Farewell to William G. Anlyan

Dr. William G. Anlyan, former dean of the Duke University School of Medicine and Chancellor for Health Affairs, died Sunday at the age of 90.

978-0-8223-3378-4_prAnlyan was the author of nine books with Duke University Press, two of which are still in print. The Future of Medical Education (1973) called for major reforms in U.S. medical education. Metamorphoses: Memoirs of a Life in Medicine (2004) recalled the changes in medicine and medical education in Anlyan’s forty -year career at Duke.

Born in Alexandria, Egypt, in 1925, and schooled in the British tradition, Anlyan attended Yale University as an undergraduate and medical student before coming to the relatively unknown medical school at Duke University in 1949 for an internship in general and thoracic surgery. He stayed on, first as a resident, then as a staff surgeon. By 1961, he was a full professor of surgery. In 1964, Anlyan was named dean of the medical school, the first in a series of administrative posts at the medical school and hospital. Anlyan’s role in the transformation of the Duke University Medical Center into an internationally renowned health system is manifest: he restructured the medical school and hospital and supervised the addition of almost four million square feet of new or renovated space. He hired outstanding administrators and directed a staff that instituted innovative programs and groundbreaking research centers, such as the Cancer Center and the Physician’s Assistant Program.

In Metamorphoses, Anlyan describes a series of metamorphoses in his own life, in the world of medicine, in Durham, and at Duke. At the time of his prep school upbringing in Egypt, medicine was a matter of controlling infectious diseases like tuberculosis and polio. As he became an immigrant medical student and then a young surgeon, he observed vast advances in medical practice and changes in the financing of medical care. During his tenure at Duke, Durham was transformed from a sleepy mill and tobacco town into the “City of Medicine,” a place where patients routinely travel for open-heart surgery and cutting-edge treatments for cancer and other diseases.

In a cover blurb for Metmorphoses, Anlyan’s successor, Ralph Snyderman (whose own memoir comes out from Duke University Press this fall) called Anlyan “a giant at Duke University and an important leader of twentieth-century academic medicine.” Former Surgeon General David Satcher said, “Bill Anlyan has been one of the most outstanding leaders in academic medicine. Knowing him has been one of the great pleasures of my life and career.”

The flags at Duke University have been lowered to half-staff in Anlyan’s honor.

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