In a packed Westminster Hall, with one of the largest audiences to date for any investiture ceremony, Christopher Plowe, MD, MPH, FASTMH, Professor of Medicine, Founding Director of the Institute for Global Health, and Director of the Division of Malaria Research at the University of Maryland School of Medicine (UM SOM) was named the Frank M. Calia, MD Professor of Medicine.
“We are assembled here to honor Dr. Christopher Plowe on the occasion of his investiture as the Inaugural Frank M. Calia, MD Professor, and to recognize the generosity of the donors for the creation of this Calia Professorship,” said E. Albert Reece, MD, PhD, MBA, Vice President for Medical Affairs, University of Maryland, and the John Z. and Akiko K. Bowers Distinguished Professor, and Dean of the School of Medicine. “Yet we wish also to recognize the wonderful academic contributions and legacy of Dr. Frank Calia.“
As guest speakers reflected on the unique successes of the two men, common words began to emerge: courage, passion, dedication, wisdom, family, and a focus on every student, every patient, and particularly on those who are under-served and under-resourced.
For Dr. Calia, it was a homecoming. He had served in countless leadership positions during his 40 years at the School of Medicine, and even though he is now retired, he is still beloved by many here. Speakers, including Stephen Davis, MBBS, FRCP, FACP, the Dr. Theodore Woodward Professor of Medicine and Chairman of the Department of Medicine at UMSOM, and Barbara Fleming, MD, PhD, a former student of Dr. Calia’s from the Class of 1986, spoke of his unwavering commitment to his students and patients and praised him as “the definition of a great physician.”
“This is just way over the top,” Dr. Calia said in his familiar Boston accent. “I am honored and humbled to be here. It is critical that we have endowed professorships to attract and retain top, star faculty like Dr. Plowe.” He thanked many in the audience, including each of his family members in attendance and all of the donors and Development staff members who made the professorship possible.
The Frank M. Calia Professorship was supported by generous gifts from 74 individual, foundation, and corporate donors specifically to honor Dr. Calia. “On most occasions, endowed professorships are named for the donors who established them,” said Dean Reece. “In this case, this professorship will carry the name of Dr. Frank Calia, a man whose name has become synonymous with academic scholarship at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, and whose academic legacy touches all corners of this institution. The financial contributions to establish this endowed professorship were made because of the impact Dr. Calia has made on the lives of students, colleagues, and friends, and as a testament of their love, gratitude, and admiration of him.”
For Dr. Plowe, it was recognition of his longstanding and tireless mission to make ours a peaceful world free of tropical diseases. The son of an Episcopal minister and farmer in South Dakota who dedicated himself to helping Native Americans, Dr. Plowe grew up in a compassionate family environment.
One of his mentors, Dr. Stephen Hoffman, traced his long history with Dr. Plowe, who was in between his second and third year of medical school when they met. Dr. Plowe went to work in Jakarta with Dr. Hoffman on a cholera treatment project during his summer break. “It was during medical school, through a serendipitous twist of fate, that this straight-laced, small town medical student got his first chance to experience the adventures and challenges of international health research,” said Miriam Laufer, MD, MPH, Associate Professor of Pediatrics and Associate Director for Global Health, Institute for Global Health. Dr. Laufer – along with fellow speaker Amed Ouattara, PhD, PharmD, MSc, a Research Associate in Mali – has worked closely with Dr. Plowe for years on a number of transformative research projects in Mali and Malawi.
Dr. Plowe found his niche in the global health arena in the field of malaria research, but his influence in the field of tropical medicine has gone far beyond being one of the world’s foremost experts in malaria. “Like many of us in the world of international health research, our commitment extends well beyond the confines of our office,” said Dr. Laufer. “I believe that [Dr. Plowe]’s strongest legacy lays here. He has trained over 75 aspiring infectious disease researchers from every corner of the world, focusing on diseases that disproportionately afflict adults and children living in the most resource-limited settings. I would venture to say that in any room of international infectious disease researchers, there is no one more than one or two degrees removed from Chris Plowe.”
The same could be said of Myron “Mike” Levine, MD, DTPH, the Simon and Bessie Grollman Distinguished Professor of Medicine and Associate Dean for Global Health, Vaccinology & Infectious Diseases at UMSOM. In his closing remarks, Dr. Plowe paid homage to Dr. Levine, who is the founder and former director of the UMSOM Center for Vaccine Development director. Dr. Plowe said that 24 years ago Dr. Levine showed him a still-under-construction laboratory space and convinced him he could do great things at the University of Maryland. “You had very high expectations of me, and I realize now that, in no small measure, my success can be attributed to my attempts to live up to those high expectations, which certainly exceeded my own.”
Dr. Plowe added, “The leadership of people like Frank Calia and Mike Levine has made Maryland the best place to be. They are both emblematic of the culture of caring and collegiality that exists here. They have been tremendous role models for me and others and have helped set the tone for an organization that treats people the right way.”