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Duke Flags Lowered: William Anlyan, Who Led Med Center to Prominence, Dies at Age 90

Dr. William G. Anlyan, who began his 40-year career at Duke as a medical intern and went on to become professor of surgery, dean of the School of Medicine and chancellor for health affairs, died Sunday, Jan. 17.  He was 90 years old.

Anlyan was one of Duke’s most visionary leaders over his four decades and was instrumental in achieving many of the university and its health enterprise’s most important milestones. Anlyan, who was chancellor and professor emeritus, as well as a trustee of The Duke Endowment, turned 90 on Oct. 14.

During Anlyan’s tenure as medical school dean and chancellor from 1964-88, the Medical Center witnessed tremendous growth. He presided over a major expansion that included the construction of Duke University Hospital (Duke North’s bed tower bears his name) and nearly 4 million square feet of new or renovated facilities.

Anlyan, who was responsible for attracting international attention for Duke, was known as an innovator in medical education, and was recognized for nurturing the careers of colleagues. In 1995, he received the Duke Medical Alumni Association’s inaugural lifetime achievement award, which was named in his honor.

Anlyan was raised in Egypt, the son of a British civil servant. He came to the United States in 1943 to enroll at Yale University, from which he received both his bachelor's and medical degrees. In 1949, Anlyan came to Duke, where he began an internship in general and thoracic surgery. He became an instructor of surgery after completing his residency, and two years later became an assistant professor of surgery.

Anlyan’s star continued to rise rapidly within his beloved Duke community. He became a full professor of surgery in 1961, then associate dean of the School of Medicine in 1963. A year later he became dean, a post he held until 1983.  Anlyan then served as chancellor for health affairs – the first time that title was used – and from 1988-90 was executive vice president and chancellor for health affairs, and from 1990-95 was chancellor of Duke University.

Nationally, Anlyan played a leadership role in the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), serving as the first chairman of the Council of Deans and chairman of the assembly. He was a founding member of the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences and a recipient of the Abraham Flexner Award for his contributions to medical education.

He served as chair of Yale University Council’s Committee on Medical Affairs, chair of the Cornell Medical College Board of Visitors, and member of the Emory Medical School Board of Visitors. Anlyan was chairman emeritus of Research! America, a national organization promoting public education in support of biomedical research, and a recipient of its inaugural Lifetime Achievement Award.

Anlyan also left his mark on the international medical scene. He was active in the World Health Organization, led Duke’s delegation to the People’s Republic of China in 1975 to consult on health care, and served as the U.S. delegate to a number of international conferences on medical affairs in places as far flung as Poland, Japan, Egypt and Saudi Arabia.   

Back home in North Carolina, Anlyan served as chairman of the North Carolina Governor’s Commission for Better Health for North Carolinians, was a member of the Advisory Council on Comprehensive Health Planning, the Governor’s Commission on Community Health Care, and chaired the Governor’s Task Force on Health Objectives for 2000. He also served on the board of directors of the N.C. Institute of Medicine and as a trustee of the North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics in Durham.

In his adopted hometown of Durham, Anlyan was a founding member and served on the executive committee of the City of Medicine organization and chaired Durham Health Partners.

His numerous honors and awards included the Governor’s Award for Distinguished Meritorious Service (1978), the Civic Honor Award from the Durham Chamber of Commerce (1981), the Award of Merit from the Duke University Hospital and Health Administration Alumni Association (1987), the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Duke University Medical Alumni (1995), the Duke University Medal (2002), and the North Carolina Award for Science (2002).

Anlyan was a member of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Phi Beta Kappa, a Fellow of the American College of Surgeons, and a member of the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences. He also was a member of the International Cardiovascular Society and of the International Society of Surgery and Sigma Xi.

Anlyan authored more than 100 medical articles and edited nine books published by the Duke University Press.