GW Names New Law Dean

University of Virginia law Professor Dayna Bowen Matthew brings more than 30 years of legal and academic experience and a passion for public service and equity.

Dayna Bowen Matthew
February 19, 2020

Dayna Bowen Matthew, a lawyer and legal scholar with three decades of industry and academic experience and a nationally recognized expert in health equity and public health policy, has been named the next dean of GW Law. She begins her role on July 1, and she will be the first woman to lead GW Law.

Dr. Matthew is currently the University of Virginia (UVA) Law School’s William L. Matheson and Robert M. Morgenthau Distinguished Professor of Law and the F. Palmer Weber Research Professor of Civil Liberties and Human Rights. She is also a professor of public health sciences at the UVA School of Medicine.

"I am honored to join the rich history and tradition of this great law school, the oldest in the nation's capital," said Dr. Matthew. "Since its founding in 1865, at the close of the Civil War and at the start of Reconstruction, GW Law has been uniquely positioned to train leaders committed to bridging the country’s great divides. Together, with its renowned faculty, dynamic students, influential alumni, and dedicated staff, I look to provide a preeminent space for civil discourse, constructive collaborations and innovative thinking that will advance society’s progress toward addressing the most difficult problems through law."

An academic leader, Dr. Matthew has held many diverse positions during her career. She previously was professor of law, vice dean and associate dean of academic affairs at the University of Colorado Law School. She also served as professor of law in the Colorado School of Public Health and University of Colorado Health Sciences Center. She co-founded two legal advocacy groups that focus on research and community-engaged scholarship. She began her academic career as assistant professor at the UVA School of Law and was professor of law and medicine at the University of Kentucky College of Law.

"The university set out to find a visionary, strategic and entrepreneurial leader for GW Law, and Dr. Dayna Matthew embodies all of these qualities.  She will be an outstanding leader for GW Law, and I am looking forward to welcoming her to GW," said President Thomas LeBlanc. 

"I also want to again thank and recognize former Dean Blake Morant for his leadership in elevating GW Law and creating a strong foundation on which to continue to build on GW Law’s strengths in legal education and scholarship," Dr. LeBlanc added

Dr. Matthew succeeds Mr. Morant, who stepped down in 2019 after five years in the role. Christopher Bracey, vice provost for faculty affairs and professor of law, has served as interim dean.

"Dr. Matthew articulated an aspirational vision for GW Law that captured the entire community throughout her visits. I look forward to supporting her plans to grow and reinvigorate new and existing strengths in the school," Provost M. Brian Blake said. "Dr. Matthew rose to the top of an amazing pool of finalists. I also want to thank Interim Dean Bracey for his partnership in very ably leading the law school and assisting with Dr. Matthew’s transition to GW."

Dr. Matthew’s research and scholarship includes the book "Just Medicine: A Cure for Racial Inequality in American Health Care," and she has authored or co-authored dozens of book chapters and articles, focusing largely on health care reform, public health law, health disparities, patient protection, and antitrust laws and civil rights.

As director of the Equity Center at UVA, Dr. Matthew leads an initiative that builds relationships between the university and its surrounding community to address racial and socioeconomic inequality. Her advocacy work also includes co-founding entities for the Colorado Health Equity Project to integrate legal services that remove barriers to equitable health care delivery for low-income patients, and she led the project’s team of pro bono student attorneys representing clients and communities in state and federal litigation. 

In policy roles, Dr. Matthew served as the Robert Wood Johnson Health Policy Fellow for U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., and as senior advisor in the Office of Civil Rights at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. She is a non-resident fellow in the Center for Health Policy at the Brookings Institution. She also has served as a visiting fellow for the Center for Health Policy and Research for the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation.

"The Dean Search Committee welcomes the historic and exciting appointment of Dayna Matthew as the next Dean of George Washington University Law School. This is the happy culmination of an intense, sustained and inclusive process that brought together every constituency within the law school community, including alumni, staff, students, trustees, administrators, and faculty," said Ralph Steinhardt, Lobingier Professor of Comparative Law and Jurisprudence, and chair of the search committee.

"From a large, talented and diverse pool of candidates—and working almost exclusively by consensus—the Dean Search Committee recommended a handful of people at the top of the profession to the full faculty, which by super-majorities recommended a small group of superb candidates to the central administration, which then brought its best judgment and vision to the difficult task of selecting one and convincing her to take the post. The committee could not be more pleased with the result and takes the opportunity to thank President LeBlanc and Provost Blake for their unwavering support of the law school process," Mr. Steinhardt added.

The search for Dr. Matthew included a committee of GW Law faculty and members of the Board of Trustees. Three advisory committees comprising students, staff, and alumni also acted as non-voting members of the committee.

Dr. Matthew’s health and law leadership service includes time at organizations such as the American Law Institute; American Society of Law, Medicine and Ethics; a state bar association and board of law examiners; hospital systems; and a health policy center.

Her early legal experience includes several years as a civil litigation attorney handling medical malpractice, insurance defense and health and commercial litigation. She clerked for former Justice John Charles Thomas of the Supreme Court of Virginia.

Dr. Matthew received a BA in economics from Harvard-Radcliffe College, JD from the UVA School of Law, and PhD in health and behavioral sciences from the University of Colorado Denver.