Philanthropists George and Carol Bauer have committed $5 million to Washington University, establishing a named deanship for the School of Medicine. The deanship also recognizes the distinguished leadership of the school’s previous deans. Their collective accomplishments are credited with the school’s preeminent stature and with paving the way for future successes.
David H. Perlmutter, MD, dean of the School of Medicine since 2015, is the inaugural George and Carol Bauer Dean. He also is the Spencer T. and Ann W. Olin Distinguished Professor and executive vice chancellor for medical affairs.
“I am so grateful to the Bauers and the university for this endowment, which will support the School of Medicine’s most important priorities in the areas of scientific discovery, translating those discoveries into clinical treatments, and finding far-reaching ways to get effective therapies to those who need them, in St. Louis and around the world,” Perlmutter said.
Perlmutter is a national leader with more than 30 years of experience in academic medicine. His installation ceremony will include a lecture emphasizing the School of Medicine’s plans to transform the current health-care model to one that yields personalized therapies for patients battling challenging diseases, such as cancer and Alzheimer’s.
Perlmutter is particularly interested in a promising new area of personalized medicine research that focuses on slowing age-dependent degeneration by targeting and enhancing autophagy. This normal physiological process is the body’s system of cleaning house — removing worn, abnormal or malfunctioning cellular components. Reduced autophagy has been associated with accelerated aging and disease. Ultimately, research in this area could have implications for diseases of aging and cognitive decline.
He’s also internationally recognized for his research on alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency (ATD), a genetic disorder involving a misfolded protein that can cause severe liver damage. His work has led to a better understanding of how cells dispose of misfolded proteins that are toxic and cause cellular dysfunction.
He and colleagues have developed a pipeline of potential treatments that include one drug in phase II trials. The goal is to eliminate the need for liver transplantation in patients with ATD. Because these drugs target the autophagy process, they are being considered for treatment of age-dependent degenerative diseases. Perlmutter and his collaborators also recently discovered that a drug used for Type 2 diabetes may enhance autophagic degradation of misfolded proteins.
Prior to his appointment in 2015 as Washington University’s executive vice chancellor for medical affairs and dean, he was a distinguished professor and the Vira I. Heinz Endowed Chair of the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Pittsburgh, as well as physician-in-chief and scientific director of the Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.
A continuing commitment
For George and Carol Bauer, the deanship is a continuation of their commitment to Washington University. They hope it will expand their impact on human health. “We are pleased to be able to extend our reach with this gift, which will help Dean Perlmutter and future deans develop talented young physicians and scientists and move research discoveries into the clinical realm,” George Bauer said.
George Bauer is an emeritus trustee and alumnus of Washington University. Originally from DeSoto, Missouri, he earned a bachelor’s degree in 1953 and a master’s degree in 1959 from the School of Engineering & Applied Science. He held numerous leadership positions with IBM before retiring in 1987 and founding an investment banking firm, the GPB Group Ltd.
The Bauers are longtime Washington University benefactors, providing scholarships for students and, in 2004, establishing an endowment to provide emergency financial aid to students experiencing unforeseen financial problems. The couple also funded the George and Carol Bauer Professorship in Organizational Ethics and Governance in 2007. Additional gifts from the Bauers have provided capital support for the Olin Business School’s Bauer Hall and helped establish the George and Carol Bauer Leadership Center at Olin.
The Bauers have a particular interest in health care and are deeply involved in their community of Norwalk, Connecticut. George Bauer has served as treasurer of the Norwalk Hospital board of trustees and is a member of the board of directors for the Norwalk Hospital Association and Western Connecticut Health Network.
Carol Bauer is a former chair of the hospital’s board of trustees, the founder and leader of its ER Reception Volunteers, and a hospital chaplain. She’s served for almost 20 years on the board of the AmeriCares Foundation, an international humanitarian/health-care organization.
“We see what’s going on in hospitals and health care in the U.S.,” Carol Bauer said. “We understand the importance of the deanship and all that Washington University School of Medicine is doing in its work as a leading research institution.”
Information for this story provided by Julia Evangelou Strait, Mary Lee and Channing Suhl.