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UConn Celebrates Outstanding Medical and Dental Faculty

by Kristin Dumont | 4 minute read

As part of their reunion on September 29, Medical and Dental School alumni honored four faculty members who built exceptional careers in teaching, research, and health care leadership.

One of the highlights of the 2018 School of Medicine and School of Dental Medicine Reunion was the Distinguished Faculty Awards Reception, where UConn recognized four faculty members who have had an indelible impact on medical and dental education at the University.

The Medical and Dental Alumni Boards presented awards to Dr. Marja Hurley, Dr. Martha Lepow, Dr. Alan Lurie, and Dr. Richard Topazian.

Dr. Marja Hurley

Dr. Martha Lepow

Dr. Alan Lurie

Dr. Richard Topazian

Dr. Hurley is a renowned physician-scientist, whose contributions to orthopedics and the medical profession include seminal research related to bone density, excellence in teaching, and leadership in fostering the career development of students in biomedical science at every level.

She serves as a professor of medicine and orthopedics, a member of the Institute of Systems Genomics, and director of the Health Career Opportunity Program at the School of Medicine. She is also the first woman of color to earn a Doctor of Medicine degree from the School and the first to be a tenured full professor here.

Although she could not be at the reception, she videotaped a message about her deep connection to UConn: “I am pleased to have witnessed the trajectory of the medical school over these many years, in terms of the increased number of students and the basic science and clinical advancements that we’ve made.”

She also indicated that she considers fellow honoree, Dr. Martha Lepow, to be a mentor. At the age of 91, Dr. Lepow is considered a pioneer in pediatric infectious diseases. During her residency in Cleveland, Ohio in the early 1950s, Dr. Lepow worked under Nobel laureate Dr. Frederick Robbins, administering clinical trials that brought a polio vaccine to the public. Dr. Lepow and her late husband, Dr. Irwin H. Lepow, later became founding faculty members at the UConn’s School of Medicine, where she started the department of pediatrics and he was the chair of pathology.

“We really bonded with the first classes,” says Dr. Lepow. “They were new, and we were new. That’s why coming back for this reunion was such a great experience. I was able to renew the associations and friendships with those students and talk about our lives. That was my favorite part of the weekend.”

At UConn, Dr. Lepow conducted multiple studies on lead poisoning with medical students, culminating in testifying before a congressional committee for the Clean Air Act. She was also part of a team that worked to implement trials of meningococcal vaccine in infants and children. Today, she is professor emerita at Albany Medical College, where she has taught and conducted clinical research for 40 years.

From the beginning, the School of Medicine and the School of Dental Medicine featured a unique integration of the two fields. This philosophy is what brought Dr. Alan Lurie, a specialist in maxillofacial radiology and diagnostic sciences, to UConn from Southern California. He has now been a part of the UConn community for 45 years.

“It was one of the few places in the country that was doing this work,” he says. “Now, I’ve taught almost every student that has gone through the dental school. But I was still unprepared to get this award. It’s extremely meaningful because it’s given by your colleagues and peers. That is the ultimate form of recognition.”

During his career, Dr. Lurie has led humanitarian and training trips to South America, where students provided dental services to people in remote and resource-challenged areas. His service to UConn has included leadership of the oral and maxillofacial radiology residency program and the DMD/Ph.D. program.

The final honoree was Dr. Richard Topazian, who began his academic career at the University of Kentucky and the Medical College of Georgia before becoming the chair of oral and maxillofacial surgery at UConn. He is now Professor Emeritus at the UConn School of Dental Medicine.

His career has been marked by a dedication to teaching and service, both on the Farmington campus and overseas.  Like Dr. Lurie, Dr. Topazian has accompanied dental students on humanitarian trips and spent a portion of his career instructing dental practitioners in places like India, Ecuador, Trinidad, and the Dominican Republic. In particular, his overseas work has focused on cleft palate correction surgery.

UConn is fortunate to have benefitted from the contributions of these dedicated faculty members. The legacy they have built reverberates throughout the community through the work of our medical and dental graduates.

We have much to celebrate at UConn Health, and much to be grateful for, thanks to the enduring bonds between the school and you—our alumni. We hope you’ll consider donating to one of the funds we presented at the event.

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