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MED gets new department of medicine chair

Infectious diseases expert David Coleman will build on research strengths

David Coleman was previously interim chair of the Yale School of Medicine’s department of internal medicine.

A caring young doctor named James Kildare greatly influenced David Coleman’s decision to pursue a career in medicine. That’s right, the protagonist from Dr. Kildare, a TV show from the early 1960s, was a deciding factor in the career choice of the new chair of the School of Medicine’s department of medicine.

“The show gave me my first glimpse of what it was like to live the life of a physician,” says Coleman, who came to BU this fall from the Yale School of Medicine, where he was interim chair of the department of internal medicine.

It shouldn’t be surprising that a medical drama inspired him and others in his generation to become doctors, Coleman says. After all, the current show ER is prompting people to study emergency medicine. He says that the combination of medical science and the desire to help people intensified his interest in the field.

“Dr. Coleman has distinguished himself in medical administration, teaching, and clinical research,” says Karen Antman, MED dean and provost of the BU Medical Campus.

BU’s academic strength attracted Coleman to MED. “The BU School of Medicine has one of the top-ranked departments nationally in terms of the amount of research funding,” he says. “Secondly, I was impressed by the nature of the mission of Boston Medical Center to provide care to underserved patients regardless of their ability to pay for treatment. That’s not consistently the case at every academic medical center.”

Coleman plans to develop his department’s already impressive research capabilities, including investigations into the cause and treatment of cancer and cardiovascular and pulmonary diseases. He also aims to identify new approaches to interdisciplinary research. “I’d like to expand both the volume and the quality of the clinical program in the department of medicine,” he says, “and to continue to develop educational programs that are innovative and responsive to the needs of learners.”

He is especially excited about the federally funded National Emerging Infectious Diseases Laboratory, which is being built by the BU Medical Center. “Clearly the institution is going to be one of the few international foci of research on new infectious diseases,” he says, “and I think this is going to be an initiative that will really change the face of the Medical Campus.”

Coleman has a long-standing interest in the study of infectious diseases — a dynamic, constantly changing research area. “I like the intersection of a pathogen and the host defenses that develop to try to contain and eliminate that pathogen,” he says. Much of his research has centered on the mechanisms of activating immune cells, especially macrophages, which are the cells that devour pathogens.

Coleman was also appointed MED’s Wade Professor of Medicine; chief of the division of medicine at Boston Medical Center, the school’s main teaching hospital; president of the Evans Medical Foundation, the faculty practice plan for the department of medicine; and director of the Evans Memorial Department of Clinical Research.

“We are fortunate to have a person of his caliber for these important leadership positions at Boston University Medical Center,” Antman says.

The Oakland native earned a medical degree from the University of California, San Francisco, in 1976, and completed his residency in the department of internal medicine at Yale–New Haven Hospital, where he served as chief resident and instructor in medicine. In 1982, Coleman completed a fellowship in infectious diseases at Yale University School of Medicine. From 1989 to 1992 he was chief of the section of infectious diseases at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in West Haven, Conn. His has served as chief of the section of infectious diseases at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Denver, Colo., acting chief of staff for the Veterans Affairs Connecticut Healthcare System, and acting chief of the section of infectious disease at Yale School of Medicine.