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deborah j culley penn medicine harvard

PHILADELPHIA – Deborah J. Culley, MD, a neuroanesthesiologist and nationally recognized leader in geriatric anesthesia, has been named chair of the department of Anesthesiology and Critical Care at Penn Medicine. Culley will join Penn in the spring of 2021, from her role as an associate professor at Harvard Medical School as well as the Executive Vice Chair for the Department of Anesthesiology Perioperative and Pain Medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

Culley has focused her clinical work on the care of severely ill patients undergoing a wide variety of intracranial, endovascular, and spinal procedures, and she has assumed major institutional and national leadership roles over the course of her career.

“Dr. Culley is an internationally recognized physician-scientist whose seminal work on the impact of anesthesia on cognition has changed clinical practice, even sparking a movement to routinely cognitively screen older surgical patients before surgeries,” said J. Larry Jameson, MD, PhD, dean of the Perelman School of Medicine and executive vice president of the University of Pennsylvania for the Health System. “This is the type of inquiry and innovation that I know will help to fuel the future of anesthesiology and critical care at Penn Medicine and help improve care for patients across the world.”

Culley has a long track of funding from the National Institutes of Health and other influential funders for her research on the effects of anesthesia and surgery on the aged brain, which have demonstrated that these interventions can produce lasting changes in cognition and brain function.

In addition to her research, Culley is a Director and former President of the American Board of Anesthesiology (ABA), an Executive Editor of Anesthesiology, the principal journal in the field, and a leader and founding member of the Anesthesia Research Collaborative. She has also been a member of the ACGME Anesthesiology Residency Review Committee, a member of the Joint ACGME and American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS) Workshop on Milestones, and later chaired the ACGME Anesthesiology Milestones Project Committee that developed the first educational milestones for training in anesthesiology. She recently served as chair of the Committee on Continuing Certification of the ABMS, which oversees the review process for Maintenance of Certification programs as well as policies and procedures related to continuing certification for all 24 ABMS member boards and about 800,000 board-certified physicians.

“Dr. Culley’s leadership in clinical service, research, and teaching will be fundamental to the ongoing development of this department, which has a proud history of nurturing current and future leaders in anesthesia and critical care,” said Kevin B. Mahoney, CEO of the University of Pennsylvania Health System. “As the COVID-19 pandemic has placed a fresh spotlight on the lifesaving role of critical care within health systems, we are proud to bring her on board to join the faculty who are on the front lines of this crucial work.”

Culley succeeds Lee Fleisher, MD, who became chair of the Department of Anesthesiology and Critical Care in 2004. His longtime leadership has established the department as among the very best in the country. Fleisher now serves as Chief Medical Officer and Director of the Center for Clinical Standards and Quality at the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, a part of the Department of Health and Human Services.

Culley received her medical degree from the University of Washington School of Medicine, and completed her residency training at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School.

Penn Medicine is one of the world’s leading academic medical centers, dedicated to the related missions of medical education, biomedical research, excellence in patient care, and community service. The organization consists of the University of Pennsylvania Health System and Penn’s Raymond and Ruth Perelman School of Medicine, founded in 1765 as the nation’s first medical school.

The Perelman School of Medicine is consistently among the nation's top recipients of funding from the National Institutes of Health, with $550 million awarded in the 2022 fiscal year. Home to a proud history of “firsts” in medicine, Penn Medicine teams have pioneered discoveries and innovations that have shaped modern medicine, including recent breakthroughs such as CAR T cell therapy for cancer and the mRNA technology used in COVID-19 vaccines.

The University of Pennsylvania Health System’s patient care facilities stretch from the Susquehanna River in Pennsylvania to the New Jersey shore. These include the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, Penn Presbyterian Medical Center, Chester County Hospital, Lancaster General Health, Penn Medicine Princeton Health, and Pennsylvania Hospital—the nation’s first hospital, founded in 1751. Additional facilities and enterprises include Good Shepherd Penn Partners, Penn Medicine at Home, Lancaster Behavioral Health Hospital, and Princeton House Behavioral Health, among others.

Penn Medicine is an $11.1 billion enterprise powered by more than 49,000 talented faculty and staff.

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