UW News

November 10, 2010

Harry Kimball receives 2010 Flexner Distinguished Service to Medical Education Award

Dr. Harry R. Kimball, senior advisor to the UW dean of medicine, has received the 2010 Abraham Flexner Distinguished Service to Medical Education Award from the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC). The national honor was presented Nov. 6 at the association’s annual meeting in Washington, D. C.

Kimball is known for strengthening the integrity of medical professionals. Kimball completed his residency training at the UW in the mid 1960s, and for the more than 40 years since has worked  advanced the principles of professionalism—commitment to patient welfare, patient autonomy, and social justice—in all aspects of his diverse medical career.

As clinician, researcher, and educator, and most publicly in his role as president of the American Board of Internal Medicine (ABIM), Kimball has become the “single most influential individual worldwide responsible for initiating and advancing the professionalism movement within the medical profession,” said Dr. Carlos A. Pellegrini, UW professor and chair of surgery.

Kimball conceived and initiated the effort to create Medical Professionalism in the New Millennium: A Physician Charter, which outlines three principles and 10 commitments “to which all medical professionals can and should aspire.” Endorsed by more than 200 physician organizations the world over, the charter has become the most widely cited document on professionalism. As Dr. Jordan Cohen, former AAMC president, noted, “has been used in countless ways in undergraduate, graduate, and continuing medical education programs here and abroad.”‘

Kimball’s term as ABIM president from 1991 to 2003 was marked by the creation of a second seminal document for residency program directors. This effort defined the attributes of professionalism and provided a rating scale. The document was so influential that satisfactory ratings became mandatory for admission to ABIM-certifying exams.

“This important policy added the concepts of accountability, self-examination, reflection, and altruism to medicine’s professional obligations,” said Dr. Paul G. Ramsey,, CEO of UW Medicine and dean of the school of medicine.

Prior to becoming ABIM president, Kimball had a firsthand opportunity to study physician behavior across all three of academic medicine’s mission areas: research, education, and patient care. Beginning as senior investigator at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease (NIAID) within the National Institutes of Health, Kimball quickly ascended to head NIAID’s inflammatory disease section.

As an educator, he has held faculty appointments at four schools of medicine across the country, most recently as clinical professor of medicine at UW, where he currently serves as senior advisor to the dean. A skilled clinician, Kimball provided primary care to underserved populations in rural Washington state for more than a decade. During that time, he also was a consultant to the local public health department and to doctors working at the Indian Health Service.

In 2004, the AAMC recognized Kimball with a Special Recognition Award for Exemplary Leadership in Advancing Medical Professionalism. Most recently, he worked to facilitate professionalism initiatives at the UW.  A permanent Continuous Professionalism Committee composed of faculty, staff, and students was created.  Kimball was was an active member of the UW Colleges Working Group on Professionalism, which develops curricula on the topic for medical students.

As Pelligrini observed, “In the professionalism movement worldwide, Harry Kimball has proven to be the ‘right person’ in the ‘right time and right place.'”