As founding President of Georgia Regents University (GRU, now Augusta university), Dr. Azziz was faced with an undergraduate graduation rate that was listed among the 25 worse in nation for a 4-year public institution of higher education. He implemented an aggressive and innovative improvement plan to improve student progression, completion, and graduation, including an innovative ‘4-Years-4-U’ plan. These efforts resulted in over 56% of new freshman successfully completing ≥ 15 credit-hrs./semester in Fall ‘14, compared to only 3.5% in the Fall ’12. Further, 6-year graduation rates were increased through a variety of approaches, from 22.2% to 30.2% in less than 36 mos. Many of these efforts have been documented in blogs and in print (e.g. see Azziz R. How to Graduate on Time. The Presidency, American Council of Education. Fall issue 2).
Dr. Azziz is a long-time advocate of not only diversity, but also inclusivity, in higher education and academic medicine, for faculty, students, and staff. He previously served as the founder and director of the Hispanic Leadership Institute at the State University of New York (SUNY) system, a member of the Faculty Partners for Diversity at UCLA, and currently serves as Senior Mentor for the Network of Minority Health Research Investigators (NMRI) of the NIDDK, National Institutes of Health. As first president of Georgia Health Sciences University (previously called the Medical College of Georgia), Dr. Azziz championed diversity and inclusion efforts throughout, creating the first enterprise-wide Office of Diversity & Inclusion, which implemented a campus-wide ‘Healthy Respect” program, among other initiatives. These efforts increased the proportion of under-represented minorities among students by 18.8%, faculty by 9%, and staff by 2.4%; while decreasing Equal Employment Opportunity yearly complaint rates by 44% (2010-14), despite an effort to increase awareness. The University also engaged strongly in promoting LGBT health, and religious tolerance, campus and community-wide. These and many other efforts resulted in the university being recognized with the ‘2014 Award for Diversity and Inclusion’ from the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA)/ Minority Opportunities Athletics Association (MOAA), the 2014 INSIGHT Into Diversity magazine Higher Education Excellence in Diversity (HEED) Award, and special mention by Minority Access, Inc. at the 15th National Role Models Conference (Oct. 2014). Many of these efforts have been documented (e.g. see Azziz R. Fostering a Climate of Inclusion: What Works. INSIGHT Into Diversity, July/August 2015 issue, pp. 22-23 and Azziz R. What Can Campus Leaders Do to Make Protests Unnecessary? Chronicle Higher Education, Dec. 4, 2015).
Dr. Azziz is a long-term and experienced advocate of health professions training and education. He has served as Program director for graduate and postgraduate medical training programs, and has worked as university leader, to ensure the best infrastructure for the training of not only physicians, but also of other health professionals. He served as principal advisor for the drafting of the recommendations of Health Professions Education Committee, Board of Regents, University System of Georgia. He also served as president of Georgia Health Sciences University (previously called the Medical College of Georgia), where he oversaw a 10% per year increase in health sciences student enrollment, to the highest number of students in the history of the institution. Additionally, he oversaw the expansion of satellite campuses state-wide.