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Ross named Alumni Endowed Professor of Medicine

Nephrologist honored for excellence in patient care, teaching, research and commitment to health equity

by Kristina SauerweinDecember 29, 2020

Matt Miller

Will Ross, MD, associate dean for diversity and a professor of medicine in the Division of Nephrology at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, has been named the Alumni Endowed Professor of Medicine.

Ross was chosen for the honor because he has demonstrated continued excellence as a nephrologist and public health epidemiologist. He is noted for his skilled, compassionate bedside manner when treating patients, and for his research involving chronic kidney disease, diabetes, obesity and digital-messaging health platforms. Among medical students and alumni, Ross is often cited as an inspirational teacher and a lifelong mentor.

Additionally, he has been recognized for his commitment to diversity and improving health care in underserved neighborhoods. For more than two decades, Ross has developed innovative medical school pipeline programs designed to support promising students from St. Louis to pursue careers in the health-care industry. Further, he has helped increase diversity within the school’s medical student and resident populations, as well as the faculty.

As the School of Medicine’s principal officer for community partnerships, Ross works with local organizations to increase access to health care for residents in underserved neighborhoods, and to develop new initiatives and partnerships with community leaders.

“I am thrilled to bestow Will Ross with the Alumni Endowed Professorship in Medicine for sustained excellence as a clinician, researcher and teacher,” said David H. Perlmutter, MD, executive vice chancellor for medical affairs, the George and Carol Bauer Dean of the School of Medicine, and the Spencer T. and Ann W. Olin Distinguished Professor. “An endowed professorship is one of the highest honors awarded to a faculty member. Will richly deserves the honor. He is, and has been, an inspiration and role model to all of us for his pioneering and indelible impact on our School of Medicine and, more broadly, on the profession of academic medicine.”

The Alumni Endowed Professorship was established by the Washington University Medical Center Alumni Association to create a professorship in each department at the School of Medicine. The brainchild of the late Samuel B. Guzé, MD, a 1945 graduate of the school, the first professorship was awarded in 1982 in the Department of Molecular Biology and Pharmacology. Ross’ professorship is the program’s 11th.

Ross will be officially installed when the COVID-19 pandemic is under control. He will be installed by Chancellor Andrew D. Martin; Perlmutter; and Victoria J. Fraser, MD, the Adolphus Busch Professor of Medicine and head of the Department of Medicine.

“Will Ross’ compassion and dedication to his patients, students, community and public health serve as inspiration to all of us,” Martin said. “His trailblazing efforts to build health equity and engage with the community enhance our WashU mission to improve lives in service of the greater good. It is a pleasure to honor him with this endowed professorship.”

A recipient of numerous awards, Ross helped to develop programs and curriculum aimed at teaching medical students about social and economic barriers to good health and medical care in low-income areas of St. Louis. He also founded the Saturday Neighborhood Health Clinic, which is run by medical students and offers no-cost health services for low-income and uninsured St. Louis residents. Ross also is co-founder of Casa de Salud Latino Health Center.

He is also an advisory board chair and founding member of the Collegiate School of Medicine and Bioscience, a magnet health professions high school in St. Louis. Locally, nationally and globally, Ross has promoted health equality through collaborations with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as well as public health officials in Ethiopia and Haiti. He recently co-developed an undergraduate program in public health in Haiti.

Regarded nationally as a public health and health policy expert, Ross is a founding associate editor of the public health journal Frontiers in Public Health Education and Promotion.

“Will Ross is a truly inspirational person,” Fraser said. “He has been committed to improving health outcomes in underserved communities for decades. He is a gifted and passionate clinician and teacher who has been a wonderful role model and mentor for students, residents and fellows. He is tireless in his efforts to promote health equity and social justice. The nephrology division, Department of Medicine and Washington University are better because of Will’s efforts.”

A graduate of Yale University, Ross earned his medical degree in 1984 from Washington University. He completed his residency in internal medicine at Vanderbilt University Hospital in Nashville, Tenn., in 1987, and a fellowship in nephrology at Barnes-Jewish Hospital in 1990. He earned a master’s degree in public health from Saint Louis University School of Public Health in 2008.

“I am honored and humbled to be installed as the Alumni Endowed Professor of Medicine,” Ross said. “As an alumnus of the School of Medicine, I respect our deep traditions of top-tier medical research, excellence in medical education and patient care. I stand with all alumni in advocating for holistic patient care, where we acknowledge the impact of the patient’s environment on their overall health. This professorship provides me the opportunity to work with the university and hospitals to strengthen our robust community partnerships, and to realize our vision of achieving equity through reducing the social and structural barriers to health.”

Washington University School of Medicine’s 1,500 faculty physicians also are the medical staff of Barnes-Jewish and St. Louis Children’s hospitals. The School of Medicine is a leader in medical research, teaching and patient care, ranking among the top 10 medical schools in the nation by U.S. News & World Report. Through its affiliations with Barnes-Jewish and St. Louis Children’s hospitals, the School of Medicine is linked to BJC HealthCare.