understanding of corneal wound healing, the applications and complications of laser keratectomy, and the molecular organization of the normal and injured cornea. He has published more than 190 peer-reviewed articles, more than 300 book chapters and abstracts, and he holds 15 patents. He is the editor or co-editor of 14 books on cornea and refractive surgery.

Azar has mentored more than 100 clinical and research post-doctoral fellows and countless residents, many of whom occupy academic leadership positions. He sits on the boards of the Association of University Professors of Ophthalmology and the Association of Research in Vision and Ophthalmology. He was named a University Scholar in 2009 and was the recipient of the Lans Distinguished Award from the International Society of Refractive Surgery of the American Academy of Ophthalmology.

For more information about the University of Illinois Medical Center, visit

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