Thanks to thirteen: Medical Center icons enshrined for breadth of accomplishments
Published on Monday, November 22, 2021
By: Gary Pettus, email@example.com
They fixed hearts, deciphered disease, championed children, captivated classrooms, cut suffering to the bone and defied disorders that struck their patients – and even themselves.
Over the course of their careers, a baker’s dozen of physicians honored Tuesday at the UMMC Medical Alumni Awards presentations have elevated their specialties and passions, and the reputation of the Medical Center.
Presented by the Medical Alumni Board and UMMC’s Alumni Engagement team in the Office of Development, the event illuminated the triumphs of awardees from 2021 as well as 2020 – the year the pandemic torpedoed an in-the-flesh affair.
Last week’s celebration at the Country Club of Jackson, presided over by Dr. Paul Moore III, 2019-2020 Medical Alumni Board president, made up for the loss in duration and zeal.
“The good things that are happening now at the Medical Center … are because of you, our alumni,” said Dr. LouAnn Woodward during her welcome.
“Because of you, we are in the place we are now,” said Woodward, vice chancellor for health affairs and dean of the School of Medicine.
For 2020 and 2021, the School of Medicine Alumni Board named a Distinguished Alum of the Year. Five physicians for each year were inducted into the Medical Alumni Chapter Hall of Fame. They include current or former faculty members, living or deceased, who have made outstanding contributions to the Medical Center, Mississippi and the nation.
The board also saluted the recipient of the first-ever Early Career Achievement Award.
2020 Distinguished Medical Alumna:
E. MARTINA BICKLEY BEBIN, professor of neurology and pediatrics at the University of Alabama at Birmingham; introduced by her sister, Mary Ellen Bebin Warner. Bebin and Warner participated in the ceremony virtually.
“Her primary goal has always been to make the lives of children better and find happiness in their childhood,” Warner said.
Bebin has done important work in the development of health care policy at the state and national levels, and has been a major force in the areas of epilepsy, tubular sclerosis, and medicinal marijuana research in child epilepsy. She has helped identify a previously unknown case of a seizure disorder that afflicts mostly infants.
Her father, Dr. Jose Bebin, was a professor of neuropathology at UMMC, teaching there for almost 25 years; and her sister, Warner, is a former ICU nurse at University Hospital.
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2020 Hall of Fame:
GENE R. BARRETT, retired orthopaedic surgeon and former associate professor of orthopaedic surgery at UMMC; introduced by son, Dr. Austin M. Barrett, Jackson-area orthopaedic surgeon.
“He was the ACL guy … the knee guru,” Austin Barrett said. “One of his biggest claims to fame was treating Andre the Giant, the wrestler.”
At one point Gene Barrett practiced with one of his brothers, School of Medicine alumnus, Dr. Pat Barrett, before joining the Medical Center faculty in 2014.
After contracting Parkinson’s disease, he remained at UMMC teaching residents and conducting research. He retired in January 2020. Inducted into the International Knee Society, Barrett has spread his knowledge to orthopaedists across the world.
“A lot of times, in our own living room, he would treat patients,” Austin Barrett said. “Because that was what was needed.”
DIANE K. BEEBE, professor emeritus and past chair of the UMMC Department of Family Medicine; introduced by Dr. Patrick O. Smith, UMMC chief faculty affairs officer, and associate dean for faculty affairs in the School of Medicine.
“Her mindset … is placing others above self,” Smith said.
Beebe was instrumental in advancing family medicine in Mississippi, helping establish accredited residency programs in Tupelo and Hattiesburg.
She helped spearhead the creation of the Mississippi Rural Physicians Scholarship Program, and was instrumental in developing the Office of Mississippi Physician Workforce.
Upon her retirement in 2017, the Mississippi Academy of Family Physicians awarded her a lifetime commendation for her contributions – among them, mentoring and teaching hundreds of medical students and residents.
“It’s Diane’s destiny to be recognized in the Hall of Fame,” Smith said.
BERNARD J. DREILING, professor of medicine at UMMC, and staff hematologist at the G. V. “Sonny” Montgomery VA Medical Center; introduced by Dr. Susan Harrington, UMMC assistant professor of medicine and internal medicine specialist at the VA Medical Center.
“Dr. Dreiling is an icon in the Mississippi Medical community,” Harrington said. “His commitment to teaching has lasted five decades.”
That commitment was a magnet to a legion of students drawn by Dreiling to the practice of hematology.
Dreiling earned his medical degree at the St. Louis University School of Medicine in 1962. At UMMC, the Victoria, Kansas, native has been declared Clinical Professor of the Year, Evers Society Clinical Professor of the Year and Alpha Omega Alpha Teacher of the Year numerous times.
The VA Medical Center, too, has recognized his accomplishments, naming him Consultant Teacher of the Year, Clinical Mentor of the Year and Academic Career Mentor of the Year and more.
The 2001 medical school yearbook, The Medic, called him “Kansas’ Gift to Mississippi.”
BOBBY J. HEATH, former UMMC professor of surgery and director of cardiothoracic surgery; introduced by Dr. Seshadri Raju, UMMC professor emeritus of surgery and 2018 Medical Hall of Fame honoree; award accepted by Jeanee Shell, Heath’s longtime office assistant.
During the 18 years Shell worked for the late physician, she said, “there was never a time when Dr. Heath’s integrity was in question.”
Heath joined the UMMC faculty in 1978. In 1979, he was appointed acting director of cardiac surgery; the next year, he became chief of the Division of Cardiac Surgery.
As chief of cardiothoracic surgery, he helped recharge the Medical Center’s heart transplant program and did all of the heart transplants for pediatric patients. “HRTFIXR” was his title on his personalized license plate.
On August 15, 2000, he died while scuba diving in Florida.
“The way he lived shaped the lives of his family, not just the lives of his students and residents,” Shell said. “What you learned,” she said, addressing his children, “you learned from your daddy, with help from your mom.”
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CARL RANDLE “RANDY’ VOYLES, retired hepatobiliary and general surgeon; introduced by Dr. Jason G. Murphy, Jackson-area surgeon.
Murphy said he was proud to see the Hall of Fame honor extended “to my surgical father, Dr. Randy Voyles.”
As an early proponent of laparoscopic surgery, Voyles performed thousands of cholecystectomies (gall bladder removals). He gave academic presentations in much of the United States and on four continents.
“They say surgeons have big egos,” he said, “and I may have a trace.”
Voyles’ professional contributions were recognized in Consumer Reports, The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal. He spent years advancing minimally invasive surgical techniques before his decades-long surgical career ended.
Afterward, he focused on creative writing, publishing several books about famous figures who faced motor disorders, including Italian Renaissance figure Lorenzo de’ Medici and the Old Testament’s King David.
Like fellow Hall of Fame honoree, Dr. Gene Barrett, Voyles had to end his surgical practice when was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease.
“If my hand shakes,” Voyles joked, “it means my brain still works.”
2021 Distinguished Medical Alumna:
SUSAN BUTTROSS, professor of pediatrics at UMMC, specializing in developmental and behavioral pediatrics; introduced by daughter, Dr. Sarah Sterling, UMMC associate professor of emergency medicine.
Buttross was chief of the Division of Child Development for 28 years. “I retired in 2016,” she said. “I failed retirement.”
She now serves as principal investigator of the Child Health and Development Project, a $14 million initiative promoting the developmental and behavioral health of Mississippi children from birth to 5 years old. As a physician and as a researcher, she has collected numerous honors.
Buttross has done research on ADHD treatment, Autism Spectrum Disorders, Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder, sleep disorders, hearing screenings, lead toxicity and immunizations, and is trying to find new ways to extend developmental and behavioral health services in a state with low resources.
For about a decade, the mother of five and grandmother of 11 has been the host of Southern Remedy’s Relatively Speaking, the Mississippi Public Radio series on family and child issues.
While growing up in Mississippi, she quickly learned what was important, she said: “Family, of course, and there was God and there was learning.”
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2021 Hall of Fame:
BRYAN BARKSDALE, UMMC professor of medicine in the Division of Cardiology; introduced by Dr. Harper Stone, Jackson-area cardiologist.
Barksdale, who joined the UMMC faculty in 2008, developed one of the first YMCA cardiac rehabilitation programs in the country, earning him the YMCA Service to Mankind Award and the American Heart Association Heart of Gold Award.
He was a resident at the Medical Center when he created the exercise-based program, part of a nationwide effort meant to shrink the number of deaths from heart disease.
Before his arrival at the Medical Center, Barksdale was in private practice in interventional cardiology/general cardiology at St. Dominic Hospital and at Baptist Medical Center.
He founded a yearly golf tournament to raise funds for the Arthritis Foundation Mississippi Chapter. During a 29-year stint as chair, the tournament brought in more than $2.5 million and was named in honor of his mother, Mary Bryan Barksdale.
KENNETH R. BENNETT, UMMC professor emeritus of medicine; introduced by grandson, Peter H. Liddell, a medical student at UMMC.
“Ask our family who his favorite teaching dummy was – that was me,” Liddell said.
Bennett, who completed his medical education at the University of Texas Southwestern School of Medicine, did his residency training in internal medicine and, then, cardiology at UMMC. He was a member of the Medical Center faculty for 10 years before practicing at the Jackson Heart Clinic.
Two decades later, he returned to the Medical Center, where he garnered awards for training medical students. It was students who selected him to deliver the prestigious Last Lecture presentation, which he eventually did this year. Being chosen by them, he said at the time, “is the greatest honor of all.”
At UMMC, he still teaches the cardiovascular physical examination to second-year medical students and electrocardiography to third-year students.
OWEN “BEV” EVANS JR., retired UMMC professor and chair of pediatrics; introduced by Dr. Colette Parker, UMMC professor of pediatrics and chief of the Division of Pediatric Neurology.
‘Work and be nice’ …; this has been his lifelong motto,” Parker said.
After teaching for several years at Vanderbilt University, where he earned his medical degree in 1973, Evans joined the faculty at UMMC, where he would become chair of pediatrics after the retirement of Dr. Blair E. Batson.
As chair, Evans, founded Friends of Children’s Hospital and developed the Divisions of Critical Care, Emergency Medicine, Rheumatology, Pediatric Rehabilitation and Nephrology.
He helped plan, and find financing for, the Blair E. Batson Hospital for Children, the pediatric surgery expansion floors, the Pediatric Emergency Center, and many renovations.
JOE CLARK FILES, retired UMMC director of the Division of Hematology and director of the Cancer Center; introduced (virtually) by son, Dr. D. Clark Files, North Carolina pulmonologist.
“My dad could not be a better role model for what a devoted teacher, healer, mentor and father should aspire to be,” Clark Files said. “Dad, thanks for inspiring countless students, physicians and patients and dedicating your life to improving the lives of others.”
Joe Files worked at UMMC beginning in 1979 and led the Division of Hematology for 17 years. During that time, the hematology group created the Bone Marrow Transplant Program, offering revolutionary treatments, and it still operates today as the only one of its kind in the state.
Files was involved in clinical trials that studied acute leukemia, lymphoma and multiple myeloma patients. His creation of an avenue for academic promotions is still in place at UMMC. Among his many leadership roles was director of the UMMC Cancer Center.
He was the first native Mississippian to receive Mastership in the American College of Physicians, whose Mississippi Chapter presented him its Laureate Award in 2008.
Except for his fellowship training in Seattle, he said, UMMC “has been my academic home for my entire career. We love the place, we love its mission. We love the people who work there. … So that’s where we are. Life is good.”
RATHI VAIDYANATH IYER, professor emeritus of pediatrics; introduced by niece, Rajita Iyer Moss.
Iyer joined the Department of Pediatrics at UMMC in 1973 and retired as a professor of pediatrics after 40 years of service, excelling in the research and treatment of childhood cancer, sickle cell, bleeding and clotting disorders.
“The kids are funny and sweet,” she said, “and this could all be written in a book if I could write.”
Iyer earned her medical degree in 1966 from Gandhi Medical College in India, and came to the U.S. the next year for her post-graduate education.
At the Medical Center, Iyer, an award-winning teacher, was also the main physician and research coordinator for sickle cell care and hemophilia care, and her research projects for both were funded through the National Institutes of Health.
Among the children she remembers, Iyer said, is a 6-year-old boy with a terminal illness. “He said to me, ‘I told my mom I’m going to marry you when I get bigger.’”
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2021 Early Career Achievement Award:
WAYNE SHANNON ORR III, UMMC associate professor of surgery and chief of the Division of Surgical Oncology; introduced by friend, William M. Simpson, attorney-at-law.
“I hope you all have a friend like Shannon,” Simpson said.
Orr joined UMMC in 2015 and, four years later, became the first chief of the Division of Surgical Oncology. He has started several cancer programs, including one to treat patients with metastatic cancer and the Advanced Melanoma Clinic.
Orr, who serves as chair of the Interdisciplinary Gastrointestinal Cancer Program, has helped standardize the treatment of gastric, pancreatic, colon and rectal cancers.
His numerous teaching accolades include the Fred W. Rushton Jr. Faculty Teaching Award and the Carl G. Evers, MD Society All-Star Attending Award.