Taking the Reins

As the George Washington University (GW) School of Medicine and Health Sciences (SMHS) enters a new decade in 2020, it will do so with its first-ever female vice president for health affairs and dean at the helm.

Bass speaking at podium wearing regalia

Barbara Lee Bass, MD, RESD ’86, a widely respected academic medicine leader, surgeon, and researcher who completed her residency and served on the faculty at GW, begins her role leading SMHS on Jan. 15. She will bring her pioneering innovation in academic surgery and her commitment to teaching the next generation of physicians to a place she knows well.

“I am thrilled to return to GW, where I became a surgeon and began my career in academic surgery,” says Bass. “GW is an institution made up of individuals committed to doing the right thing for patients, always. This focus drives our core missions: developing the physicians and health care providers and leaders of the future, driving forward in scientific discovery with the aim of translation to clinical deliverables, and working with energy and passion to improve the health of the citizens and communities we serve.

“I so look forward to joining these committed individuals to propel GW as a dynamic future-driven health care system, learning continuously from all we do,” she adds.

In her new role, Bass will be responsible for leading SMHS’ academic, clinical, and research missions and providing strategic direction on all aspects of GW’s medical enterprise, including the university’s relationships with the GW Medical Faculty Associates and GW Hospital.

Bass previously served as chair of the Department of Surgery at Houston Methodist Hospital (HMH) in Houston, Texas, and held numerous positions with its affiliated universities and institutes. “Dr. Bass has shown a remarkable commitment to academic medicine and health care throughout her accomplished career. She is a devoted physician, educator, and researcher with an inspiring vision for the School of Medicine and Health Sciences and the university’s medical enterprise,” says GW President Thomas LeBlanc.

Bass started at HMH in 2005. There, she created its surgery department from the ground up, recruiting internationally acclaimed faculty; building high-quality clinical, residency, and fellowship programs; and creating robust interdisciplinary research teams. Bass also served as chair of the surgery department in the Houston Methodist Specialty Physician Group and has contributed to the development of the organization’s partnership with the hospital system it serves, helping align the entities’ academic, clinical, and research missions. Most recently, she held the John F. Jr. and Carolyn Bookout Distinguished Presidential Chair and was a professor of surgery at Weill Cornell Medical College and the Houston Methodist Institute for Academic Medicine; adjunct professor of surgery at Texas A&M College of Medicine; and full member of the Houston Methodist Research Institute.

Completing her residency in general surgery at GW, Bass expanded her training with a research fellowship at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research while serving as a captain in the U.S. Army Medical Corps, which launched her research career. After graduating, she joined the GW faculty as a general surgeon and surgeon-scientist at the Washington DC Veterans Affairs Medical Center.

“I so look forward to joining these committed individuals to propel GW as a dynamic future-driven health care system, learning continuously from all we do."

Throughout her career, Bass mentored medical students, surgical residents, research fellows, and fellow faculty members, and she directly contributed to the training of more than 250 surgical residents. At HMH, she developed a highly rated clinical rotation for medical students and led the creation of Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education-accredited training programs in general surgery and other surgical fellowships.

Although she is proud of the accomplishments and contributions of her faculty and residents at HMH, Bass says she has been “very gratified” to have served as the founder and executive director of the Houston Methodist Institute for Technology, Innovation, and Education, a state-of-the-art education and research center that has hosted more than 55,000 health care providers in practice for training courses.

As a researcher, Bass names her current interests as computational surgery, health services research, and outcomes sciences and clinical trials in surgical oncology, following two decades of bench research in gastrointestinal biology. For more than 25 years, her research has been funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the National Science Foundation, the VA Health Services Research and Development Service program, and the European Union, among others.

She has published more than 170 peer-reviewed manuscripts, and numerous monographs, chapters, and books. She also served on NIH review boards and on the editorial boards of the Annals of Surgery and the Journal of the American College of Surgeons.

This story was originally reported by GW Today.

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