Ron Drusin, Education Dean, Steps Down


Rose Spaziani

Ronald E. Drusin’66, Education Dean. Photo by Jörg Meyer.

Across nearly six decades at Columbia, Ronald E. Drusin’66 has been a medical student, resident, cardiology fellow, cardiologist, teacher, alumnus, and administrator at the Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons. 

“It has been an extraordinary experience to watch the evolution and growth of the medical school, health sciences campus, and hospital,” says Dr. Drusin, the Rolf H. Scholdager Professor of Medicine at CUMC, who stepped down as vice dean for education in December 2019 after 11 years in the position. 

Dr. Drusin, who grew up in Long Beach, New York, was torn between a career in journalism or medicine, choosing the latter because “I liked science and the role a physician plays in service.” 

As an undergraduate student at Union College, he spent a winter break writing a genetics paper at the library at Columbia’s medical school. “At that time, I never thought I would spend all my days at Columbia,” he recalls.

After medical school, Dr. Drusin completed his residency at Columbia. He served in the military as a commissioned officer from 1969 to 1971 at the National Communicable Disease Center, now the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, before returning to Columbia for a cardiology fellowship. 

Dr. Drusin joined the VP&S faculty in 1973, honing his skills as a cardiologist and forming a practice with two cardiologists. He became the first medical director of the heart transplant program that opened at what was Columbia-Presbyterian in 1977.

“My career took new roads as new opportunities arose,” says Dr. Drusin, who began chairing the VP&S curriculum committee in the 1980s and held the role for more than 30 years. He helped to steer and implement two curriculum revisions, in 1991 and 2009. 

The changes in the curriculum in the 1990s were radical, eschewing department-based courses for courses integrating medical topics with basic science concepts and clinical skills. The Center for Education Research and Evaluation was created to facilitate implementation and evaluation of the new curriculum, to foster education research on campus, and to help advance the reputation of the school and faculty nationally.

“The 2009 curriculum changes shortened classroom time to open more opportunities for students to explore and understand their individual passions in medicine and the different paths they could take,” says Dr. Drusin. New programs included a required scholarly project to help students nurture a research interest and the Columbia-Bassett program to immerse a group of students in the delivery of health care to a large, mostly rural population.

Lisa Mellman, MD, senior associate dean for student affairs, describes Dr. Drusin as an outstanding facilitator. “He has built an excellent team of people who are passionate about medical education, who work well and collaborate together.”

Dr. Drusin calls changes on campus rapid in recent years. “We’re all proud of having the Vagelos Education Center, and I’m grateful to the Vagelos family for the building and for our scholarship program,” says Dr. Drusin. “We’ve incorporated the building’s simulation center into virtually all clinical programs and our Ready 4 Residency course.”

Through the changes and career moves, one constant has been Dr. Drusin’s bond with his family. He met his wife, Janet van Adelsberg, when she was a resident at Columbia. She served on the VP&S faculty until 2000 and is currently a vice president at GlaxoSmithKline. Their daughter, Madeleine Drusin’16, is a fourth-year resident in the combined Columbia-Cornell otolaryngology program, and daughter Olivia is an artist. 

“It’s a real privilege to have played a role in the transplant program that’s now a premier program in the country, to take care of patients with difficult conditions, and to have an impact on the values and skills our students learn, giving them the best opportunities for their individual growth,” says Dr. Drusin.