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Wed, 02.24.1937

Haile Debas, Surgeon born

Haile Debas

*The birth of Haile T. Debas on this date in 1937 is marked on this date. He is an African surgeon and educator.

Born in Asmara, Eritrea, he graduated from the University College in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, earned his medical doctorate at McGill University, and worked at the University of California at Los Angeles, the University of British Columbia, and the University of Washington before arriving at UCSF in 1987.  Renowned as a researcher and credited with nearly 40 scientific papers, Debas was elected president of the International Hepato-Biliary-Pancreatic Association in 1991.

He was also a director of the American Board of Surgery and a fellow of the American College of Surgeons and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.  At UCSF, he revamped the medical school’s curriculum to focus on training medical students and established the Academy of Medical Educators, which was renamed in his honor. In 1997 Debas was interim Chancellor of UCSF and oversaw the merger of its clinical services with those of Stanford University.

A forceful advocate of affirmative action to increase the number of non-white physicians, in 1998, he was president of the Society for Black Academic Surgeons.  As Dean Emeritus, Debas became executive director of UCSF Global Health Sciences and has been active in the United Nations Commission for HIV/AIDS and Governance in Africa, and the Committee on Science, Engineering and Public Policy of the National Academy of Sciences.

He gained national recognition as a gastrointestinal investigator and has made original contributions to the physiology, biochemistry, and pathophysiology of gastrointestinal peptide hormones. In 1987 Dr. Debas, keenly interested in education, was recruited to chair the surgery department at the University of California, San Francisco. Under his leadership, the department has become one of the best academic surgery departments in the United States. Dr. Debas was elected to membership in the Institute of Medicine in 1990.

At the University of California, San Francisco, he served as the Founding Executive Director of UCSF Global Health Sciences (2003-2010), Dean (Medicine) (1993-2003), Vice Chancellor (Medical Affairs) for six years, and Chancellor for one year. In 2004 he was the recipient of the Abraham Flexner Award for Distinguished Service to Medical Education, presented by the Association of American Medical Colleges.

A gastrointestinal surgeon by training, Dr. Debas is also the Maurice Galante Distinguished Professor of Surgery, Emeritus and chaired the UCSF Department of Surgery from 1987 to 2003. He is also the Founding Director of the University of California-wide Global Health Institute. He was instrumental in creating the Consortium of Universities for Global Health and served as the Founding Chair of its Board of Directors (2009-2012).

To Become a Surgeon


American Men & Women of Science, 21st Ed. Vol. 2.
(New York: Bowker, 2003)

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