Home » News

Distinguished Alumni Reflect on Careers and Medical Education at Awards Ceremony

From left to right: Thomas Aaberg, MD, Katherine Ratzan Peeler, MD, Alan Gazzaniga, MD, Lucy S. Tompkins, MD, PhD, and Allen Root, MD. Photo by Mark Washburn.

The Geisel School of Medicine held its fifth annual Alumni Awards ceremony on April 12 in a heartwarming celebration of classmates and teachers, families and friends, the past and the future. The five awardees represented a range of class years and career paths, but they shared a deep appreciation for their Dartmouth medical school education.

In his welcoming remarks, Duane Compton, PhD, dean of Geisel, noted the awardees’ significant contributions in the fields of medicine, science, policy, and leadership. “They’re fulfilling the commitments they made as students,” Compton said. “Their accomplishments serve as inspiration . . . they’re mentors to future physicians.” Indeed, all five honorees consider their roles as mentors and teachers central to their careers, thanks in part to the mentorship they’d received from their Dartmouth medical school faculty. Compton acknowledged the recent passing of one such professor, Elmer Pfefferkorn, PhD, who’d been a beloved mentor to many in the room. “He was nothing short of renowned,” Compton said.

Career Achievement Award recipient Thomas Aaberg, MD, D ’58, MED ’59, a leader in the field of ophthalmology, credited his Dartmouth mentors with inspiring his devotion to medical education. “My classmates and I all wanted to teach just as we were taught at Dartmouth,” said Aaberg, who’s received teaching honors from the Medical College of Wisconsin and Emory University School of Medicine. “It’s been a great life for me and it all started here—where I learned to learn and learned to teach.”

Another recipient of a Career Achievement Award, Lucy S. Tompkins, MD, PhD, MED ’73, spoke of how she almost didn’t make it to medical school. “I had a dream to be a physician early on, but as a young woman I was told to think about a career in nursing or teaching.” The medical school at Dartmouth admitted Tompkins when she was 30 years old, and she went on to become an internationally recognized expert in infectious diseases and an instrumental figure in promoting gender equality and diversity among faculty physicians in academia. She recalled, “I felt too old to go to med school, but my dream was finally realized. I owe it all to Dartmouth for giving me that chance.”

Katherine Ratzan Peeler, MD, MED ’10, was this year’s recipient of the Young Alumni Award—a recognition that left her feeling “honored, but more so humbled.” A pediatric intensivist, instructor at Harvard Medical School, and a passionate advocate for human rights, Peeler said, “Dartmouth started everything I love. The reason I do what I do is 100 percent because I went to school here.”

Among those gathered to recognize the award recipients were Dartmouth-Hitchcock and Dartmouth-Hitchcock Health CEO and President Joanne Conroy, MD, D ’77, and Norris Cotton Cancer Center Director Steven Leach, MD, the Preston T. and Virginia R. Kelsey Distinguished Chair in Cancer at the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth. Vincent D. Pellegrini, Jr., MD, D ’77, MED ’79, Geisel Alumni Council president, stated in his closing remarks, “This event ranks right up there with graduation. It reminds us why we do what we do.”

And to the awardees he said, “Thank you for making the world a better place.”

The medical school’s Alumni Council established the alumni awards program five years ago to recognize and honor alumni for service to the school and to celebrate the achievements of graduates who have distinguished themselves in the fields of medicine, science, or other endeavors. See below for a list of this year’s awardees.


Thomas Aaberg, MD, D ’58, MED ’59
Professor and Chair Emeritus, Department of Ophthalmology, Emory University School of Medicine
Dr. Thomas Aaberg made significant contributions to the management of complicated retinal detachment and diabetic retinopathy, and established a vitreoretinal fellowship at the Medical College of Wisconsin that became one of the most highly rated programs in North America.

Alan Gazzaniga, MD, D ’58, MED ’59
Emeritus Professor of Surgery, University of California, Irvine
The first doctor to successfully perform a prolonged cardiopulmonary bypass on an infant with heart failure after a complicated heart repair, Dr. Alan Gazzaniga helped broaden the application of Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation (ECMO) for younger children and infants—a procedure that has become the dominant short-term life support mechanical technology worldwide.

Allen Root, MD, D ’55 MED ’56
Professor of Pediatrics Emeritus, Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital
Adjunct Professor of Pediatrics, Johns Hopkins Medicine

Recognized as an excellent teacher, a prolific researcher, and an outstanding clinician, Dr. Allen Root is a world-renowned pediatric endocrinologist and authority on growth hormone research.

Lucy S. Tompkins, MD, PhD, MED ’73, HS ’73-75
Lucy Becker Professor in Medicine (Infectious Diseases and Geographic Medicine)
Professor of Microbiology and Immunology, Stanford University School of Medicine

Dr. Lucy S. Tompkins is a pioneer in the field of molecular epidemiology and “fingerprinting” of microorganisms using molecular tools, and a leading scientist in the field of bacterial pathogenesis.


Katherine Ratzan Peeler, MD, MED ’10
Pediatric Intensivist, Boston Children’s Hospital
Instructor, Pediatrics, Harvard Medical School

Whether she’s helping patients and their families in the pediatric intensive care unit, serving as a pro bono physician for the national organization Physicians for Human Rights, or mentoring students and residents, Dr. Katie Ratzan Peeler’s work exemplifies the values of advocacy, education, and compassion.