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Board approves renaming building for first provost

MUSC Board of Trustees recently voted to name its education center and library in memory of the school’s first provost and vice president of academic affairs, James W. Colbert Jr., M.D. A dedication event is scheduled for April 10.
Dr. James W. Colbert Jr.

 Colbert joined MUSC in 1969 to oversee the school’s academic and research programs in the newly created position of provost and vice president for academic affairs. Layton McCurdy, M.D., dean emeritus of the MUSC College of Medicine, described him as a “transformative figure” who helped the university adopt the traditions of academic medicine, a doctrine that seeks to improve patient care through continual medical research and education.
“Having come from Yale and St. Louis, he understood academic medicine in ways that we didn’t,” said McCurdy, who was chairman of the university’s Department of Psychiatry at the time. “Our hospital had only been open for about 15 years prior to his coming here, and we hadn’t yet learned how to integrate academics with research and patient care. He understood how to do that, in both a strategic and pragmatic, nuts-and-bolts sense.”
Colbert served as assistant dean of the Yale University School of Medicine from 1951 to 1953, dean of the St. Louis University School of Medicine from 1953 to 1961, associate director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases from 1962 to 1969, and director of the Advanced Planning Staff of the Surgeon General’s Office of Program Planning and Evaluation from 1967 to 1968.
Colbert is also remembered for his role in negotiating a peaceful resolution to a volatile and racially divisive hospital workers strike that placed Charleston and MUSC on the front line of the nation’s civil rights movement in 1969. Colbert died in a plane crash in Charlotte, N.C., on Sept. 11, 1974, with two of his sons, Peter and Paul. He was survived by his wife, Lorna, and nine children: Jim, Ed, Mary, Bill, Margo, Tom, Jay, Elizabeth and Stephen, who today is an actor and host of Comedy Central’s “The Colbert Report.”
MUSC President Ray Greenberg, M.D., Ph.D., said the decision to name the university’s Education Center and Library Building in Colbert’s memory was motivated by the desire to recognize the enduring, formative influence he had on the institution.   
“In many ways, Dr. Colbert helped the Medical University become the diverse, first-rate academic medical center it is now,” Greenberg said.  “He took what was a little understood concept on our campus at the time—interdisciplinary health care—and turned it into a model that thoroughly permeates our culture today. I can’t think of a more fitting tribute than to have his name on our education center and library. ”
A native of New York City, Colbert graduated from the College of Holy Cross and received his medical degree in 1945 from the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons. He completed his internship at Bellevue Hospital in New York and served in the Army Medical Corps in Europe.

Friday, April 3, 2009

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