Joseph O’Donnell, MD, has been appointed to the Elizabeth DeCamp McInerny Professorship at the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth. O’Donnell, a professor of medicine and of psychiatry and the senior advising dean at Geisel, succeeds C. Everett Koop, MD, who held the chair until his death in 2013.
“It’s an unbelievable honor, especially since the previous recipient of the chair was Dr. Koop,” says O’Donnell, who was close friends with Koop, the renowned pediatric surgeon and former U.S. Surgeon General. “To follow in his footsteps is just incredible.”
“I’m very pleased to see Joe O’Donnell receive this honor," says Chip Souba, MD, ScD, MBA, dean of the Geisel School of Medicine. "For many years, he’s been a tireless advocate for our students, opening up new opportunities for them to pursue their passion in medicine. Joe is always looking for ways to improve medical education and advance compassionate care. In fact, our alumni, students, faculty and staff often say that Joe represents the heart and soul of our medical school.”
The Elizabeth DeCamp McInerny Professorship was established in 1983 with gifts from the Ira W. DeCamp Foundation and an anonymous donor, and it supports the work of a physician in promoting ethics scholarship at Geisel. The Ira W. DeCamp Foundation was created by the estate of Elizabeth DeCamp McInerny in memory of her first husband.
O’Donnell has long worked to promote the teaching of ethics to medical students at Geisel. As the McInerny Professor, he plans to further his work to improve the experience of medical students and help ensure that compassion is central to medical training. Having found medicine to be a rewarding field, O’Donnell hopes that future generations of physicians will have similar experiences.
Find more stories about O'Donnell's efforts to teach compassionate care to medical students and about his work with patients at the White River Junction VA Medical Center at 32Hours.Dartmouth.edu
“How is it that I can use this professorship in the final parts of my career here to improve health, health care, and the experience of students as they go through medical school and enter the profession?” he asks. “Those are things that I think are really important. The honor of this chair not only validates my work in a way, but also gives even more impetus to look at what gives meaning and purpose to a life in medicine.”
O’Donnell has been part of the Dartmouth community for many years. He attended medical school at Dartmouth, earning his BMS in 1971 (when Dartmouth had a two-year medical program) before completing his medical education at Harvard. He returned to Dartmouth for his residency, and he joined the faculty in 1978.
“It has been an honor for me to go to medical school here, to be a house officer here, and to go from being a young faculty member to reaching the final phase of my career here,” he says. “It has been an amazing place for me to thrive and grow.”