William George Anlyan was born in 1925 to British civil servant Armand and his wife Emmy in Alexandria, Egypt. With World War II encroaching he left Egypt on a Liberty Ship to move to America and attend Yale University in 1943 where he received a BS in zoology. After a brief term teaching science at a preparatory school in Irvington, New York, Anlyan entered Yale School of Medicine, where he became a member of Alpha Omega Alpha. He received his MD in 1949.
Anlyan arrived at Duke University School of Medicine in 1949 for his residency training in general and thoracic surgery, which he completed in 1955. In 1955, Anlyan passed the examinations of the American board of Thoracic Surgery. Anlyan served a residency in general and thoracic surgery before joining the surgical staff led by Dr. Deryl Hart, the first chairman of surgery at Duke. Additionally, Anlyan became a Markle Scholar, serving the equivalent of a Rhodes Scholarship in medical administration.
In 1961, Anlyan became a full professor of surgery and, from 1964 to 1969, was the third dean of the Duke University School of Medicine. Anlyan also served as vice president for health affairs (1969-1983) and chancellor for health affairs (1983-1989). From 1988 to 1990, Anlyan was the executive vice president and chancellor for health affairs before becoming chancellor of Duke University from 1990 to 1995.
Anlyan's years in the medical center were a period of enormous growth. During his tenure, Duke North, the North Division of the hospital, opened in 1980, and the patient areas and central core were named in appreciation of Anlyan.
During his career, Anlyan authored and coauthored over 100 articles and edited nine books. His scientific research emphasized work on thrombophlebitis and thromboembolic disease. He coordinated several Private Sector Conferences, initiated at Duke University in 1977. These conferences continue to bring together the leaders of the major associations representing medicine and health policy in the United States.
Anlyan also served as the chair of the Association of American Medical Colleges, on the board of The Duke Endowment, and, in various capacities, with the American Medical Association, the Association of American Medical Colleges, the National Library of Medicine, the American Surgical Association, the Association for Academic Health Centers, and the Surgeons and the World Health Organization. Anlyan was a founding member of the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences and sought after for advice on medical education and medical care throughout the world. He received the Abraham Flexner Award in 1980.
On November 19, 2002, at a special ceremony in the governor's office at the State Capitol, Anlyan received the North Carolina Award for Science, the highest civilian honor the state can bestow. The award honored Anlyan for his service as a dedicated physician and gifted administrator, who led the transformation of Duke University Hospital from a regional medical center into a leading national biomedical research and educational institution.
Anlyan died on January 17, 2016 and was survived by his wife Alexandra Anlyan (nee Hufty) and three children, from a previous marriage. Anlyan had previously been married to Catherine Constance Lacier and Barbara Echols.
This oral history interview was conducted with Dr. William Anlyan on June 20, 2007 by Jessica Roseberry.