Appointment of Deborah J. Culley, MD, as Chair of the Department of Anesthesiology and Critical Care

December 9, 2020

To:Faculty, Students, and Staff

From:J. Larry Jameson, MD, PhD
Dean, Perelman School of Medicine
EVP, University of Pennsylvania for the Health System

Kevin B. Mahoney
CEO, University of Pennsylvania Health System

Deborah A. Driscoll, MD
SVP, Clinical Practices of the University of Pennsylvania

We are pleased to announce the appointment of Deborah J. Culley, MD, as Chair of the Department of Anesthesiology and Critical Care at Penn Medicine. Dr. Culley, a neuroanesthesiologist and nationally recognized leader in geriatric anesthesia, is currently an Associate Professor at Harvard Medical School and the Executive Vice Chair for the Department of Anesthesiology Perioperative and Pain Medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. Due to current pandemic, the effective date is still being finalized but will occur in mid-March to allow for a smooth transition at both institutions.

Dr. Culley joined the Harvard faculty in 1997 and has assumed major institutional and national leadership roles over the course of her career. Her clinical work focuses on the care of severely ill patients undergoing a wide variety of intracranial, endovascular and spinal procedures, as well as teaching and supervising resident physicians and fellows in neurosurgical anesthesiology.

Dr. Culley is an internationally recognized investigator with a long track record of NIH and other funding. Her research, which bridges basic and clinical science, focuses on the effects of anesthesia and surgery on the aged brain.  In seminal and widely cited studies, Dr. Culley has helped establish that anesthesia and surgery can produce durable changes in cognition and brain function. This work has begun to change clinical practice. It has stimulated a movement to routinely cognitively screen all older surgical patients preoperatively, a practice recommended in guidelines for the care of older surgical patients published or endorsed by national organizations in geriatrics, surgery, and anesthesiology.

In addition to her clinical service, research, and teaching, Dr. Culley, has assumed major national leadership responsibility. She is currently a Director and former President of the American Board of Anesthesiology (ABA). She is also an Executive Editor of Anesthesiology, the premier journal in the field, and is a leader and founding member of the Anesthesia Research Collaborative. In the education domain, she has been a member of the ACGME Anesthesiology Residency Review Committee, has been 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 received her medical degree from the University of Washington School of Medicine in 1992 and completed residency training at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School.

Dr. Culley’s appointment follows a national search led by L. Scott Levin, MD, Paul B. Magnuson Professor of Bone and Joint Surgery and Chair, Department of Orthopaedic Surgery. We are grateful to Dr. Levin and the Search Committee for their thorough work to bring Dr. Culley to Penn Medicine and begin the next phase of leadership of this outstanding department, which, under the longtime leadership of Lee Fleisher, MD, has established itself as among the very best in the country. We would also like to extend our deep appreciation to Bill Hanson, MD, for his steadfast leadership as interim chair following Dr. Fleisher’s transition.

Please join us in congratulating Dr. Culley on her appointment and welcoming her to Penn.