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University of Iowa News Release

June 6, 2006

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Robert Soper, M.D. Stanley James, M.D. Virend Somers, M.D., Ph.D. Lawrence Dorr, M.D. Gene Gary-Williams, Ph.D. Robert Kelch, M.D.

UI Carver College Of Medicine To Honor Distinguished Alumni

The University of Iowa Roy J. and Lucille A. Carver College of Medicine will honor the achievements of six individuals at its 2006 Distinguished Alumni Awards presentation and luncheon Friday, June 9, in Iowa City.

The Distinguished Alumni Award is the highest honor the college bestows upon its outstanding graduates. Established in 1998, this awards program recognizes former students and colleagues who have transcended their fundamental roles as health care providers, scientists and educators to become leaders in the advancement of medicine.

The Award for Achievement recognizes UI Carver College of Medicine alumni for significant personal accomplishments in science, medicine and education. Receiving this year's award are Robert Soper, M.D., and Stanley James, M.D.

The Early Distinguished Achievement Award honors individuals who are less than 15 years removed from their medical training at Iowa and who have already achieved distinction in their fields. This year's recipient is Virend Somers, M.D., Ph.D.

The Award for Service is presented to medical alumni for meritorious leadership and service in a professional capacity or to their community, state or nation. This year's recipients are Lawrence Dorr, M.D., and Gene Gary-Williams, Ph.D.

The Award for Friendship honors individuals, not necessarily alumni, for support of and dedication to the UI Carver College of Medicine and its missions of education, research and service. Robert Kelch, M.D. will receive this year's award.

Robert Soper received his medical degree in 1952; he then traveled to England, where he trained in pediatric surgery, which was a developing specialty at the time. He returned to the UI in 1960 as the only physician in Iowa specifically trained in pediatric surgery. He went on to build the pediatric surgery division in the UI Department of Surgery and help establish the specialty in Iowa and the United States. He is considered an exemplary academic physician, combining outstanding surgical skill and patient care with a dedication to teaching. Soper also influenced the field of medicine beyond the state of Iowa: He helped found the American Pediatric Surgical Association; he lectured and taught throughout the world; and he published hundreds of research papers, book chapters and abstracts related to his research. Soper retired in 1997 and today is a UI professor emeritus in surgery.

Stanley James received a UI bachelor's degree (1953) and medical degree (1962), and he completed residency training in orthopaedic surgery at the university. For the past 40 years, James has been at the forefront of sports medicine and has led the way in the understanding and treatment of sports-related injuries. He is widely recognized as an expert on training, fitness and the biomechanics of running. He has authored or co-authored more than 50 publications and has worked with some of the world's elite athletes, including Michael Jordan, Clyde Drexler, Carl Lewis, Mary Slaney, Pete Sampras, Dan Fouts and others. James has made significant contributions to the advancement and development of shoes for runners at all levels of competition. He helped create the first shoe prototype and has served as a formal research consultant for the Nike Corporation. James is a partner at the Orthopedic Healthcare Northwest, PC, in Eugene, Ore.

Virend Somers completed a residency (1991) and fellowship (1993) in internal medicine at the UI. He is recognized as one of the world's premier researchers and clinicians in the area of human cardiovascular regulation and sleep research with a unique approach that is both patient-oriented and mechanistic. Somers is known for his creativity, energy and productivity, and he has distinguished himself at every level of his career. He was elected to the American Society of Clinical Investigation in 1999, and he recently became a member of the Association of University Cardiologists. He has delivered lectures to some of the most distinguished medical audiences in the world, including the World Congress of Cardiology in Sydney, the Belgian Faculties of Medicine in Brussels and the World Congress on Sleep Apnea in Helsinki. He is a professor of medicine at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn.

Lawrence Dorr received a UI master's degree in pharmacology (1965) and a medical degree (1967). He is a world leader in hip and joint replacement surgery, an innovative researcher, a teacher and a recognized humanitarian. In 1995, he founded Operation Walk, a nonprofit organization of doctors, nurses and physical therapists who volunteer to teach and perform joint replacement surgery in developing countries. In the 10 years since the organization's founding, Dorr and his colleagues have performed more than 350 knee and hip replacement surgeries for patients in Cuba, China, Nepal, Mexico, Peru and the Philippine Islands. He is medical director of the Arthritis Institute at Centinela Freeman Regional Medical Center and of the Dorr Institute for Arthritis Research and Education Foundation. Dorr also holds a clinical faculty appointment at the University of Southern California.

Gene Gary-Williams received a master's degree in physical therapy from the UI in 1958. She is known as a mentor, educator, administrator and distinguished scholar, and she has greatly enhanced the awareness and need for improving diversity and multi-cultural competence within the field of physical therapy. As a result, she is regarded as a role model for others in her field. Gary-Williams has worked to establish physical therapy programs at Howard University, which was the first offered by a historically black college or university, and she was the first chair of the program. She also helped establish a physical therapy program at Ross University in the West Indies; she played a key role in revitalizing the program at Tennessee State University; and she helped create an orthotic and prosthetic school at Alabama State University. She retired as an associate dean at Howard University and today serves as executive director of the National Society of Allied Health. 

Robert Kelch served as the dean of the UI Carver College of Medicine from 1994 until 2003, when he left Iowa to become executive vice president for medical affairs and CEO at University of Michigan Health Systems. While at the UI, Kelch led efforts to revitalize the UI health sciences campus. He successfully advocated for public and private funds that transformed the college's physical facilities - such as the Medical Education and Research Facility (MERF) and Carver Biomedical Research Building (CBRB). Kelch also played a key role in re-thinking the traditional medical school curriculum at Iowa. Today, UI medical students participate in "learning communities," which group students who are at different stages in their medical education to encourage peer-to-peer learning and emphasize leadership and community and professional service.

Alumni of the UI Roy J. and Lucille A. Carver College of Medicine include all graduates of the University's education and training programs for undergraduate and graduate medical education, associated medical sciences and graduate basic sciences.

University of Iowa Health Care describes the partnership between the UI Roy J. and Lucille A. Carver College of Medicine and UI Hospitals and Clinics and the patient care, medical education and research programs and services they provide. Visit UI Health Care online at

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa Health Science Relations, 5139 Westlawn, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-1178

MEDIA CONTACT: David Pedersen, 319-335-8032,; Writer: Andrea Schreiber