Long-serving Chair of Medicine Honored

Deeb Salem has inspired students and colleagues at the School of Medicine for more than 21 years

Peter Bates, interim dean of the School of Medicine, stands with longtime chair of medicine Deeb Salem.

Tufts University School of Medicine honored its long-serving head of medicine, Deeb Salem, with a Dean’s Medal on May 21.

“Dr. Salem has been a guiding force in medical education, research, and patient care,” said Peter Bates, the interim dean, in presenting the award. “He has dedicated his career to achieving the highest academic and clinical standards, by making service to patients and learners the North Star of our world at Tufts.”

Salem served as Chair of the Department of Medicine and Sheldon M. Wolff Professor at the school from 1999 until February of this year, when he became senior vice president of academic integration at Wellforce, Tufts Medical Center’s parent health system. In that time, he led the education of generations of medical students and residents, earning a Distinguished Faculty Award. 

Whether it is through his regular Thursday pizza lunches with fourth-year medical students or his teaching of fellows and residents, all come to know Salem’s golden rule.

“I truly believe that it is our job that every time we encounter a patient they feel better after they’ve seen us than they did before,” Salem said. “You can throw away all the books about doctor-patient relationships. That’s the only thing I believe you should remember. 

Salem applies that same philosophy to his work with colleagues, said Karen Freund, who succeeds Salem as chair of the department of medicine. If a faculty member comes to him with a problem, she said, they leave feeling “more hopeful, they feel they have been heard, they are more optimistic, and ready to face whatever challenge they walked into his office to ask about.”

Distinguished Professor of Medicine Jerome Kassirer said he has seen his colleague, over some 40 years, inspire students by sharing not only his cardiology expertise and stories of his medical experiences but by displaying his “wonderment about being doctor.”

“His love of medicine is catching,” Kassirer said. “It’s a meme that has affected generations of our graduates.”

A heart specialist, Salem came to Tufts Medical Center as a cardiology fellow in 1972 and later became its physician-in-chief. He has authored more than 170 articles in his areas of expertise: coronary artery disease and congestive heart failure.

He has served on the boards of trustees of the Massachusetts Health & Hospital Association and the New England Quality Care Alliance, as well as on several committees for the Massachusetts Medical Society. 

Bates credited Salem with deepening Tufts’ connections with the community as a board member for the Asian American Civic Association and the Wang Chinatown YMCA.

Among Salem’s numerous awards, he was named a “Boston’s Best” physician by Boston Magazine multiple times and received the National Compassionate Caregiver Award from the Schwartz Center, a nonprofit that advocates for compassion in health care.

Salem is known for bringing “mission driven” concierge medicine to Tufts Medical Center in 2004. Earnings from this practice subsidized the hospital’s regular primary care practice. That, Bates said, is just one of the ways “Deeb is always thinking about making health care better.”

Julie Flaherty can be reached at julie.flaherty@tufts.edu.

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