The medical school has announced the creation of the David J. Leffell Prize for Clinical Excellence, an annual award that will be bestowed on the faculty member who best exemplifies clinical expertise, a commitment to teaching and the highest standards of care and compassion for patients.

The new award is made possible with a $100,000 gift from David J. Leffell, M.D., deputy dean for clinical affairs and director of the Yale Medical Group (YMG), and his wife, Cindy, to mark the 30th anniversary of Leffell’s graduation from Yale College in 1977.

The prize recipient will be selected by Dean Robert J. Alpern, M.D., based upon the recommendation of a panel comprised of five members of the YMG’s Board of Governors. The panel will solicit nominations for the prize and recommend a recipient who represents the best in clinical medicine and who serves as a role model for faculty peers, residents, fellows and medical students. The first winner of the prize will be announced in May. The award will include a cash prize and permanent recognition in a medical school venue.

Comprised of over 800 School of Medicine physicians in more than 100 specialties and subspecialties, and affiliated with Yale-New Haven Hospital, YMG is one of the largest academic group medical practices in the United States. The continued development of YMG has been one of Alpern’s top priorities since he arrived at Yale in 2004; he named Leffell deputy dean for clinical affairs in 2005.

“David has provided outstanding leadership for YMG. This generous gift from David and Cindy represents another step forward in achieving our vision for Yale to be a clinical center of excellence where patients can expect to be treated by the best physicians in a respectful and patient-centered manner,” Alpern explains. “Winners of this award will represent everything that our clinical practice is about.”

According to Leffell, also professor of dermatology and surgery and an expert on skin cancer, the School of Medicine’s undisputed strengths in research have often overshadowed the importance of its clinical mission. “It’s not that people at Yale disrespect the practice of medicine, it’s just that historically most people here have been researchers and haven’t fully expressed their commitment to clinical medicine,” Leffell says. “This gift stems from my belief that Yale can and should be a leader in clinical medicine.”

Leffell believes that Yale’s research tradition needn’t be at odds with the patient care provided by YMG physicians, but rather that the two spheres are complementary. “A core element of my vision for the Yale Medical Group is promoting clinical research and launching new clinical trials, and that’s what can distinguish us from other similar large academic group practices,” he says. “But this can’t be at the expense of top-of-the-line patient service. We should be able to do it all.”

As section chief of YMG’s Dermatological Surgery practice, Leffell has motivated his colleagues to achieve these goals.

According to surveys by Press Ganey, a leading patient-satisfaction assessment firm, the dermatologic surgery practice—one of the largest in the country, with over 11,000 patient visits per year—ranks first at the medical school and is in the 99th percentile nationwide. In addition, the practice conducts clinical research and trials of new treatment options in cutaneous oncology and related areas.

Of his hopes for the new award, Leffell says, “If fostering clinical excellence enhances Yale’s reputation as a clinical destination of choice, it will be well worth it.”