Medical Alumni Society honors five distinguished graduates

Five University of Minnesota Medical School alumni were honored for their contributions to the medical profession at the Medical School Alumni Awards Banquet on Thursday, September 17, at the McNamara Alumni Center on the University of Minnesota’s East Bank campus.

The University of Minnesota Medical Alumni Society (MAS) recognized these graduates with the following awards:

Harold S. Diehl Award

The Harold S. Diehl Award is granted to individuals who have made outstanding contributions to the University of Minnesota Medical School, the University as a whole, and the community. It was established in honor of the Medical School’s fifth dean, Harold Sheely Diehl, M.D.

Michael Belzer, M.D.

Belzer’s passion for educating the next generation of physicians intersects with his dedication to caring for patients throughout his many roles. A 1974 graduate of the Medical School, Belzer joined Hennepin County Medical Center (HCMC) in 1980 as a hematologist/oncologist. Within 10 years, he was named chief medical officer of this teaching hospital dedicated to caring for the underserved and has used this role to be an advocate for medical education and care. Belzer was named associate dean of the Medical School in 2002, becoming the first off-campus member of the dean’s office and fostering a vital alliance between HCMC and the Medical School that continues today.

Distinguished Alumni Award

The Distinguished Alumni Award recognizes University of Minnesota Medical School alumni who have made outstanding contributions to their communities — at the local, regional, or national level — through medical practice, teaching, research, or other humanitarian activities.

Paul Matson, M.D.

Matson, an orthopaedic surgeon who graduated from the Medical School in 1981, has dedicated his career to enhancing the quality of medical care. Since an early-career experience as a medical missionary in Cameroon, Matson has made several trips to Bethany Crippled Children’s Center and Kijabe Medical Center in Kenya, treating patients and educating local health care workers. In addition to seeing patients at the Orthopaedic and Fracture Clinic in Mankato, Minnesota, and serving as a clinical associate professor at the Medical School, Matson has a long history of leadership with the Minnesota Medical Association, advocating for improvements in care quality and professionalism in medicine.

William Petersen, M.D.

Petersen is known as a compassionate caregiver, health care leader, and dedicated educator. A 1945 graduate of the Medical School, Petersen practiced internal medicine for 32 years. As he approached retirement from private practice, he directed his skills toward hospital management, becoming vice president of medical affairs for Abbott Northwestern Hospital, where he contributed a new vision of patient care and physician collaboration. He also cofounded the Center for Health and Medical Affairs at the University of St. Thomas, where physicians learn management skills to lead private practices and health care delivery systems as well as improve health outcomes and patient care.

Robert Van Tassel, M.D.

Van Tassel, a member of the Medical School Class of 1964, is regarded as a leader and medical visionary. A practicing cardiologist until 2010, Van Tassel is credited with performing the first coronary angioplasty in Minnesota. He cofounded the Minneapolis Heart Institute and its corresponding foundation, a union that allowed for high-level cardiac care to be accompanied by innovative clinical research. He also served as a clinical associate professor of medicine at the U of M for more than 30 years. An inventor and entrepreneur, Van Tassel founded three medical device companies and holds 30 medical device–related patents.

Early Distinguished Career Alumni Award

The Early Distinguished Career Alumni Award is given to a physician for exceptional accomplishments within 15 years of graduating from or completing his or her residency at the University of Minnesota Medical School.

Brian Sick, M.D.

Since completing a dual residency in internal medicine and pediatrics at the University in 2004, Sick has emerged as a leader in the field of interprofessional education and patient care. Since 2007, Sick has served as medical director of the Phillips Neighborhood Clinic, a free, student-run clinic where U students of medicine, dentistry, nursing, pharmacy, physical therapy, public health, and social work collaborate to provide care to more than 1,100 underserved patients per year. An assistant professor at the Medical School, Sick is also responsible for the Academic Health Center’s interprofessional education curriculum.  

Published on October 19, 2015