A Farewell Interview with Gary Wood, MD

The founding chair of our department, Dr. Gary Wood, retired in 2022. He is an internationally recognized expert on cutaneous lymphomas and was responsible for founding our Skin Disease Research Center. We have been lucky to have Dr. Wood and miss his creativity and camaraderie. Read an interview to hear him reflect on his career and his time here in the UW Department of Dermatology. 


When did you join the department? What was the department like then? I joined the department on 1/1/01. Dermatology was a division of the Department of Medicine at that time. We were a small group of about eight faculty led by Dr. Derrick Cripps. It was a very solid group in terms of clinical acumen and bedside teaching, but we were not engaged in much clinical or basic research. There were only six residents back then, one of whom spent part of their time training at the Marshfield Clinic.

How have you, your research, and/or your career benefited or evolved while here? First under Dean Phil Farrell and later Dean Bob Golden, I benefited from truly expert guidance and generous support as we established and developed our department. The UW and UW Health resources we received enabled our success as a department and my success as a leader and academician. I remember lecturing about our department’s rather meteoric rise at an annual meeting of the Association of Professors of Dermatology and receiving a standing ovation. However, none of that would have been possible without the great people and support that UW provided.

Share your best memory of your time here. As a leader, it would be the day we achieved department status: 7/1/02. As a bedside teacher, it would be the times when I saw the light go on in the eyes of a resident or student. As a clinician, it would be the times when I was able to really make a difference in the lives of my patients. As a researcher, it was in 2010 when our department ranked 8th nationally in NIH funding and the several years we ranked 1st in VA funding.

What do you view as your greatest accomplishments in your career? My top three are (1) being the founding chair of our department and spearheading its growth and development; (2) being awarded our UW Skin Diseases Research Center grant from NIH as well as several other grants from NIH, VA, and various foundations; and (3) being recognized internationally as an expert on cutaneous lymphomas.

What are your plans for retirement? From an academic standpoint, I plan to maintain an office on campus to finish up various ongoing projects and write a history of our department during the time of my leadership. Beyond that, I plan to travel, spend more time with family and friends, and continue my passion for writing poetry, songs, and essays. Here’s something some of my friends and I put together recently: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lWmG1X5cfOI

Anything you would like to share with or say to the department? To everyone collectively, I want you to know it has been an honor to lead this wonderful group of extremely gifted and capable professionals. My success would not have been possible without your success. On a more personal level, I want you to know that I’m grateful to have had the chance to spend time together with so many of you. There’s a Hebrew term: Hineni. It means “here I am.” I am ready. I am present and paying close attention. Try to approach each day from that perspective, and life will continually amaze and enrich you.

Comments from Colleagues

Beth Drolet, MD. Without Gary Wood, there would be no Department of Dermatology. He strategically identified existing challenges and worked tirelessly to eliminate and mitigate them. He leveraged relationships and recognized institutional and national opportunities to advance and grow the department. Finally, he cemented his legacy by embracing change and transferring knowledge to mentees.

Minakshi Nihal, PhD. I met Dr. Wood in his Cleveland VA office in 1996 for a research opportunity in his lab. I was so touched by his kindness when he came down to drop me at the bus stop at the VA gate as the VA is always very complex to navigate for the first timer. Since then, I teamed with him for the last 26 years. I am so grateful for the immense opportunities to learn, evolve and enrich myself under his able guidance.

Vijay Setaluri, PhD. I have appreciated Gary’s strong support and commitment to basic research and his insights that spanned the spectrum of basic and clinical research. Most of all, Gary’s easy-going nature, quick wit, and ability to find humor in the direst circumstances made it fun to talk to him.

Heather Neils, BS, CCRC. I first worked with Gary in the Carbone Cancer Center and was happy to continue working with him here in Dermatology. I have appreciated how he has trusted me to create and grow a robust clinical research team and research portfolio.

Nihal Ahmad, PhD. Dr. Gary Wood’s retirement represents end of an era in our department. He assumed the leadership of the newly created department of dermatology in July 2002, and his vision propelled us through to become a top-notch department in the nation. Dr. Wood’s contributions are enormous for our department, spanning from creating a world-class academic department to train, nourish, and mentor the next generation of academic dermatologists. Under Dr. Wood’s guidance, I have personally grown from a junior faculty to be a full tenured professor at this institution. At a personal level, Dr. Wood is a very kind human being with a great sense of humor and a ton of stories – and fun to be with.

Best wishes on your retirement, Dr. Wood. Your outstanding leadership has driven our success. You’re such a gifted and creative person, and your retirement won’t be dull for a minute! Congratulations!


Dr. Wood Honored with ISCL Lifetime Achievement Award

Dr. Wood has been honored by the International Society for Cutaneous Lymphomas with the ISCL 2024 Lifetime Achievement Award in recognition of his outstanding contribution to the science and care of patients with cutaneous lymphomas.

Dr. Gary Wood receiving his award at the 2024 World Congress of Cutaneous Lymphomas.