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Vital Signs

Trustees establish a department and two chairs

By Laura Stephenson Carter

Drs. Gregory Holmes, a neurologist; Elmer Pfefferkorn, a microbiologist; and Paul Batalden, a pioneer in the field of health-care improvement, all had reason to celebrate after the November 2008 meeting of the Dartmouth College Board of Trustees. The Board-in addition to discussing the fiscal challenges facing Dartmouth as a result of the nation's crumbling economy-voted to confer department status on DMS's Section of Neurology and to establish named professorships honoring Pfefferkorn and Batalden.

Range: Dartmouth's neurology program was founded in 1939, with one neurologist, as a section within the Department of Medicine. Its programs have since grown to encompass treatment for, as well as research and teaching in, the full range of neurological disorders. Neurology today has 17 faculty members, 11 residents and fellows, five nurse practitioners, and seven postdoctoral researchers.

The department has plans to expand its outreach services in Manchester, N.H., and elsewhere and is also increasing its research collaborations with other institutions, including the Montreal Neurological Institute and the University College of London.

"As the patient population gets older, neurological disorders are becoming more and more important," explains Holmes. He has been chief of the neurology section since coming to Dartmouth in 2002 from Harvard's Children's Hospital Boston, and he has been named chair of the new department. Holmes notes that neurology has department status at all but two of the nation's academic medical centers.

The Trustees also approved two new endowed professorships at the Medical School-the Elmer R. Pfefferkorn, Ph.D., Professorship in Microbiology and Immunology and the Chair for Health Care Improvement Leadership, which will bear Paul Batalden's name upon his retirement.

"I'm honored to see established a chair in my name and deeply grateful to all who contributed to its endowment," says Pfefferkorn. He is a popular teacher of parasitology and virology and is also internationally recognized for his research on Toxoplasma gondii, a parasite that behaves like a virus.

Microbiology and Immunology from 1980 to 1992, and has continued to teach even since attaining emeritus status in 1997. (For more about Pfeffer-korn's career, see "An Amazing Human Being" in the Spring 2008 Dartmouth Medicine, at dartmed.dartmouth.edu/sp08/f01.

"I am sure that having this chair will further strengthen an already well-funded and productive department," Pfefferkorn observes.

The second new chair, which will be based within the Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice (TDI), was established to recognize Batalden's pioneering work as a leader in health-care improvement strategies. Although he plans to retire this summer, Batalden will continue to teach at DMS. He will also remain active with TDI's Leadership Preventive Medicine Residency program, which provides training in outcomes measurement and in the leadership of change and improvement in health-care systems. A search is now under way for someone to hold the endowed chair as well as be the director of TDI's Center for Leadership and Improvement. (For more about Batalden's work, see "What System?" in the Summer 2006 issue, at dartmed.dartmouth.edu/su06/f01)

"I'm sure the next turn of the work will build on what I've done," says Batalden. "I look for it to go much further."

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