An Amazing Human Being
dressing. It was the usual salad dressing stuff—oil, vinegar, herbs, plus, remarkably, one cup of the master sergeant's urine.
Pfefferkorn pauses while the students groan and titter nervously.
So the CDC investigators questioned the master sergeant about his health, and he reported that about six weeks earlier he had started feeling ill and his urine had turned dark brown. But he'd tasted it, and it had tasted as good as ever . . .
The students laugh again, as Pfefferkorn delivers this line in a sly deadpan.
. . . and so into the salad dressing it continued to go. The master sergeant, as might be expected, later tested positive for Hepatitis A.
Continuing on in a more serious note, Pfefferkorn points out that the usual route for the transmission of Hepatitis A is the fecal- oral pathway. Since there is typically much less virus in urine than in feces, the urine-laced salad dressing was not necessarily the cause of the outbreak on the base.
He may be semi-retired, but Pfefferkorn still has a knack for keeping students enthralled with his lectures on virology and parasitology. That knack has won him 15 teaching awards over the course of his career, including DMS's top teaching award, presented by the graduating class, no less than five times. The Medical School eventually had to establish a rule that students couldn't elect a previous winner until three years had passed, to give other faculty a chance to win.
Still, more than 40 years after he came to Dartmouth, students continue to flock to
Pfefferkorn's stories about parasitology and virology are legendary. "The storytelling is not just to keep the students awake," he insists, but also "to emphasize an important point that I hope they will remember."
his classes in anticipation of great lectures and stories.
"Elmer is the most amazing teacher and human being," says Dr. Joseph O'Donnell, a DMS '71 and longtime member of the faculty. "He leaves an indelible mark on everyone he touches. I can still tell you amazing parasite stories."