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University of Iowa News Release


Oct. 22, 2007

UI dental alumni to be recognized with highest honors

The University of Iowa College of Dentistry and the UI Dental Alumni Association will present their top awards to three alumni during the college's alumni banquet Friday, Oct. 26.

Gary Blodgett, a 1962 graduate of the college's D.D.S. program and a 1967 graduate of its M.S. program, will receive the 2007 Alumnus of the Year Award. Wallace "Wally" Johnson, a 1957 D.D.S. graduate and a 1958 M.S. graduate, will receive the 2007 Educator of the Year Award. Jim Sommers, D.D.S., a 1952 graduate of the college, will receive the 2007 Service Recognition Award.

"Drs. Blodgett, Johnson and Sommers exemplify the tradition of service and commitment that we work to instill in our students," said David Johnsen, D.D.S., dean of the UI College of Dentistry. "Their work has advanced the profession of dentistry and improved the lives of many, many patients. It is our honor to present them with these awards."

Blodgett (photo, left), the 2007 Alumnus of the Year Award recipient, is originally from Pleasantville, Iowa. He began his commitment to public service during dental school when he enrolled in the U.S. Public Health Service (PHS) training program at the National Institute for Dental Research (now the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research). After earning his D.D.S., he was commissioned into the PHS and interned at its hospital in Seattle, Wash. He then spent two years as chief dental officer at LaTuna Federal Correctional Facility near El Paso, Texas. After receiving his M.S. in orthodontics, he opened a private practice in Mason City, Iowa, which he operated for 25 years. Blodgett sold the practice in 1992 and later that year was elected as an Iowa state representative for House District 19 (Cerro Gordo County), serving four terms and spending the last six years as assistant majority leader. Active in health care and tax issues, he was recognized on several occasions by both the American and Iowa Dental Associations. From 1993 to 1997, he served on the ADA's Council on Governmental Affairs, and in 2001 he was appointed as a federal administrative judge for the Provider Reimbursement Review Board (PRRB), which adjudicates payment disputes involving hospitals, nursing homes, home health agencies and other Medicare providers. Blodgett recently completed his second three-year term on the board.

Johnson (photo, left), recipient of the 2007 Educator of the Year Award, has been interested in dentistry since he was a child playing in a dental office owned by a friend's father. A native of La Moure, N.D., Johnson served in the U.S. Air Force during World War II, and then earned a B.S. in pharmacy at North Dakota State University. After working for a few years as a pharmacist and manager in a small North Dakota drug store, he decided to go back to school to become a dentist, and he worked his way through school with jobs as a janitor and cook. After earning his D.D.S., Johnson taught in the clinic while earning his M.S. in removable prosthetics. Upon earning his M.S. degree, he joined the faculty of the UI College of Dentistry's Department of Operative Dentistry. He became interim head of operative dentistry in 1963 and served as department head for 28 years, from 1964 to 1992. He retired in 1993 and now spends his time playing tuba in several bands and selling the tuba holder he designed and patented.

Sommers (photo, left), the 2007 Service Award recipient, grew up in Des Moines, Iowa and became the third generation in his family to pursue a dentistry career. After earning his D.D.S., he enlisted in the U.S. Navy and was stationed for two years at the Marine Corps Air Station in Kaneohe Bay in Oahu, Hawaii. In 1954, he returned to Des Moines where he joined his father's and uncle's dental practice, where he treated patients for the next 21 years. In 1975, he joined another group practice with 10 other dentists. In 2000, after 48 years of professional work, Sommers retired. Shortly after, he began working as an adjunct professor at Broadlawns Medical Center in Des Moines, where he continues to teach today.

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa Health Science Relations, 5125 Westlawn, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-1178

MEDIA CONTACTS: Susan L. Green, 319-335-9465,; Penni Ryan, UI College of Dentistry, 319-335-7166,