JACKSON, Miss. (WJTV) – The shoulders of UMMC’s giants must be pretty sore by now.

The honor roll of physicians who claim to stand on them lengthened during last week’s Medical Alumni Awards dinner at the Westin Hotel in Jackson.

Dr. Helen R. Turner, associate vice chancellor emeritus of UMMC, topped the roster of awardees as the 2022 Distinguished Medical Alumna of the Year during Thursday’s ceremony.

“This is a real celebration as we recognize physicians who are an inspiration to us,” said Dr. LouAnn Woodward, UMMC vice chancellor for health affairs and dean of the medical school she graduated from in 1991. “You’ve made us proud to be alumni of the School of Medicine.”

The Medical Alumni Chapter Hall of Fame welcomed six inductees as well; the second-ever recipient of the Medical Early Career Achievement Award took the rostrum; and a dozen “Golden Graduates” accepted medallions acknowledging their mutual milestone: the 50th anniversary of their medical school valediction. 

Dr. James Sones, doubly recognized as a Hall of Famer and Golden Grad, spoke on behalf of the ’72 alumni. “We had a great class; it was much bigger than this, but this is the cream of the crop. Everyone agree with that?” he said to applause.

Presiding over the event was Dr. Charles Woodall, medical alumni board president and a 1986 School of Medicine graduate practicing family medicine in the Memphis area. Most of the nine medical students attending and who serve as Student Alumni Representatives (STARs) introduced the guests of honor.

Since 2012, the Hall of Fame has recognized current or former faculty members, living or deceased, who have made outstanding contributions to the Medical Center, Mississippi and the nation. The Distinguished Medical Alumna/Alumnus Awards have, since 2010, saluted graduates for their achievements in research, education, clinical care, health service administration, or public/civic duties.

Now in its sophomore year, the Medical Early Career Achievement Award spotlights an “accomplished young alumna/alumnus who has made outstanding contributions to the health care field within 15 years of receiving their medical degree.” 

2022 Distinguished Medical Alumna

HELEN R. TURNER, a 2018 Hall of Fame inductee and former school teacher who grew up in Kosciusko, became UMMC’s first associate vice chancellor for academic affairs. The numbers for Medical Center academic programs and student enrollment rose following her appointment in 2003.

“We stand on the shoulders of heroes,” Turner said, acknowledging the mentors who helped her during her years at UMMC. “I’m so grateful for the impact they’ve had on my life.”

Turner was the first woman to serve as associate chief of staff for education and chief of medicine at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Jackson, as well as the first to serve as associate dean for academic affairs at UMMC. She was the second woman to be elected president of the Mississippi State Medical Association (MSMA).

Turner earned a PhD in medical microbiology in 1975 and finished her medical degree in 1979 at the Medical Center, where she also completed her residency in internal medicine and a fellowship in infectious diseases.

As a faculty member, she was named UMMC’s Alpha Omega Alpha Teacher of the Year and was a “Best Doctors in America” selection for several years. She received the Alumna Achievement Award in 2003 from Mississippi University for Women and the Laureate Award given in 2006 by the Mississippi Chapter of the American College of Physicians.

Turner was acknowledged in 2007 for outstanding contributions to the UMMC School of Graduate Studies in the Health Sciences and, in 2012, the year she retired from UMMC, she was elected to Mastership in the ACP.

2022 Early Career Achievement Award Winner

LAURA JACKSON MILLER, a board-certified family physician at Prentiss Family Practice Clinic-Hattiesburg Clinic, has devoted much of her time in rural practice working on behalf of her community; during the pandemic, she created and established COVID-19 protocols for her clinic.

Through MSMA, she has been a force for public health outreach and COVID-19 immunization campaigns; she recently completed training in the organization’s Physician Leadership Academy and serves on its Council for Finance and Budget and Council on Medical Education.

Miller earned her MD in 2011 at UMMC, where she completed her family medicine residency. A member of the first class of the Mississippi Rural Physicians Scholarship Program, she has spent eight years in rural family practice.

She is a member of the Policy Development Committee with the American Medical Association Integrated Physician Practice Section; American Academy of Family Physicians; and Mississippi Academy of Family Physicians, serving on its Physician Workforce Committee.

At Jefferson Davis Community Hospital in Prentiss, Miller is chief of staff. She is a physician preceptor for both the UMMC School of Medicine and the William Carey University College of Osteopathic Medicine.

Miller, too, paid tribute to her Medical Center mentors, as well as to family members, several of whom, “give me endless opinions, but I certainly appreciate it.”

2022 Hall of Fame Inductees:

THOMAS J. BROOKS, at his passing in 2006 at age 90, was remembered by physicians across Mississippi and the nation for guiding them to their life’s work as public health officers.

A Starkville native who grew up in Florida, Brooks held four university degrees, including a PhD in tropical and parasitic diseases from the University of North Carolina and an MD from Wake Forest University. During World War II and the Korean War, he was a U.S. Navy medical officer.

In the early 1950s, Brooks served as chief physician of the Florida State University hospital he helped establish and was the FSU football team doctor. When UMMC opened, he became professor, associate dean and chair of the Department of Preventive Medicine, his role for more than 33 years.

In 1966, the United Nations selected Brooks to evaluate medical education in India. He held visiting professorships at the University of Costa Rica; Tokyo University, Kyoto University and Keio University in Japan; and Trinity College in Ireland. He authored more than 30 scientific papers and a textbook, Essentials of Medical Parasitology, and was a contributing editor and member of the editorial board of “The Control of Communicable Diseases in Man.”

Dr. Michael Brooks, a Golden Graduate and otolaryngologist living in Savannah, Georgia, accepted the honor in the name of his father and spoke for the Brooks family. “Our father was very proud of UMMC …,” he said, “And, Dad, we’re proud of you.”

RICHARD deSHAZO, a Medical Center mainstay for two decades, is a teacher, physician, researcher, and editor of the book, “The Racial Divide in American Medicine.”

A Birmingham, Alabama native, deShazo created “Southern Remedy,” the statewide, call-in medical radio program on Mississippi Public Broadcasting, and a series of award-winning health documentaries for MPB.

After medical school at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, and an internship in pediatrics at Children’s Hospital in Birmingham, he completed a residency in internal medicine and fellowships in adult and pediatric clinical immunology and allergy. At the Walter Reed Army Medical Center and Walter Reed Army Institute of Research in Washington, D.C., he trained in rheumatology and geriatrics.

A faculty member of the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences in Bethesda, Maryland, he was an active-duty lieutenant colonel, receiving the U.S. Army Distinguished Service Medal in 1980.

Following stints at Tulane University and the University of South Alabama, deShazo joined UMMC in 1998 as professor of medicine, professor of pediatrics and chair of the Department of Medicine.

A Billy S. Guyton Distinguished Professor, deShazo led the department to recruit over 70 new faculty members. He developed the Community Health Advocate Training program used in underserved Mississippi communities and established the Marston-Smith Symposium on Race and Medicine.

In 2018, deShazo retired from the Medical Center. He and wife, Gloria, returned to Birmingham and continue to work with UMMC and UAB students.

“Thank you for remembering an old soldier,” deShazo said. He recalled a physician who had a profound influence on his career path, telling him, “‘the real heroes of medicine were mostly unrecognized doctors who lived in a sacred space with their patients – one at a time.’”

JOE DONALDSON trained in pediatrics during the era of the legendary Dr. Blair E. Batson, the first chair of the Department of Pediatrics at UMMC.

A lifelong Jacksonian, Donaldson completed his undergraduate work, MD, and internship at Vanderbilt University.

He then did an externship in pathology one summer, pediatrics the next. Donaldson had two years of further education, one in infectious diseases and one in trauma surgery, courtesy of the Marine Corps.

He completed his residency at the University of Virginia and did an additional year at UMMC beginning in 1971 and serving on the faculty for a year before starting a private practice in Jackson. He eventually returned to UMMC as a member of the pediatrics faculty, from 1986 until his retirement 20 years later.

“Looking at the gravitas of the group being inducted, I [believe I] was invited here to balance it out,” said Donaldson, who proudly embraces his professional reputation as “a gadfly.”

As physicians, he said, “we forget sometimes that our only real duty is to our patients.”

SANDOR FELDMAN, the first pediatric infectious diseases physician at UMMC and the first in Mississippi, built a career marked by innovative, life-saving care for the state’s youngest patients.

“Dr. [Anthony] Fauci and I were born the same month and the same year and both of us are from Brooklyn,” said Feldman, referring to the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. “He’s a lot more famous than I am, but I bet a nickel that I practice in a less stressful and more enjoyable environment.”

Feldman graduated from the University of Louisville Medical School in 1967 before completing his pediatric infectious disease NIH fellowship at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. He remained at St. Jude primarily in a role involving the treatment of clinical infections in children with cancer.

In 1987, Dr. Blair Batson recruited him to UMMC as chief of pediatric infectious diseases, whereupon Feldman recruited Dr. Hannah Gay, a 1980 medical school graduate; this resulted in the creation of one of first pediatric AIDS clinics.

Feldman initiated clinical trials for new and innovative vaccines for children, many of which are in use today. During his worldwide travels, he presented updates on pediatric infections and immunizations.

After retiring from UMMC, he became an immunization/epidemiology consultant to the Mississippi State Department of Health and remains a major resource across the state for vaccines/immunizations for children and adolescents.

He is a UMMC professor emeritus, Billy S. Guyton Distinguished Professor, and the 2021 recipient of the American Academy of Pediatricians Section on Infectious Diseases Award for Lifetime Contribution in Infectious Diseases Education. Feldman is also the 2022 Recipient of AAP Section on Senior Members Donald Schiff, MD, FAAP Child Advocacy Award.

WILLIAM A. “GUS” NEELY, a Harvard-educated former World War II fighter pilot, devoted his career as a thoracic surgeon to UMMC, wielding his expertise in trauma and, even as a child of the 1920s, embracing the computer age and its possibilities for the practice of medicine.

Neely, who was brought up in Tunica County, defended the Panama Canal Zone from the cockpit of his P-38, but resigned his commission after the Second World War to attend the two-year medical school at the University of Mississippi in Oxford, completing another two years at Harvard Medical School.

He finished internships and residencies in St. Louis and Memphis, but, in 1955, Mississippi pulled him back in when the UMMC medical school opened in Jackson.

Neely died in November 1985 at age 64. In his memory, the Department of Surgery dedicated, in 2001, the William A. Neely library on the first floor of University Hospital.

Dr. Leigh Neely, an ophthalmologist practicing in the Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, area, and a 1986 School of Medicine graduate, spoke on behalf of her father. “He had an infectious enthusiasm and was a really gifted, and fast, surgeon,” she said. He was a “hard-core adrenaline junkie,” who “was at his best in a crisis,” and a person “you would trust” to save a life.

“Here’s to Gus Neely,” she said, raising a glass in his honor. “He’s long dead, but never forgotten.”

JAMES Q. SONES II, a pioneer in the practice of gastroenterology, helped form what is now the largest gastrointestinal physicians’ group in Mississippi.

Sones, who grew up in Eupora, became a physician, at least in part, he said, because of a “college professor grabbing me by the collar and saying, ‘Son, you’re going to medical school.’”

The 1972 medical school alumnus completed his internal medicine residency at UMMC before being awarded an Upjohn Fellowship in pharmacology research and a gastroenterology fellowship at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical School at Parkland Hospital in Dallas.

Afterward, he returned to Jackson to develop GI Associates, PA, a leader in drug research, new GI procedural development and innovative practice design. Sones participated in over 90 clinical trials while in private practice. He performed the first fecal transplant in Mississippi and did much of the early work in this area concerning the therapeutic use of fecal transplantation.

Sones returned to UMMC as chief of the Division of Digestive Diseases for five years, receiving the Gastroenterology Teaching Award in 2016. During this period, he was part of a sweeping, three-week lecture tour of medical schools in China.

A UMMC professor emeritus, Sones wound up his career working part-time as director of Adult Physician Relations, touring the state and touting UMMC as a valuable resource for physicians, clinics and hospitals.

“I want to thank you for this very unexpected honor,” he said, “and I hope I can live up to it.”