Aaron Lazare, MD 




Guided the University of Massachusetts Medical School to national distinction in education, research and service over the course of nearly two decades


March 15, 2007

WORCESTER, Mass.- Aaron Lazare, MD, who has served as chancellor and dean of the University of Massachusetts Medical School (UMMS) in Worcester since 1991, will step aside from those roles effective March 15, 2007 to address a cardiac arrhythmia (For more information on cardiac arrythmia, visit  http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/arrhythmia.html ).  After a brief respite to attend to his personal health and well-being, Dr. Lazare will continue to serve as the Celia and Isaac Haidak Professor in Medical Education and professor of psychiatry at UMMS, pursuing research and writing, as well as spending more time with students as a teacher, advisor and mentor. 

During his more than 17 years as chancellor and dean-an impressive time period that makes him one of the longest serving medical school deans in the nation-Lazare presided over a period of extraordinary growth on the campus, growth that has served to enhance the quality of health sciences education at UMMS. Under his leadership, the Medical School has achieved objectively ranked academic prominence and an unprecedented expansion of its research enterprise. More importantly, UMMS has proved itself a model of student-centered, faculty-guided training of the nation's future physicians. 

"This is a bittersweet moment for me," Lazare said in a memo to faculty, staff and students. "Beginning with the day I was appointed Dean of the Medical School, I have had an extraordinary vantage point as this institution has grown into a role as a health sciences campus of international distinction.  To say that my work over the years has been professionally and personally rewarding is an utter understatement: It has been a privilege." 


Resources & Links 

Statement of University President Jack Wilson file opens in Adobe PDF format 

Biography of Dr. Aaron Lazare file opens in Adobe PDF format 

High Resolution Photo of Dr. Lazare     

Key Accomplishments during Dr. Lazare's tenure file opens in Adobe PDF format 

Coming into his position at a time of institutional instability, Lazare, 71, used the same sensibilities he developed in his career as a  psychiatrist-analysis, empathy, intellectual curiosity and vision-to lead the campus in a variety of innovative and interdisciplinary curriculum and cultural changes.

"Since Aaron Lazare stepped into the role of Chancellor and Dean of the University of Massachusetts Medical School, the institution has experienced tremendous success," said University of Massachusetts President Jack Wilson. "The history and trajectory of this institution has been nothing short of spectacular, and I believe that Aaron has been an essential component of that stellar rise. We wish him only the best as he takes the necessary steps to preserve his health and look forward to his continued contributions as a member of the faculty." 

A nationally recognized expert on shame and humiliation in the medical encounter, Lazare is the co-editor of the influential and nationally recognized textbook, The Medical Interview, published in 1994. A groundbreaking work on the fundamentals of physician-patient communication, the book addresses the essential skills necessary for all students and practitioners of medicine and promotes the theory that physicians can be taught to enhance the dignity of patients while minimizing the patient's humiliation. 

Lazare's critical understanding of the continuum that exists in applying the skills necessary for effective patient communication to the student-teacher relationship has had a substantial influence on the curriculum and culture of UMMS. He has taken his advocacy of communication to the next level by promoting a student-centered environment that exposes all learners, regardless of year or career direction, to a variety of early clinical experiences in community-based settings. 

Beyond his significant research concerning health communications and his efforts to redefine the curriculum to enhance the student-teacher relationship, Lazare has made a tremendous impact on the research mission at UMMS. Believing that the research endeavor enhances education and clinical care through new discoveries and through its ability to attract outstanding investigators and educators to the Medical School, he championed efforts to enhance UMMS' basic science enterprise. One of the most tangible efforts of his commitment to science was the construction of a $100 million, 360,000-square-foot research laboratory building on campus. 

Opened in 2001 and standing 10 stories high, the facility today houses more than 800 scientists and support staff. In recognition of his unwavering commitment to research achievement and as a testament to his impressive reputation, a generous donor's $21 million gift named the building the Aaron Lazare Medical Research Building. The gift, from Jack and Shelley Blais, stands as the largest donation in the history of the University of Massachusetts. 

After realizing the extraordinary challenges facing academic health centers in the delivery of health care services that arose in the mid-1990s, Lazare led the UMMS community through the complicated merger of UMMS' clinical enterprise and Memorial Health Care-two strong, local health care systems that had longstanding ties to the Worcester community and region.  The merger, finalized in April 1998, formed UMass Memorial Health Care, central Massachusetts' largest not-for-profit health care delivery system.  The integrated system covers the complete health care continuum with teaching hospitals, affiliated community hospitals, freestanding primary care practices, ambulatory outpatient clinics, a long-term care facility, home health agency, hospice program, rehabilitation group and mental health services. In recognition of his thoughtful leadership, Lazare shared the honor of being named the Worcester Telegram & Gazette's 1997 Visions 2000 Citizen of the Year. 

Lazare received his AB in 1957 from Oberlin College and his MD in 1961 from Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine. He spent 14 years at the Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH), rising to the rank of professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. In 1982, Lazare accepted the position of professor and chair of psychiatry at UMMS, and, in 1990, he was named dean of the Medical School. In 1991, he was named chancellor of the campus, which includes the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences (opened in 1979) and the Graduate School of Nursing (opened in 1986). 

Lazare has earned numerous honors that recognize his broad range of accomplishments as a practicing psychiatrist, researcher, author, educator, lecturer, leader/administrator and humanitarian. Amongst these are two from the Jewish community of which he is especially proud. In 1993, he was presented the Maimonides Award from the Anti-Defamation League New England Region, and the American Physicians Fellowship for Medicine in Israel selected him to receive their Distinguished Medical Service Award in 2000. 

Lazare's publications include 70 original articles and book chapters and six books. His latest book, On Apology, published in September 2004, examines the integral components of effective and sincere apologies and provides a deeper understanding of interpersonal and international conflicts and how we might resolve them through apology. He continues to actively lecture on the subject across the Commonwealth and around the country. 

"I have been fortunate to serve as Chancellor and Dean during a period of remarkable expansion, accomplishment and achievement," Lazare said. "And yet, amidst all of the new growth, we have remained committed to the core values and core mission envisioned by Lamar Soutter when this thriving campus was still a meadow: our commitment to health sciences education and service to the Commonwealth is more vital today than ever in our history." 

About the University of Massachusetts Medical School
The University of Massachusetts Medical School is one of five campuses of the University system and one of the fastest growing academic health centers in the country.  It encompasses the School of Medicine, the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences, the Graduate School of Nursing, a thriving research enterprise and an innovative public service initiative called Commonwealth Medicine. The mission of UMass Medical School is to serve the people of the Commonwealth through national distinction in health sciences education, research and public service. 


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