Share this story

Chancellor Emeritus Aaron Lazare passes away

Key leader in history of institution dies at age 79

  Aaron Lazare, MD
  Aaron Lazare, MD

Aaron Lazare, MD, who joined UMass Medical School as professor and chair of psychiatry and went on to lead the institution through some of its most challenging and illustrious years, has died at age 79, Chancellor Michael F. Collins has announced.

“It is with great sadness that I share with you the passing of Aaron Lazare, MD, who served as chancellor and dean of UMMS from 1991 to 2007, and whose imprint on this campus is lasting and evident in many ways, not the least of which is the research building that bears his name,” said Chancellor Collins in a statement to the UMass Medical School community.

As recognition of Lazare’s accomplishments and contributions to our community, the Aaron Lazare Medical Research Building was named for Lazare when it opened in 2002 at the behest of Jack and Shelley Blais, philanthropists whose donation was, at the time, the largest individual gift in the history of the University of Massachusetts.

“While chair of psychiatry at UMMS, Lazare initiated a new sphere of scholarly activity on the subject of apology and humiliation in medical encounters, an area in which he emerged as a national leader,” said Collins.

During this time, Lazare also raised the quality of the department to national excellence and created a model relationship with the state to deliver first-class psychiatric care to patients in the public sector. For his “exceptional achievement in serving the interests of the people of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts,” Lazare received the University’s Distinguished Professional Public Service Award in 1988.

Lazare began his medical career at Yale University Medical School and then Massachusetts General Hospital, where he built the outpatient psychiatry department into the largest and most diverse in New England.

He conducted pioneering research on the importance of understanding the patient’s perspective on clinical outcomes and applying a negotiating paradigm to the doctor-patient relationship. He is the author of the first textbook on outpatient psychiatry, Outpatient Psychiatry: Diagnosis and Treatment.

Lazare’s publications include 70 original articles and book chapters and six books. Many of these articles are still widely quoted and used as standard references for research and for clinical and training programs. Dr. Lazare’s 2004 book, On Apology, was perhaps his most influential publication, garnering extensive interest and accolades from academic and lay audiences alike.

In 1989, Lazare became interim dean of the medical school, and in 1990 he was named dean; later that year he became the interim chancellor of the campus, and was named chancellor/dean of UMMS in 1991.

“Dr. Lazare’s leadership helped transform our institution into a preeminent destination for medical education and biomedical research,” noted Collins. “Notably, he oversaw the building of the Brudnick Neuropsychiatric Research Institute, the 1998 merger with Memorial Health Care, the integration of Commonwealth Medicine and MassBiologics, as well as the expansion and modernization of our campus.”

Together with his wife, Louise, he received the humanitarianism award from the National Conference of Christians and Jews. In addition, Lazare received numerous prestigious appointments and awards for his public service and dedication to mental health, education and family.

After retiring from academic leadership in 2007, Lazare continued his research on shame and humiliation, and continued at UMMS as the chancellor and dean emeritus and professor of psychiatry until his death.

The family requests that donations be directed to UMass Memorial Foundation/Aaron Lazare, MD, Memorial Student Education Fund and mailed to the UMass Medicine Development Office, 333 South Street, Shrewsbury, MA 01545.

Information about funeral arrangements can be found here.