As good as it gets: Hall of Fame Alumni Award immortalizes storied careers
Published on Monday, August 27, 2018
By: Gary Pettus
2018 DISTINGUISHED MEDICAL ALUMNUS
Dr. J. Martin “Marty” Tucker
2018 HALL OF FAME INDUCTEES
Dr. James Keeton
Dr. Herbert Langford
Dr. Seshadri Raju
Dr. Robert Robbins
Dr. Helen Turner
Six physicians whose accomplishments have distinguished their careers beyond the borders of the Medical Center and the state were celebrated Thursday during the UMMC Medical Alumni Awards Dinner in Jackson.
Dr. J. Martin “Marty” Tucker, an Aberdeen native practicing obstetrics and gynecology and maternal-fetal medicine in Jackson, was named the 2018 Distinguished Medical Alumnus by the University of Mississippi Medical Alumni Chapter.
Five physicians were welcomed into the Medical Hall of Fame: Dr. James Keeton, Dr. Herbert Langford, Dr. Seshadri Raju, Dr. Robert Robbins and Dr. Helen Turner.
Dr. Richard Rushing of Brookhaven and 2016 Hall of Fame honoree Dr. James Martin, UMMC professor emeritus of OB-GYN, introduced Tucker.
“He has a resume a mile long and I’m proud to call him a friend,” said Rushing, noting that Tucker had delivered one of his grandsons and nurtured his daughter through a difficult pregnancy.
In his remarks, Tucker said that at one point, when he wondered aloud if the time spent on a medical education was worth it, he was struck by the wisdom of his co-worker’s response: “‘Well, you gotta be doing something.’
“I’ve always heeded that,” Tucker said.
He concluded by asking the audience to applaud, not him, but his family and particularly his wife Robin.
“This awards belongs to her more than me,” he said.
The dinner, held at the Country Club of Jackson, launched three days of medical alumni activities, including tours of the campus, a reunion brunch and a ceremony honoring the “Golden Grads “of 1968. Also feted were the classes of 1978, 1988, 1993, 1998 and 2008.
Following are career overviews of the honorees at Thursday’s event, sponsored by the Medical Alumni Chapter and the Office of Alumni Affairs at UMMC:
TUCKER – An affiliate faculty member in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at UMMC, he finished his residency in OB-GYN at UMMC after graduating from the School of Medicine in 1984.
At the University of Alabama at Birmingham, he completed a fellowship in maternal and fetal medicine.
The past president of the UMMC Medical Alumni Chapter, Tucker has chaired the Mississippi Infant Mortality Task Force and the Council on Legislation for the Mississippi State Medical Association and is a current member of the MSMA Council on Constitution and Bylaws.
His former roles include chief of staff of Woman’s Hospital and Medical Director of Obstetrical Services at St. Dominic Hospital.
Tucker, whose professional interests include the business of medicine, as well as the areas of coding and documentation, has served on University of Mississippi alumni boards and is a past president of the Winfred Wiser Society and the Jackson Gynecic Society. For the American College of Obstetricians, he is the current ACOG Secretary, and chairs its Committee on Bylaws while serving on the ACOG Immunization, Infectious Disease and Public Health Preparedness Work Group.
Tucker and his wife of 34 years, Robin Smith Tucker, have four daughters: Dr. Ann Robin Tucker; Dr. Mary Grace Sessums, whose husband is Dr. Price Sessums; Clara Beth Tucker; and Sarah Martin Tucker.
KEETON – For more than five years, starting in 2009, he led UMMC as vice chancellor for health affairs and dean of the School of Medicine, his 1965 alma mater.
“For me to circle back from a first-year medical student in 1961 to the Hall of Fame at the University of Mississippi Medical Center – that’s as good as it gets,” Keeton said.
After retiring from UMMC in January 2017, the Columbus native was awarded emeritus status in those roles and as professor of surgery and pediatrics.
“He has a passion for justice. He is a champion for human dignity,” said the colleague and friend who introduced him: Dr. LouAnn Woodward, vice chancellor for health affairs and dean of the School of Medicine.
Comparing him to the character in the children’s book, “The Velveteen Rabbit,” Woodward said, “Most of his hair has been loved off.”
As UMMC’s leader, Keeton steered the institution through a major economic recession; exacting accreditation demands for several schools; the reorganization of administrative offices; the adoption of an electronic health records system; the revival of the liver transplant program; and dynamic construction projects, such as a $70 million-plus medical school, the University Heart Center, the Translational Research Center and more.
He spent much of his career at UMMC, where he also did a rotating internship and residencies in general surgery and urology before undergoing further training in urology at the Hospital for Sick Children in London. Afterward, he served in the Medical Corps during the Vietnam War as a lieutenant commander at the U.S. Naval Hospital in Great Lakes, Illinois.
Now a fellow of fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics and certified by the American Board of Urology, Keeton joined UMMC’s surgery faculty for two years, starting in 1973, then worked for more than 25 years in private practice in Jackson until taking over in 2000 as clinical director of UMMC’s pediatric surgical services. Working with Dr. Owen B. “Bev” Evans, then the chair of the Department of Pediatrics, he helped build the pediatric surgery program and oversaw the creation of the two-story pediatric surgical suite.
Three years after returning to the Medical Center, Keeton was appointed the institution’s first-ever vice chancellor for clinical affairs. In 2007, he became the chief of staff for then-vice chancellor Dr. Dan Jones, whom he later succeeded, becoming the first UMMC vice chancellor who had attended the University of Mississippi as an undergraduate.
In 2015, thanks to the Friends of Children’s Hospital, the James E. Keeton, M.D. Chair of Pediatric Urology was established.
Keeton and his wife, Jona (MSN, 1990), live in Jackson and are the parents of two children and seven grandchildren.
LANGFORD – A distinguished expert on high blood pressure, the late UMMC professor of physiology and director of the endocrinology and hypertension division also chaired the Hypertension Detection and Follow-Up Program, a major clinical study sponsored by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute.
Langford was one of the first to suggest that differences in occurrences of high blood pressure among U.S. ethnic groups might be explained by differences in potassium consumption.
Before joining UMMC, he graduated from the University of South Carolina and then the Medical College of Virginia, completing his residency there as well as at Osler Medical Service at Johns Hopkins Hospital.
He authored numerous articles in medical journals and co-authored two books. In 1986, he was a visiting fellow at Green College, Oxford University in England.
Langford, who passed away in 1991, is remembered and honored through the Herbert Langford Research Mentor Award, given to a medical school faculty member during the School of Medicine’s annual Research Day, and the Herbert Gaines Langford Chair of Medicine.
“He was a true Southern gentleman interested in teaching,” said Dr. Bruce Longest of Bruce, who summed up Langford’s career. Accepting the award on their father’s behalf were two of his children, Robert Langford and Ellen Langford.
RAJU – Brought to the Medical Center to work with one of the institution’s legends, Raju became a pioneer in his own right, performing the first clinically successful double lung transplant in the United States and helping revolutionize the treatment of diseases of the veins.
After his medical education and surgical training in India, he arrived at UMMC, accepting a research fellowship under Dr. James Hardy, who had made historic attempts at heart and lung transplantations.
Introduced by 2013 Hall of Fame honoree Dr. Robert Elliott Jr. of Baton Rouge, Raju applauded his mentors and colleagues at UMMC, including Hardy.
“He lifted me on his shoulders, so I could reach higher than my own short height,” Raju said, adding that among the lessons learned at UMMC was this: “If you shoot for the moon, you may at least reach New York.”
Under Dr. Jack Grogan’s mentoring, Raju also contributed to the understanding of immune-privileged sites – those places of our body that, as a natural protective measure, are isolated from the immune system, such as the eyes.
Following residencies in general surgery and cardio-thoracic surgery, Raju became part of the UMMC faculty, joining Hardy in surgical practice. At the relatively young age of 43, he rose to full professor.
Raju participated in several hundred renal transplants under the leadership of Dr. George V. Smith, and, with Dr. Bobby Heath, was involved in several successful heart, as well as liver, transplants.
Raju has been in private practice since 1993, following his retirement from UMMC.
He is credited with more than 200 peer-reviewed publications, 70 book chapters, and a number of named lectures, awards and honors.
Married to Dr. Sybil Raju, a retired Jackson nephrologist, he has two children and twin grandchildren.
ROBBINS – The former president of the Texas Medical Center in Houston, he now fills that role at the University of Arizona.
An expert in the surgical treatment of congestive heart failure and cardiothoracic transplantation, his work as a cardiac surgeon is internationally-recognized.
The Millsaps College graduate earned his medical degree at UMMC in 1983 and finished his general surgery residency there in 1985. He also completed cardiothoracic training at Stanford University, postdoctoral research at Columbia University and the National Institutes of Health, and congenital heart surgical fellowships at Emory University and Royal Children’s Hospital.
As a researcher, he has investigated stem cells for cardiac regeneration, cardiac transplant allograft vasculopathy (blood vessel disease), bioengineered blood vessels, and automated vascular anastomotic devices. He has authored more than 300 peer-reviewed articles and is a former guest editor of the Circulation Surgical Supplement.
Robbins’ many roles as an educator and leader have included professor and chair of the Department of Cardiothoracic Surgery at Stanford University School of Medicine, founding director of the Stanford Cardiovascular Institute, president of the International Society of Heart and Lung Transplantation, and chair of the American Heart Association Cardiovascular Surgery and Anesthesia Council.
Dr. Ralph Didlake, associate vice chancellor for academic affairs and chief academic officer, introduced Robbins, who joked, “It’s painful sitting through your living elegy.”
TURNER – A former kindergarten and fifth grade teacher while living years ago in Arizona, the Walnut Grove native who grew up in Kosciusko became UMMC’s first associate vice chancellor for academic affairs.
The numbers for academic programs and student enrollment rose at the Medical Center following her appointment in 2003.
Turner was introduced at the awards dinner by Dr. Robin Rockhold, professor of health sciences and deputy chief academic officer, as “one of the foremost physician-educators in the state.”
A graduate of Mississippi University for Women, Turner earned a Ph.D. in medical microbiology at UMMC in 1975 and finished her medical degree there 1979. At the Medical Center, she also completed her residency in internal medicine and a fellowship in infectious diseases.
Referring to the time she spent from graduate school through her fellowship, Turner said, “Some of my family members thought I would always be a student; and, in truth, I have been.”
Following her fellowship, she joined the Medical Center faculty as a staff physician at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center, where she became associate chief of staff for education and chief of medical service – the first woman to hold those positions.
In 1993, she was appointed the associate dean for academic affairs at the School of Medicine, 10 years before taking on the associate vice chancellor’s role.
Over the years, she has been honored for her teaching excellence. Twice, she was Alpha Omega Alpha Teacher of the Year. She was also named to “Best Doctors in the Southeast Region” and “Best Doctors in America” for several years.
She received the Alumnae Achievement Award in 2003 from the Mississippi University for Women and has been recognized by Who’s Who of American Women.
In 2006, she was the first woman physician in Mississippi to be honored with American College of Physicians Laureate Award, given by the Mississippi Chapter of the ACP.
In 2010, she was recognized by the Woman Physicians Congress of the American Medical Association in their Physician Mentor Recognition Program. Two years later, she received the Distinguished Alumnus award from the School of Graduate Studies in the Health Sciences at UMMC and a citation from the Mississippi State Medical Association for her contributions to medical education and to the practice of medicine.
In 2013, she was elected to mastership in the American College of Physicians. For the Mississippi State Medical Association, Turner has served as secretary, member of the Board of Trustees and president.
She retired from UMMC in 2012 and is now associate vice chancellor emeritus. She and her husband Jim have one son, a daughter-in-law and two grandchildren.