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Christine K. Cassel MD'76 Faculty Scholar Award established with gift from eminent alum

Award will recognize, support accomplishments in medical ethics, human rights and social justice

UMass Chan Medical School alum Christine Cassel, MD’76, has made her mark as a clinical, education and policy leader, and now as a benefactor to her alma mater. The Christine K. Cassel MD’76 Faculty Scholar Award has been established with a gift of $200,000, which will endow an annual award recognizing an assistant or associate professor for accomplishments related to medical ethics, human rights and social justice.

Christine Cassel, MD’76

“Issues of ethics and human rights and social justice have stayed with me throughout my career and have been woven into much of my work in the policy arena, in teaching and with the aging population and geriatric medicine,” said Dr. Cassel, professor of medicine at the University of California San Francisco School of Medicine. “The focus of this award is on that set of issues because I think it is vitally important that we have clinicians who, in addition to providing high quality patient care, are also able to think in a sophisticated way about the moral challenges that are going to continue to face the profession.”

Cassel exemplifies the qualities and achievements the award recognizes. A pioneer and innovator in geriatric medicine, medical ethics and quality care, she attended UMass Chan Medical School at a time when there were few women in medicine. An undergraduate philosophy major, she has always kept medical ethics, morality and humanism central in her diverse endeavors.

Cassel has served as president and CEO of the National Quality Forum; was the first woman to be president of the American College of Physicians; and the first woman to serve as president and CEO of the American Board of Internal Medicine. She is featured in the U.S. National Library of Medicine’s groundbreaking 2003 “Changing the face of medicine” exhibit celebrating the lives and achievements of America's women physicians.

In 2009, she was tapped by President Barack Obama as one of 20 scientists to serve on the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, where she played a leadership role addressing issues including innovation in information technology, health systems science, technology to foster independence and quality of life in an aging population, and safe drinking water.

Cassel is grateful for the opportunity she had to launch her medical career at the then-newly established University of Massachusetts Medical School, now UMass Chan and still the only public medical school in the commonwealth.

“The cutting edges in science that UMass Chan is now in the middle of all raise new ethical issues that need to be addressed along with inequity and racial justice,” she said. ”It is important to support physicians early in their career who want to focus on these issues.”

Recipients of the new award can use the financial grant to advance their work in academic or advocacy activities. Additionally, Cassel will serve as a mentor and advisor through the course of each scholarship.

Nominations for the Christine K. Cassel MD’76 Faculty Scholar Award are being accepted from senior faculty with department chair signoff. The inaugural recipient will be announced at the 2022 UMass Chan Women’s Faculty Awards proceedings on May 24.