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New clinical chair is endowed in honor of surgeon Steve Plume

Only after cardiovascular surgeon Stephen Plume, M.D., had escorted Louise Avery to the lectern at his retirement party in September did he learn that she and her son, Allen, had endowed the Louise R. and Borden E. Avery Endowed Clinical Chair in his honor. While DMS has several dozen endowed chairs, and Mary Hitchcock Hospital got its first a few years ago, this was the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Clinic's first endowed chair.

"The gift is intended to help us understand and improve the way cardiac surgery is done and to improve the benefit that it achieves for people," explains Plume, former president of the Clinic. "Both [are] longstanding interests of the Averys'."

Steve Plume (left) was surprised and pleased to have a new clinical chair endowed in his honor by Louise Avery (center), her late husband, and their son, Allen (right).
Photo: Jon Gilbert Fox

Clinical faculty members of a medical school have always been hard-pressed to generate support for their nonclinical activities— teaching medical students and residents and doing research to advance the frontiers of care. Such activities are crucial to the future of medicine, but it can be difficult for busy clinicians to carve out time for teaching or writing grants—as well as for the institution to swallow the associated drop in clinical income. The funding from an endowed clinical chair takes some of that pressure off practitioners and, in turn, relieves a source of upward pressure on clinical fees.

William Nugent, M.D., the chief of cardiothoracic surgery at DHMC, will be the first person to hold the Avery-Plume chair. "What was beautiful about this opportunity," he says, "is that in addition to recognizing the generosity of the Avery family, they were kind enough to direct it in a way that honors Steve Plume, who has contributed significantly to this organization in a permanent way." Nugent envisions using the extra funding to sustain DHMC's visibility in health-care improvement, perhaps through an annual symposium on quality improvement.

Also, according to Nugent, "all the sections in the Clinic have pieces that are missing that could be reinforced if monies were available to make them whole." He cites as an example the need for lab facilities at the disposal of cardiothoracic surgery. And, he adds, it's becoming increasingly difficult to fill those voids with clinical dollars.

Deserving: Having a chair will also improve the Clinic's ability to recruit and retain top faculty, since it is considered a great honor to hold such a post. According to Plume, Nugent is highly deserving of being the first incumbent in this chair. "He has provided great leadership to the cardiothoracic section for a decade or more. I can't think of a better person."

The funding of this chair is but the latest of many contributions to DHMC by Louise Avery, her late husband, and their son. Plume—who did two heartvalve replacements for Borden Avery—often used to chat with him in the corridors of DHMC, where Avery volunteered for years as a patient escort. Avery did so because he hoped to give other patients courage, explains Louise Avery. "Because he'd been through so much, he could visualize what was going through their heads. He liked to feel as though he was helping."

An article in the Valley News in September described Borden Avery as "one of the most successful hotel-owners in northern New England." Plume recalls him as "an unpretentious individual with a great sense of humor, always with a twinkle in his eye." Even toward the end of his life, says Plume, Borden Avery was focused as much on others as on his own problems. With the endowment of this clinical chair, his legacy of concern for others will live on.

Katharine Fisher Britton

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