Spotlight on Alumni Stars: The 2015 Alumni Award Winners

Typically one of the attractions of the Dean’s Friday night dinner during Medical Alumni Weekend, the Alumni Awards Presentation will be given its own featured slot on the Friday morning schedule of MAW this year. And, as always, the School will be honoring a very accomplished group of alumni for their outstanding service, achievements garnering national and international acclaim, and accomplishments over a career span.

From left to right, Dennis K. Law, MD; Ronald K. Law, MD; Christopher K. Law, MD; and Jeremy K. Law, MD

From left to right, Dennis K. Law, MD; Ronald K. Law, MD; Christopher K. Law, MD; and Jeremy K. Law, MD

The Alumni Service Award recognizes recipients for their loyal and energetic dedication to the Perelman School and Penn Medicine Development and Alumni Relations programs. This year’s recipients are from the same exceptional family. The Law brothers Dennis, Ronald, Christopher, and Jeremy, each of whom graduated from the Perelman School, hold seven Penn degrees among them. The eldest brother, Dennis, C’69, M’73, who led the family in settling in the Denver, CO metropolitan region after his surgery residency, is a retired vascular and thoracic surgeon. Ronald, C’71, M’75, is a retired cardiologist; Christopher, C’78, M’82, is a cosmetic surgeon; and Jeremy, M’86, PAR’14, is an orthopaedic surgeon.

The Laws have volunteered as class agents, served on the Medical Alumni Advisory Council, and, in many ways, are the focal point of the Penn Medicine alumni community in Colorado. In addition, they contribute to several health, civic, and cultural institutions and have established various scholarships at the Perelman School, as well as Wharton and the School of Arts and Sciences. They also operate real estate investment and development companies in Colorado in addition to Four Brothers Entertainment, working with a professional live-show production company specializing in Chinese performing arts. Together the Law brothers have shown tremendous generosity and love for family and Penn in naming both the Joseph and Loretta Law Auditorium and the Law Pavilion in the new Henry A. Jordan M’62 Medical Education Center. The auditorium is named in honor of their parents, who have always been strong advocates of education.

Patricia A. Gabow, MD

Patricia A. Gabow, MD

The Distinguished Graduate Award honors alumni whose careers have received national and international acclaim. DGA recipients are selected by a faculty committee with support from the Medical Alumni Advisory Council. This year’s DGA recipients are Patricia Gabow, M’69, INT’73, and Robert Wachter, C’79, M’83.

Currently a professor of medicine at the University of Colorado School of Medicine, Patricia Gabow served for 20 years as CEO of Denver Health until her retirement in 2012. She is credited for having transformed a city department into a successful independent government body, directing its transformation using Lean management techniques. This earned for Denver Health the Shingo Bronze Medallion for Operational Excellence – the first such recognition of a health care entity. Her most recent book is The Lean Prescription: Powerful Medicine for Our Ailing Healthcare System. She has been the recipient of several national and international honors, including the Ohtli Award from the Mexican Government for Service to Citizens Living Abroad; the National Healthcare Leadership Award; the David E. Rogers Award from the Association of American Medical Colleges; and the Health Quality Leader Award from the National Committee for Quality Assurance.

Robert M. Wachter, MD

Robert M. Wachter, MD

Robert Wachter is a professor and associate chair of the Department of Medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, where he directs the Division of Hospital Medicine. He coined the term “hospitalist” in 1996 and is credited with being the “father” of the hospitalist field, which is thought to be the fastest-growing specialty in modern medical history. He has written two books on safety, including Internal Bleeding: The Truth Behind America’s Terrifying Epidemic of Medical Mistakes (an Amazon bestseller) and Understanding Patient Safety, and edits the U.S. government’s two leading websites on safety. He received the 2004 John M. Eisenberg Award, the nation’s highest honor in patient safety. He has served on the health care advisory boards of numerous companies, including Google. His newest book, The Digital Doctor: Hope, Hype, and Harm at the Dawn of Medicine’s Computer Age, was published in April by McGraw-Hill and his blog,, is one of the nation’s most popular health care blogs.

The Lifetime Achievement Award is bestowed as merit warrants. It is awarded in recognition of career-long exceptional commitment, loyalty, and dedication to the School and to Penn Medicine’s development and alumni relations programs. This award is selected by the Nominating Committee of the Medical Alumni Advisory Council, and Penn Medicine Administration. The late Henry A. Jordan, MD’62, GME’67, a beloved and steadfast champion of the Perelman School of Medicine and its students, has been named as the recipient of this award. Dr. Jordan was one of Penn Medicine’s most committed, generous, and active graduates. His wife Barrie will accept the award in his honor during Medical Alumni Weekend.

Henry A. Jordan, MD

Henry A. Jordan, MD

A distinguished psychiatrist and specialist in behavioral modification, Henry was also an authority on weight-loss programs. He devoted himself not only to his patients, but also to the students at his medical alma mater. Together with Barrie, the Jordans became very influential in scholarship giving, establishing both the Dr. Henry Jordan Endowed Scholarship Fund and the Jordan Family Challenge Fund, honoring his parents, both of whom graduated from the School of Medicine in 1929. Henry and Barrie designed the Challenge to help generate vital scholarship resources and significantly improve the School’s ability to attract the best students. One of their greatest contributions to Penn was the creation of the Jordan Center for Gynecologic Cancer, housed in the Ruth and Raymond Perelman Center for Advanced Medicine. 

Henry demonstrated unstinting dedication to Penn Medicine through his remarkable record of volunteer work. He served as chair of the Campaign for Penn Medicine and co-chair of the University’s Making History campaign, class agent for the PSOM’s Class of 1962, and president of the Medical Alumni Society. He was also an inaugural member of the Penn Medicine Board of Trustees, a member of the Executive Committee, and chair of the Development Committee. The School’s first Medical Alumni Service Award was given to Henry, and he also received the Alumni Award of Merit from the University. The Perelman School of Medicine was honored to count Henry Jordan as one of its own. The rich legacy of vision and generosity that he shared with Barrie will inspire generations to come through the many people he touched and the aptly named Henry A. Jordan M’62 Medical Education Center.


Hardly Trivial

No one correctly answered the final trivia question leading up to the 250th celebration:  In which year did the medical school move to the John Morgan Building on Hamilton Walk and where was the School based before the move?  

The correct answer was 1904, in June of that year. It was named Medical Hall until 1987, when it was officially dubbed the John Morgan Building in honor of the School’s co-founder. Prior to the move to Hamilton Walk, the School was located across Spruce Street, in the Medical Hall building (built between 1873 and 1874), later renamed Logan Hall and now Claudia Cohen Hall.


On Turning 250

Q&A with Director of the Scheie Eye Institute Joan M. O’Brien, MD: Looking Toward the Beginning of the Next 250 Years of Ophthalmology

Joan M. O’Brien,   William F. Norris and George E. de Schweinitz Professor of Ophthalmology, Chair, Department of Ophthalmology, Director, Scheie Eye Institute

Joan M. O’Brien, William F. Norris and George E. de Schweinitz Professor of Ophthalmology, Chair, Department of Ophthalmology, Director, Scheie Eye Institute

With all eyes on the 250th celebration, we can’t help but look forward to Penn Medicine’s bright future. And, propelled by the metaphor of vision, we spoke to Dr. Joan O’Brien, the William F. Norris and George E. de Schweinitz Professor of Ophthalmology, Chair of the Department of Ophthalmology, and Director of the Scheie Eye Institute.

Q: What first brought you to Penn?

A: It was a who: former Dean Arthur Rubenstein recruited me from California. And although he was very convincing, it was really meeting the faculty and staff at the historic Scheie Eye Institute who swayed me. I was so impressed by the Department of Ophthalmology here, and felt that there would be much more potential for me to have an impact at Penn than by continuing to see patients and do research on my own.

Q: What excites you about your work?

A: I draw energy from the contagious enthusiasm and passion of faculty, staff, residents, and fellows in the Department. They are tremendously committed to improving the quality of patients’ lives through fighting blindness.

And we are seeing amazing cures for blindness every day. The work of Drs. Sam Jacobson and Jean Bennett, and their respective groups, in taking children from blindness—due to inherited eye disease—to being able to ride bikes and go to school represents a miraculous change in a person’s life. Such achievements are rewarding to witness and support.

I think what makes me feel the most enthusiastic, though, is that all of our faculty and residents perform research and all of our scientists are involved in improving care for patients; it is a very translational place where scientific discoveries improve the lives of our patients daily.

Q: What attracted you to ophthalmology as a specialty?

A: I feel a special commitment to preserving people’s sight because it is so important to their ability to be independent and to function happily in life.

I think ophthalmologists are often thought of as doctors who do surgery on eyes. But, really, we do primary care for our patients who have chronic diseases. We follow them throughout their lives and develop close relationships. We have the reward of preserving people’s vision.

Dr. O’Brien examining a patient.

Dr. O’Brien examining a patient.

For example, we have a study that was recently funded by the NIH looking at the genetics of glaucoma in African Americans, who are disproportionately affected by this disease. Before applying for funding, we had 2,500 African Americans give blood and enroll in the trial to study the genetics of this disease. Those patients came from the zip codes that surround the Scheie Eye Institute…and are some of the poorest zip codes in the nation, the same zip codes that are responsible for high rates of readmission because of the lack of support, lack of nutrition, lack of transportation, the same zip codes cited for death after discharge in a JAMA Internal Medicine article last year.

And yet the patients in these zip codes came in to see their ophthalmologist and give blood. I think the reason is that vision is so critically important to them. They don’t really feel their high blood pressure, but we can diagnose it by looking in their eyes.

We obtained a van and outfitted it as a complete diagnostic suite that goes into these zip codes, to not only screen for glaucoma and other genetic eye diseases that we can treat, but also do blood pressure checks and monitor blood glucose levels. In this way, we try to ensure that we’re not missing diabetics who can be brought into the system through their relationships with us—and those relationships already exist in many cases. So, we’re hoping to do much more than take care of vision.

Another important reason for working on this project is to donate African-American genotypes, in large numbers, to the Penn Medicine Biobank, so that other scientists can study different diseases in this unique population.

Q: What are your initial thoughts on the Henry A. Jordan M’62 Medical Education Center?

A: It’s fantastic. The Jordan Center embodies the notion that medical school education is not just done in a classroom: it’s everyday life amidst scientists and clinicians in a literally and figuratively transparent space. I think it will become the model for all medical schools.

Q: And, finally, can you look into the future a little and offer your thoughts on ophthalmologic advances in the pipeline and maybe the direction of Penn Ophthalmology as well as Penn Medicine?

A: I believe that at the 300th anniversary of the School, Penn Medicine will be as pre-eminent as it is today. It’s because of Penn’s uniquely collaborative, collegial atmosphere that we will continue to find discoveries at the margins of every person’s and every department’s foundation of knowledge.

By reaching across boundaries, we learn so much from one another. And as Big Science gets bigger and bigger, with a growing body of medical knowledge, it will be increasingly important that we address problems from ever more perspectives. We do this very well at Penn and I expect that to continue.

And with the School of Medicine encouraging the integrated work of scientists and clinicians, I think we are seeing the future of medical training. The Jordan Center is the future. And the more that we have researchers, clinicians, students, fellows, and postdocs meeting and mingling, the more we will make of our collective wisdom, not only within the Perelman School but throughout the University.

As for advances, the tremendous knowledge that we’re gaining from genetics, genomics, proteomics—all the -omics—provides reasons for optimism. I think we’re beginning to understand that disease isn’t an example of an organ-specific failure, but it’s a failure in multiple systems. It’s a comprehensive understanding of what disease is that I think we’ll still be elucidating 50 and even 100 years from now.

The Class of 1990 Scholarship Takes Shape for Its 25th Reunion

Thoughtful and prudent investing 25 years ago will soon pay dividends to future Perelman School of Medicine students, as the Class of 1990 establishes a new scholarship fund to celebrate their reunion year. With the timely addition of an estate gift, the scholarship fund’s market value is now more than $220,000.

“Our reunion was a perfect time to give back: to acknowledge the wonderful education we received that has allowed us all to become the clinicians, physician-scientists, educators, and advocates that we have become,” said Class Agent Maryellen Gusic, M’90. “The Class of 1990 Scholarship allows us to welcome students into the community of medical practice as well as the community of proud Penn Med alumni—supporting a future colleague.”

After graduating in May 1990, the editorial team of the School’s yearbook Scope found itself with a budget surplus of $4,000. They decided to invest these leftover funds to be used as a foundation for a class gift, which would be decided on the occasion of their 25th reunion.

Dr. Gusic had already been in contact with the Alumni Development and Alumni Relations Office about creating a class scholarship. In turn, Alumni Relations informed her of the Scope seed money. “When I approached my classmates about using the money that had accumulated from the investment for a scholarship, they were incredibly enthusiastic,” she said.

Former editor-in-chief Michele Miano, M’90, and her editorial staff member, Colin Phoon, M’90, agreed that it was an easy decision. “With the price of a private medical education at astronomical levels nowadays, there are those who wonder whether it’s worth the cost,” said Dr. Phoon. “I hope scholarships, such as the Class of 1990 Scholarship, make such financial questions irrelevant.”

Scope was so much work but it was all worth it,” recalled Dr. Miano. “I would encourage current classes to find a creative way to designate a small amount of seed money—and then be amazed by how much it can grow in 25 years!”

Left to right, the  Scope  1990   staff   Abby (Selig) Hornstein  ,   Colin Phoon,   Michele Miano (editor-in-chief)  , Mike Cirigliano (business manager), and Melissa (Missy) Cohen

Left to right, the Scope 1990 staff Abby (Selig) HornsteinColin Phoon, Michele Miano (editor-in-chief), Mike Cirigliano (business manager), and Melissa (Missy) Cohen

Alumni Share their Views of Penn’s Role in Medicine — A Medical Alumni Weekend Preview

On the Saturday morning of Medical Alumni Weekend, we will have the honor of hearing the perspectives of some very special alumni on Penn’s enduring role at the forefront of American medicine.

Moderator Maryellen Gusic, M’90, will lead the conversation as each panelist touches upon their own career trajectories and how Penn prepared him or her for success. The panelists will reflect on the teaching methods practiced during their own time in school, how they are different today, and where they may go in years to come.

Ophthalmologist and historian Daniel M. Albert, M’62, RES’66, recipient of the Distinguished Graduate Award in 2001, will be familiar to our regular readers. He was featured in the last issue of Pulse.

Celebrating the final 250th regional event in Boston in April were, from left to right , the Gambles, Anne and Walter, M’57; Rosemary Mazanet, GR’81, M’86; and Marc Garnick, M’72, INT’73.

Celebrating the final 250th regional event in Boston in April were, from left to right , the Gambles, Anne and Walter, M’57; Rosemary Mazanet, GR’81, M’86; and Marc Garnick, M’72, INT’73.

Dr. Albert is the founding Director of the McPherson Eye Research Institute at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He co-authored a book on the history of ophthalmology at Penn, and most recently published a book entitled The Dean and the Historian. In it he tells the story of William S. Middleton, M’1911—the second Dean of the University of Wisconsin Medical School—and the man he recruited to Wisconsin to establish the department of the history of medicine at UW. We will also hear more on what sparked his interest in the study of medical history.

One of this year’s Distinguished Graduate Award recipients, Patricia Gabow, M’69, INT’73, is Professor of Medicine at the University of Colorado School of Medicine, and was the CEO of Denver Health and Hospitals. Dr. Gabow—now a national leader in hospital reform and public health care deliverywill describe her experience as a young woman in medical school and starting a medical career in the 1960s and ‘70s. Dr. Gabow will also talk about how her time at Penn prepared her to become a health care executive and what it was like to be a woman in that high-profile position.

Lawrence C. Wood, M’61, INT’65, is the former Board President and Medical Director of the Thyroid Foundation of America, an organization that he founded in 1985. He is a longtime advocate of patient-centered care.

Dr. Wood recently completed a biography of his late father, Francis Wood, M’26, INT’30, HON’7, focusing on his father’s impact on the School and his students, as well as his approach to patient care. His father, he noted, decided to be an internist rather than a surgeon after calculating that, as a surgeon, he would spend a year and a half washing his hands.

To find out if Dr. Lawrence Wood has a similar story regarding his chosen specialty, please follow up the All Alumni Brunch with Front Row Seats. We hope you can join us to share your thoughts on how your student experience shaped your career, how Penn Medicine is shaping the future of health care, and what our 250th Anniversary means to you—and to be inspired.

Front Row Seats: Penn Medicine Alumni Share their View of Penn’s Leading Role in Medicine
Saturday, May 16
10:00am – 11:00am
Henry A. Jordan M'62 Medical Education Center
3400 Civic Center Blvd Philadelphia, PA, 19104 United States

For more on Medical Alumni Weekend as well as the 250th Gala, please click here.
To register for Medical Alumni Weekend click here.

250th Memories: An Essential Keepsake

To Spread the Light of Knowledge: 250 Years of the Nation's First Medical School is a limited-edition, large-format book published to celebrate the Perelman School of Medicine's milestone birthday. 

As the history unfolds in the book's nearly 200 pages, gripping stories emerge: the 19th-century surgical innovator who removes more than 1,000 bladder stones from Chief Justice Marshall; the Penn medical student who, during World War II, invented SCUBA and skipped classes to train frogmen in its use and accompany them on combat missions; and the transformative research findings of 20 Penn scientists who won Lasker Awards or Nobel Prizes.  

A series of thematic chapters chronicles the school’s longstanding ethos of service – to the nearby community in Philadelphia to across the globe caring for soldiers in each of the nation’s conflicts dating back to the Revolutionary War. 

To Spread the Light of Knowledge will be published this month. To learn more about the book and order your copy, go to