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Updated 10:00 AM March 5, 2007




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Family medicine gift creates endowed chairmanship

Dr. George Dean, one of the founding fathers of the family medicine specialty at the U-M Health System, has given a gift to honor the department he helped to establish.

The $1.5 million gift establishes the George A. Dean, M.D. Family Medicine Chair at the Medical School. Dr. Thomas L. Schwenk will be the first to hold the professorship, pending approval by the Board of Regents.

Dean's gift is part of the President's Donor Challenge, a program launched by President Mary Sue Coleman to create endowed professorships and support need-based financial aid. With an additional $500,000 from the Donor Challenge fund, the total value of the gift is $2 million. The gift—which is part of the $2.5 billion The Michigan Difference campaign—is the first endowed professorship for the Department of Family Medicine.

"I believe that family medicine is the most logical, beneficial and cost-effective way of providing care to families," says Dean, who lives in Bloomfield Hills and in Boca Raton, Fla. "Since the moment we first suggested that U-M create a Department of Family Medicine, I have said that family physicians provide continuity of care, humanistic care and preventive medicine, and all of those things are vital for the care of families.

"I think of the department like a baby I had delivered," he adds.

It was 1975 when Dean and a few colleagues first presented the idea of a Department of Family Medicine to the Board of Regents and the Medical School. The department would encourage comprehensive, compassionate care for the entire family, as well as train future leaders in the specialty.

They persevered past some initial resistance, and in 1978, the Department of Family Medicine was created. Dean was named an adjunct assistant professor. Today, the department boasts more than 60 faculty members, a staff of 175, five community health centers, and outreach initiatives and research programs. The department was sixth in the nation in the most recent U.S. News & World Report rankings of graduate schools.

"Were it not for the vision of George Dean, this department may not even exist. Now we are thriving, and his generous gift will help us continue to thrive for a long time to come," Schwenk says. "I am extremely honored that I will hold a professorship that bears the name of one of the most important physicians in Michigan family medicine."

Dean long has been a national voice in support of increasing the number of family physicians, and he has served as president of the Michigan Academy of Family Physicians and vice president of the American Academy of Family Physicians. Among numerous accolades, he was named Michigan's Family Physician of the Year in 1985.

He continues practicing in Southfield and is a clinical associate professor in the Department of Family Medicine at Wayne State University in Detroit, where he earned his medical degree and later helped set up that school's family medicine program.

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