GW School of Medicine and Health Sciences Installs Three Prominent Members of the Academic Medical Enterprise

The endowed positions focus on orthopedic surgery, kidney diseases and hypertension, and ophthalmology.

May 23, 2023

SMHS triple installation 2023

From left: Rob Sterling, Dominic Raj and David Belyea. (Photos by Scavone Photography)

The George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences community turned out to recognize three notable academic medical leaders and the donors that made their endowed positions possible.

The event in late April featured two existing endowed positions—Robert Sterling as the Dr. John P. Adams Research Professor in Orthopedic Surgery and Dominic Raj as the Bert B. Brooks Chair in the Medical School—and the inaugural installation of a newly endowed professorship, with David Belyea, M.B.A. ’08, installed as the inaugural Daniel P. Shepard, M.D., and Dennis D. Shepard, M.D., Professor in Ophthalmology.

“The program today is a real celebration,” said GW President Mark S. Wrighton, noting the enduring impact these positions have at the university. “It is a very important symbol of your eminence; you are individuals who represent the very best of the best here at the George Washington University.”

“These leaders form the fabric of our organization,” added Barbara L. Bass, professor of surgery, Walter A. Bloedorn Chair of Administrative Medicine, vice president for health affairs, dean of SMHS and CEO of the GW Medical Faculty Associates. “They have been incredible contributors during their time here in our academic clinical enterprise. They inspire everyone around them, from their faculty to their students to their residents, to their patients.”

Sterling joined SMHS in July 2022 as the chair of the Department of Orthopedic Surgery, where he leads the department’s clinical, educational and academic missions. A nationally recognized leader in hip and knee replacement, he previously served as vice chair for quality, safety and service at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, where he also directed the department’s adult hip and knee replacement fellowship in the Department of Orthopedic Surgery.

He becomes the second holder of the Adams Professorship, established in 2019 by colleagues, friends and grateful patients in honor of the emeritus professor of orthopedic surgery who was professor and chair of the department from 1953 to 1987.

“I look forward to honoring the legacy that Dr. Adams left and demonstrating that your faith in hiring me was well founded, as I grow the Department of Orthopedic Surgery,” said Sterling.

During his tenure at SMHS, Raj has been a been a significant contributor to the school’s academic and clinical enterprise. A tenured professor of medicine and director of the Division of Kidney Diseases and Hypertension, as well as a professor in the Department of Biochemistry and Genetics and the Department of Biostatistics and Epidemiology, Raj has expanded the division’s research portfolio, added new clinical services and revamped the educational program. He also established several sub-specialty clinics including the glomerular diseases clinic, kidney stone clinic, polycystic kidney disease clinic and the kidney wellness clinic. He also co-founded, along with the American Association of Kidney Patients (AAKP), the AAKP-GWU Global Kidney Summit, an annual conference that reaches more than 20,000 people from 80 countries.

“I was advised to be brief,” joked Raj as he accepted his honor, adding “silent gratitude, however, is of no use to anyone. It should be proclaimed from the rooftops.”

“Please accept my humble words, seeped in deep gratitude, for this most magnanimous recognition,” Raj continued. “For all the mentors who have guided me, mentees who inspired me, and friends who made time to be here with me. I can offer no other answer except thank you.”

Raj will serve as the Bert B. Brooks Chair, an endowed position established in 2004 in honor of Bert B. Brooks, a longtime friend of GW. Brooks supported a number of interests throughout the academic medical enterprise, including the GW Women’s Board Teaching Center and the Bloedorn Microcomputer Laboratory.

Robert Sterling, Dean Bass, and President Wrighton.
From left: Robert Sterling, Dean Bass and President Wrighton.

The newest endowed position, the Shepard Professorship, was established by father and son SMHS alumni Dennis D. Shepard, M.D. ’63, and Daniel P. Shepard, M.D. ’96, M.P.H. ’96. In 1967, Dennis Shepard, a pioneer in intraocular lenses and refractive surgery, founded the Shepard Eye Center, which would grow to become one of the world’s largest private eye clinics. His son Daniel is a renowned ophthalmologist in his own right. He is widely published on macular degeneration and diseases of the retina, with specialized training in the medical and surgical treatment of eye trauma and the eye’s vitreous body.

“We look at this as a family. We realize the privileges that have come from the opportunities provided by George Washington University and see the responsibility to give back to the community in general and the opportunity to give back to the school in particular,” said Daniel Shepard. “I would encourage each of you to look into your path, find those common points or those places that were crucial to you, and see if there is somewhere in your heart and your passions that you want to give back to help promote this type of philanthropy for the benefit of all of us.”

Belyea, the final installation of the evening, was recently appointed chair of the Department of Ophthalmology after serving in the role in an interim capacity throughout the pandemic. Belyea also serves as the director of the Ophthalmology Residency Program. He becomes the inaugural Daniel P. Shepard, M.D., and Dennis D. Shepard, M.D., Professor in Ophthalmology.

“We are very grateful for the service that Dr. Belyea provided to our organization during some of what I’m going to say were probably the roughest times a clinical enterprise has navigated from 2020 to the present,” said Bass about Belyea, a retired colonel in the United States Army whose research focus is on glaucoma and cataract surgery.

“This is a shared honor that I have today, and I am thankful for the faculty, the university and the ophthalmology community—including the Shepard family—that has supported me through this…and our grateful patients,” said Belyea. “My journey here would not be possible without my family.”

“In assuming this chair, I will continue the great emphasis on the surgical excellence of the department, the compassionate patient care that we provide and the rest in education and research.”