NEWS | June 1, 2000


In honor of his service, the Class of 2000 selected Dr. Lewis as commencement speaker


Dr. Ernest L. Lewis, who for 18 years has served as associate dean of Student Affairs and Admissions at UC Davis School of Medicine, announced today his intent to retire on December 31, 2000.

Lewis, 65, was named associate dean in 1982 after serving as associate professor and vice chair of the Department of Urology at UC Davis School of Medicine and Medical Center. He took the job in January at a time when the school was in the midst of developing new policies to broaden opportunities for less- advantaged candidates in the aftermath of the Bakke reverse-discrimination lawsuit. During his tenure, he oversaw the implementation of SP1, which eliminated race in the selection process for UC admission, and the highly controversial Proposition 209 ruling, which eliminated the use of ethnic and racial preferences in admissions and hiring. Despite these measures, which temporarily reduced the numbers of minority individuals applying and being accepted into the university, Lewis has remained a strong force within the School of Medicine, working to ensure that UC Davis attracts and trains a highly qualified, ethnically diverse and culturally aware physician workforce.

Under his leadership the school's record for the percentage of under-represented minority students ranked among the best in the country, and the concept of "diversity" was expanded beyond ethnic background to include applicants who considered themselves disadvantaged because of educational, economic or other factors. The admissions committee also began looking for student candidates with empathy, communication skills, leadership ability and other important qualities in addition to high academic standing so that UC Davis would train capable and compassionate physician leaders.

"Ernie has consistently instilled in his many students high educational goals in what is a very demanding curriculum," says Joseph Silva, Jr., M.D., dean of the School of Medicine. "Many a student who felt overwhelmed in the vast ocean of medical data learned how to swim because of Ernie. He also is one of our best role models of medical professionalism, which increasingly will become an important quality for students to develop as they learn how to practice in the future."

Commenting on his plans to resign, Lewis says that he intends to remain active within UC Davis, continuing his work as a mentor and advisor to medical students, board member of the UC Davis Arboretum, and steering committee member for the new Center for the Arts. He also plans to enjoy the free time that retirement offers, traveling with his wife, spending more time with his grandchildren, and becoming more active in church functions. "I love medical students and am particularly interested in preparing undergraduates for possible careers in medicine. I hope to encourage students to broaden their horizons during their pre-medical school years by learning about literature, music, history and the arts, as well as the sciences. I believe that this exposure makes them better physicians and human beings."

More than 1,600 students have graduated from the School of Medicine since 1982. These students have taken with them bits and pieces of Ernie Lewis' character and values, which they incorporate as part of their own persona as physicians.

"Ernie is a remarkable dean of students," says Faith Fitzgerald, assistant dean of student affairs and former vice chair of the Department of Internal Medicine at UC Davis School of Medicine and Medical Center. "His unique blend of humanism and scientific integrity and his deep affection for students make him a true inspiration to students. His concern with a wide range of issues in medicine goes far beyond simply academic mastery of knowledge and skills, probing into the character and logic of physicians so that they may best treat the multiple human beings who are our patients."

Born in 1935 in Fresno, California, Lewis received his education at California State University, Fresno, where he earned his A.B. in 1958 and his M.D. from Washington University in St. Louis in 1963. He completed his internship and residencies in urology and renal medicine at Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta, Georgia, moving up through the ranks to become an associate professor of medicine in 1975. In 1976 he moved to Valley Medical Center of Fresno as chief of urology, and then acting associate director of medical affairs with an associate professor of urology appointment at UCSF. He joined the urology department at UC Davis in 1978, becoming vice chair of the department in 1980. While retaining his clinical practice, he has served as associate dean for medical education at the school since 1982.

Lewis has served on various local, state and national committees devoted to improving medical student education and to meeting the demand for physicians within the state of California, as well as the nation. To recognize his numerous contributions to students and medical education, the Class of 2000 selected Dr. Lewis as this year's commencement speaker— a most befitting tribute. The ceremony is scheduled for June 9.

The School of Medicine is developing a search committee and will begin evaluating applications for the associate dean of medical education in July.