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Several pictures of doctors who are featured on the Local Legends web site

MEET LOCAL LEGEND: Deborah German, M.D.

Picture of Deborah German
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Deborah German, M.D.

“I love education and teaching medicine. You meet and help shape the values of a whole generation of young physicians.”


Jim Cooper



When Deborah German was a child she loved both science and working with people. "I liked the thought of applying science to helping people. I thought I might be a teacher or a doctor," she says.

Majoring in chemistry at Boston University, she found she had an affinity for scientific research and considered it as a career but remembered her childhood ambition to help people, a reflection which spurred her to Harvard Medical School and the beginning of a meritorious career in medical research and education.

A leader in her field of rheumatic and genetic diseases, German was one of a pioneering group of women who expanded the numbers and roles of women physicians in the late 1960s and early 1970s. "When I came through medical school, about 10 percent of my class were women. Now in medical school, it's 50 percent. Also, I had children at the end of my residency, which was unheard of at the time. The idea that you could be both a parent and a doctor was just not accepted for women at the time," she recounts.

Nominated as a Local Legend by Rep. Jim Cooper (R-TN-4), German is the former President and CEO of Saint Thomas Hospital in Nashville, and former Senior Vice President & Chief Academic Officer at Saint Thomas Health Services. While at Saint Thomas Hospital, she led a successful financial turnaround that reduced the institution's debt load.

She began her career with a residency in internal medicine at the University of Rochester, completed a fellowship in rheumatic and genetic disease at Duke University Medical School, and served as a research associate in the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, where she published and presented work on adenosine metabolism.

She directed the Duke University gout clinics and served as associate dean of medical education at Duke University Medical School prior to joining the Vanderbilt University faculty in 1988 as associate dean of students. She was named senior associate dean of medical education in 1999, responsible for all medical education programs at Vanderbilt.

A founding member and past president of Tennessee Women in Medicine, she received the Vanderbilt University Chancellor's Award for Human Rights and Affirmative Action. In 2002, she was given the AAMC Women in Medicine Leadership Development Award. She also served as Chair of the AAMC Group on Student Affairs, and in 2000 received the Athena Award from Nashville.

German is a fellow of the American College of Rheumatology, as well as a feature editor for The Journal of Clinical Rheumatology who has published and presented extensively about medical education and medical student affairs. She is the current Petersdorf Scholar in Residence in the Division of Health Care Affairs for the Association of American Medical Colleges.

Of her life in medicine, she reflected recently, "I would like to be remembered not so much for any individual achievement but for a style of leadership that emphasized people."



Appointed Associate Dean of Students, Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, Nashville


Executive Leadership in Academic Medicine (ELAM), Allegheny University of the Health Sciences, Philadelphia, PA


Named Senior Associate Dean of Medical Education, Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, Nashville


President and CEO of Saint Thomas Hospital and Senior Vice President and Chief Academic Officer, Saint Thomas Health Services, Nashville




Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA


Internal Medicine

Sub Specialty

Rheumatic and Genetic Diseases