First Presidential Distinguished Chair Named in Honor of Chancellor Washington, Awarded to Dzirasa

By Dave Hart, School of Medicine Communications

School of Medicine Dean Mary E. Klotman, MD, announced this week that Duke’s first Presidential Distinguished Chair will be named in honor of outgoing Chancellor for Health Affairs A. Eugene Washington, MD, and his wife, Marie.

The anonymous donor who established the inaugural Presidential Distinguished Chair in early 2021 said the gift was intended to support superb science and to honor the Washingtons. The professorship will be known as A. Eugene and Marie Washington Presidential Distinguished Chair.

During Washington’s eight-year tenure as chancellor, he transformed and elevated the academic and research enterprise across Duke Health, launching a number of major initiatives and sustaining and expanding Duke’s role as an internationally renowned biomedical research institution.

Dr. Kafui Dzirasa (front) with Marie Washington and Dr. A. Eugene Washington
Marie and Dr. A. Eugene Washington with Dr. Kafui Dzirasa

In accordance with the donor’s wishes that the professorship be awarded to a scholar of exceptional eminence in neuroscience or another field in science and technology in the School of Medicine, the A. Eugene and Marie Washington Presidential Distinguished Chair will be awarded to Kafui Dzirasa, MD, PhD, a professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences and assistant professor of biomedical engineering at Duke.

Dzirasa, who received his MD and PhD and completed his residency at Duke before joining the faculty in 2009, is a pioneering researcher whose expertise in neuroscience, psychiatry, and engineering is transforming the understanding of the basic biological mechanisms of mental illness. He is also a national leader who has distinguished himself as an advocate for diversity and inclusion in science.

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Watch Dean Mary Klotman's conversation with Dzirasa as part of her Friday Message on Friday, June 16, 2023: