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Alumni honored for outstanding achievements

Eight University of Minnesota Medical School alumni were honored for their work in the service of the medical profession at the Medical School Alumni Awards Banquet on Thursday, October 4, at the University Hotel Minneapolis.

The University of Minnesota Medical Alumni Society (MAS) honored five graduates with the following awards:

Harold S. Diehl Award

The lifetime achievement Harold S. Diehl Award is granted to individuals who have made outstanding contributions to the University of Minnesota Medical School, the University as a whole, and the community. It was established in honor of the Medical School’s fifth dean, Harold Sheely Diehl, M.D.

Brian C. Campion, M.D., M.P.A.

Unafraid of pursuing new ideas, Campion has advanced medical care, administration, and leadership with wisdom and principle. In 1973 the cardiologist developed one of the early paramedic programs in the Twin Cities area and later served as president and CEO of the Franciscan Health System, where he grew the organization and led its integration with the Mayo Health System. After retiring, he helped to found the University of St. Thomas Physician Leadership College, where he now serves as a senior fellow. A member of the Class of 1962, Campion is known by his peers as an outstanding physician and human being.

David A. Rothenberger, M.D.

A colorectal surgeon of national and international renown, Rothenberger is deputy chairman and professor in the Medical School’s Department of Surgery. He has held many leadership roles at the University, including his former role as chief of staff and current role as director of surgical services for University of Minnesota Medical Center, Fairview. A lecture series named for him honors the Fellowship Class of 1979 alumnus as a leader, mentor, and researcher and is meant to stimulate dialogue between health care professionals and the community at large regarding today’s evolving health care system. A leader by example, Rothenberger is respected and admired by his trainees and colleagues alike.

Distinguished Alumni Award

The Distinguished Alumni Award recognizes University of Minnesota Medical School alumni who have made outstanding contributions to their communities — at the local, regional, or national level — through medical practice, teaching, research, or other humanitarian activities.

Joseph C. Kolars, M.D.

A 1982 Medical School graduate and noted gastroenterologist, Kolars is a passionate proponent of social justice. Kolars’s career has spanned the globe — from his work as a professor at the Second Shanghai Medical University (he was the first U.S. physician to be licensed to practice in China) to his role back in the United States as a consultant to the Global Health Program of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Through his current appointment at the University of Michigan, he led the establishment of the school’s first medical student-run free clinic for the underserved. Colleagues know Kolars as a self-motivated, genuine, innovative achiever.

Robert D. Letson, M.D.

A 1952 Medical School alumnus, Letson was Minnesota’s first pediatric ophthalmologist. He served the Medical School’s Department of Ophthalmology as a faculty member for the majority of his career and intuitively tackled the toughest clinical cases, becoming a go-to physician for children with the most difficult vision problems. Those who trained under Letson distinctly recall — and try to emulate — the kind, gentle way he examined children and took a genuine interest in each child and family. Letson also has taken his skill and wide knowledge base across the globe to educate patients and practitioners.

Elizabeth R. Seaquist, M.D.

A 1982 Medical School graduate and esteemed clinical investigator, Seaquist is dedicated to providing the highest-quality patient care for people who have diabetes, which she does with understanding, insight, and compassion. A career-long University faculty member, Seaquist has made many important contributions to diabetes research, from being the first to demonstrate that diabetes complications have both a genetic and metabolic basis to conducting leading-edge work examining the effects of hypoglycemia on the brain. Today she coleads the “Decade of Discovery” initiative, a partnership between the University and Mayo Clinic aimed at preventing, optimally treating, and ultimately curing diabetes.

Alumni Philanthropy Award

And for the third year, the Minnesota Medical Foundation will present its Alumni Philanthropy and Service Award to two alumni who have made significant contributions to medicine and to the Medical School through philanthropy.

Richard A. Carlson, M.D.

A member of the Medical School Class of 1972, Carlson long has been an active supporter of quality medical education and research at the University. He served on MMF’s board of trustees for more than 20 years, on the MAS board of directors for 14 years, and on the Dean’s Board of Visitors for eight years. Through these roles, the radiologist has both practiced and encouraged philanthropy, having created a scholarship for medical students with his wife, Mari, and having inspired fellow alumni and friends to do the same.

Arthur C. Klassen, M.D.

A member of the Department of Neurology Residency Class of 1965, Klassen remains a tireless advocate for the department’s educational mission. His advocacy has taken many forms, including the investment of his academic and clinical talents, leadership, and philanthropy. In 2010 he made the lead gift to establish the Neurology Resident Educational Travel Scholarship Fund to allow residents to attend national conferences, giving them rare research and educational opportunities and also allowing them to share their knowledge with the greater neurology community. He has successfully encouraged others to contribute to the fund as well.

Alumni Service Award

Also recognized at the Medical School Alumni Awards Banquet was June LaValleur, M.D., Medical School Class of 1987, who received the University of Minnesota Board of Regents’ Alumni Service Award on October 11. An 18-year faculty member in the Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology, and Women’s Health, the now-retired LaValleur is a proponent of lifelong sexual education and dedicated advocate for mature women’s sexual health. She has served on the Medical School’s admissions committee for more than 20 years and offers special support for nontraditional students; she herself had entered medical school at age 41.

For a complete list of past award winners, visit

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