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Medical Alumni Society honors five physicians

The University of Minnesota Medical Alumni Society has selected five exceptional physicians to receive its three awards for 2008. Please join us in congratulating and thanking these deserving doctors for their work in the service of the medical profession.

The Harold S. Diehl Award

This lifetime achievement award is granted to individuals who have made outstanding contributions to the Medical School, the University, and the community. It was established by the Medical Alumni Society in honor of the Medical School’s fifth dean, Harold Sheely Diehl, M.D.

Lester Breslow, M.D., M.P.H.

A member of the Medical School Class of 1935 and a School of Public Health alumnus, Breslow is being honored for his pioneering contributions to public health. In his seven decades in medicine and public health, Breslow has been a consultant to several local, national, and world health agencies. He was a physician, California’s public health director, and dean of the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), School of Public Health before he retired in 1980. He continues to give lectures and serve on several UCLA advisory boards. Breslow and his wife, Devra, also have endowed a scholarship at the University of Minnesota to support public health students studying health promotion and disease prevention.

John V. Thomas, M.D.

A member of the Class of 1946, Thomas is considered a founder of the University of Minnesota-Duluth School of Medicine, now known as the University of Minnesota Medical School-Duluth Campus. In addition to serving that community as a longtime general surgeon at St. Luke’s Hospital, Thomas helped to determine the curriculum and organization of Duluth’s medical school. He shared his practical knowledge with students by teaching introductory anatomy from 1972, when the school opened, until his retirement in 2006. Thomas is known for his passionate commitment to his patients and to medical education.

The Distinguished Alumni Award

This award recognizes Medical School alumni who have made outstanding contributions to their local, regional, or national community through medical practice, teaching, research, or other humanitarian activities.

Dale C. Betterton, M.D.

A member of the Class of 1973, Betterton has devoted the last 15 years of his career to volunteer medical service. Since shifting his career focus from family medicine to service, Betterton has traveled to some of the world’s most impoverished countries to provide free medical care to those in need. After Hurricane Katrina, Betterton established a humanitarian and medical relief operation in Mississippi and—in conjunction with the governments in New Orleans and Louisiana—a free clinic in New Orleans. Friends and colleagues admire his courage, ingenuity, and tireless energy.

Leif I. Solberg, M.D.

A member of the Class of 1963, Solberg is a nationally recognized expert on systematic improvement in health care, especially in preventive services and chronic disease care. Solberg, who is associate medical director for care improvement research for HealthPartners Medical Group and director for care improvement research for HealthPartners Research Foundation, has continuously sought to use science and his solid understanding of the patient-physician relationship to improve health care. He has inspired excellence in countless clinicians and researchers as a clinical professor in the Medical School’s Department of Family Medicine and Community Health.

The Early Distinguished Career Award

This award honors a physician for his or her exceptional accomplishments within 15 years of medical school graduation.

Arne Vainio, M.D.

A member of the Class of 1994, Vainio has emerged as a leader in the Native American medical community. In addition to being a beloved family physician at the Min-No-Aya-Win Human Services Clinic on the Fond du Lac Ojibwe Reservation, Vainio writes a regular health column for the national News From Indian Country newspaper, helps to recruit Native American students into medicine, and volunteers as a preceptor for students at the University of Minnesota Medical School-Duluth Campus. Friends and colleagues know him as a compassionate physician, a steward of the environment, and an exceptional listener.

See a complete list of past recipients.

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