UW News

May 22, 2008

UW Medicine honors outstanding alumni

The UW Medicine Alumni Association will honor four alumni with its annual awards, which will be presented during a reception June 7 at the Bell Harbor International Conference Center in Seattle. The event is part of the UW Medicine All- School Celebration, which begins June 6.

Dr. Gerald Nepom, director of the Benaroya Research Institute at Virginia Mason, will receive the Distinguished Alumni Award. The award recognizes a graduate whose professional achievements and cumulative contributions have brought personal distinction, enhanced the profession, improved the welfare of the general public, and brought honor to the UW medical school.

Nepom, an affiliate professor of immunology, completed both his medical degree and a Ph.D. in biochemistry at the UW in the late 1970s. He has been an affiliate faculty member at the UW since 1982, and director of Seattle’s Benaroya Research Institute, previously known as the Virginia Mason Research Center, since 1985. Nepom is a leader in molecular immunology, autoimmunity, and immunotherapy. His research helped lead to the discovery of the major gene associated with type 1 juvenile diabetes, an autoimmune disorder.

Dr. Ann Kao, pediatric clinician-educator at Massachusetts General Hospital and pediatric coordinator with the Cambodian Health Committee, will receive the Humanitarian Award, which acknowledges alumni who embody the ideals of the School of Medicine and whose careers reflect a commitment to serve others through the practice of medicine.

Kao is working in Cambodia to strengthen medical programs for children with HIV/AIDS. She graduated with honors from the UW School of Medicine in 2000, and completed her residency at Harvard’s combined internal medicine and pediatrics program at Massachusetts General Hospital and Children’s Hospital, Boston. While serving as a Thomas S. Durant Fellow for Refugee Medicine through Massachusetts General, she was the medical director of the Nyabiheke Refugee Camp in Rwanda. Kao was also recognized for her work on medical missions in Indonesia, Vietnam, and Romania, and her work at a clinic for the underserved in Boston.

Dr. Ben Danielson, medical director of Odessa Brown Children’s Clinic in Seattle, will receive the Early Achievement Alumni Award. The award honors alumni who graduated from medical school within the past 20 years and have excelled in a medical career or made significant contributions or remarkable achievements in clinical care, medical science, humanitarianism or administrative activities.

Danielson received his medical degree at the UW in 1992, and completed his residency at Children’s Hospital and Regional Medical Center in Seattle. He is a clinical associate professor of pediatrics, and works with medical and physician-assistant students and medical residents at Odessa Brown, a community health center that serves a culturally diverse, predominately low-income population.

Danielson serves as a preceptor in the UW School of Medicine’s Rural and Underserved Opportunities Program and the Minority Mentoring Program. He has been recognized for his community advocacy, especially on issues facing low-income and minority youth populations.

Dr. John Vassall II, vice president of medical affairs for Swedish Medical Center, will receive the Alumni Service Award, which honors dedication and determined efforts on behalf of the UW School of Medicine and the UW Medicine Alumni Association that have benefited the community.

Vassall received his medical degree at the UW in 1978 and completed his residency and internship in internal medicine at Grady Memorial Hospital and Emory University Affiliated Hospitals in Atlanta. He was chief of staff at Swedish from 2005 to 2007, and has been on staff there since 1983. Vassall is also a clinical associate professor of medicine, and is a past president of the UW Medicine Alumni Association. He is an American Medical Association delegate from the Washington State Medical Association, and is a speaker of the House of Delegates and member of the board of the Washington State Medical Association.

Vassall received the 2006 Internist of the Year award from the Washington Chapter of the American College of Physicians, in recognition of his outstanding clinical skills and leadership.

To learn more about the UW Medicine All-School Celebration, contact Annie Pontrelli, director for UW Medicine alumni relations, at pontrell@u.washington.edu or 206- 543-3569. Information is also available on the UW Medicine Alumni Association Web site at: http://depts.washingtonedu/medalum/AllSchool-Celebration/index.php.