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The founding class of the Medical Hall of Fame

Eight years ago, there were 18 inductees in the
first year of the Grand Rapids Medical Hall of Fame. It’s time to look at those medical professionals again.

By Grand Rapids Magazine Staff

As Grand Rapids burgeons as a bastion of life sciences, we must not forget that this dedication to medical quality — from funding to research to patient care to inventing life-saving equipment — is not new to West Michigan. We’re just extending the scope — and garnering more fame.

In 2000, Grand Rapids Magazine, partnering with the Van Andel Institute and the Grand Rapids Medical Education & Research Council for Health Professionals, founded the Grand Rapids Medical Hall of Fame.

With exemplary medical professionals dating back to the 1920s, the first two years of the Hall had many inductees — 18 individuals, couples, businesses or programs in 2000, and 11 more in 2001. Since then there has been just one inductee: John M. MacKeigan, who is no longer practicing as a surgeon but is the chair of the board and chief medical officer for Michigan Medical PC.

This month, Grand Rapids Magazine takes a look back at the medical pioneers in the original class. In addition to these profiles, there were four inductions of “significant donors” — and those individuals, their foundations and heirs continue to fund many of the medical enhancements so evident today. Without them — Richard M. and Helen DeVos, Peter M. Wege, Peter Cook, and the late Jay and Betty Van Andel — there would be no “Medical Mile.” What they have helped create in the past eight years can’t be properly described in a short profile; they need their own story (if not a book). That story shall come at a later date.

Here, then, are descriptions of the medical professionals in the founding class of 2000 of the Grand Rapids Medical Hall of Fame.

Class of 2000

Gwen Hoffman, M.D., retired in January of this year. In the years since her selection to the Medical Hall, she was the president of the American Board of Emergency Medicine and the first woman president of the medical staff at Spectrum, where she also served as chairman of emergency services.

Hoffman was inducted to the Med Hall for her knowledge and experience in the field of emergency medicine, including at least 20 papers on emergency physician practices published in medical journals and publications.

Hoffman also was an associate professor in emergency medicine at Michigan State University and director of the residency program in emergency medicine at Spectrum Health. She received several awards for her teaching of new doctors.

William Passinault, M.D., “technically retired” in 2004 — and immediately began pursuing a master’s degree in medical ethics, which he received from Loyola University Chicago in 2006.

When they initially started, the ingredients available did not satisfy Pete.

Passinault works part-time at Saint Mary’s Wound Care Center and is also chair of the ethics committee at Saint Mary’s. In August, he began teaching medical ethics at Michigan State University’s College of Medicine Grand Rapids location.

uction to the Med Hall included: chief of staff at Saint Mary’s; founder of West Michigan Surgical Specialists in 1968; director of the Blodgett-Saint Mary general surgery residency program; and associate clinical professor of surgery at MSU.

Donald Waterman, M.D., died of pancreatic cancer in 1989 at age 67, but not before the pediatric physician made a lasting impression on the Grand Rapids community.

“He was truly unique. … He was the kind of doctor every parent should have access to,” said nominator Bill Krater at the time. Krater is the principal of the Ken-O-Sha Center, a community health organization founded by Waterman in the late 1960s that now is operated by the Grand Rapids Public Schools.

The original purpose of providing diagnostic testing and treatment programs for pediatric developmental disabilities remains at the center’s core.

Waterman’s patience and devotion working with children was also evident in his 15 years of pediatric practice. In the early 1970s, Waterman established the Grand Rapids’ pediatric department of Michigan State University’s College of Human Science. As the premier genetics counselor in Grand Rapids, Waterman started genetic birth defects centers at Blodgett and Butterworth hospitals.

Keith Weller, M.D., who died in 2002, was inducted for the 11 years he spent providing medical care to the homeless at the Heartside Clinic of Saint Mary’s Health Services.

Even after he retired from the clinic in 1999, he would visit with medication for patients. He also recruited doctors for the clinic.

Weller, an internist who retired from practice at age 70 in 1989, came on board at the clinic within its first year of operation. At the time of his nomination, he was lauded by the former medical director of the Heartside Clinic, Ernest Quiroz, M.D., who said he would do anything for the clinic. Quiroz called Weller “very gentle and kind, very generous.”

John Hodgen, M.D., was a pioneering orthopedic surgeon and the impetus for the annual Hodgen Memorial Lectures.

Hodgen (1884-1954) was trained in orthopedic surgery at Harvard Medical School, and then appointed to the Rockefeller Foundation during the polio epidemic of 1916. He inaugurated the first crippled children’s outpatient clinic in West Michigan in 1920 under the auspices of the Mary Free Bed Guild. Under his guidance as the chief of staff, the Mary Free Bed Convalescent Home began in 1933 and grew to become today’s Mary Free Bed Hospital and Rehabilitation Center.

Hodgen also headed the orthopedic section at Blodgett Hospital.

Douglas Mack, M.D., retired in January 2001 after spending the majority of his career as health officer and chief medical examiner for Kent County.

Mack, who also has a master’s degree in public health, is a nationally recognized expert on health policy and was instrumental in the development of the U.S. Center for Disease Control’s model policy on HIV-infected heath care workers. He was a founding member and first president of the American Association of Public Health Physicians, and continues to serve on the National Commission on Correctional Health Care, and the National Medicolegal Review Panel.

Mack served as chair of the Kent County Initiative to Reduce Infant Mortality and as the first chairperson of the Healthy Kent 2000 community health planning initiative. He also has held various positions for the state of Michigan.

Pearl Kendrick (1890-1980)
Grace Eldering (1900-1988)
Loney Gordon (1915-1999)
Pearl Kendrick and Grace Eldering
developed the first viable vaccine for pertussis (whooping cough) while heading the Grand Rapids branch laboratory of the Michigan Department of Health during the 1920s through the 1940s. Their lab assistant, Lonie Gordon, an African-American female holding a doctorate, was integral to that process.

Field trials conducted in 1934 on local children showed that the vaccine reduced the incidence of pertussis to one in seven compared to those not vaccinated. They were also the first researchers to develop a shot that combined the pertussis vaccine with the diphtheria toxoid vaccine.

Large-scale controlled field trials and regimented laboratory technique practiced by Kendrick and Eldering were considered groundbreaking and shaped the approach to modern clinical trials.

“They set the stage,” said Carolyn Shapiro-Shapin, professor of history at Grand Valley State University and author of an upcoming book on the two physicians.

Both Dr. Kendrick and Dr. Eldering received doctoral degrees from Johns Hopkins University in bacteriology. The work of the three women is recognized internationally as one of the leading preventive measures in reducing infant mortality — then and now.

Robert Tupper, M.D.
, retired in 1999 but this May he became the fourth person to receive Spectrum Health’s Lifetime Achievement Award. In 2002, he was inducted into the Distinguished Physicians Society at Spectrum.

For 27 years Tupper was vice president of graduate medical education at Blodgett Hospital (later Spectrum Health). He also taught at the University of Michigan.

Tupper is known locally, statewide and around the country for instituting physician-training programs that span all areas of medical specialty. He recruited many of the area’s leading medical practitioners to West Michigan.

Tupper also practiced as an internist with a specialty in gastroenterology.

Saint Mary’s Health Care/Pine Rest Christian Mental Health Services

Mentally ill, indigent patients were in dire straits in 1995, when the place they could always turn to — Kent Oaks Hospital — was on the verge of closing. But the then-named St. Mary’s Mercy Medical Center assumed management responsibilities of the in-patient facility, and it was able to continue operations.

A joint operating agreement that includes Pine Rest, Saint Mary’s Health Care and Metro Health was drawn up in 1998. There are now 130 beds on the Pine Rest campus, along with 20 beds at Saint Mary’s Psychiatric Medical Unit.

This collaborative program, which is still going strong, “has saved the community hundreds of thousands of dollars by its action, and ensured that this vulnerable population has access to care,” said Debbie Stiemann in making the nomination.

Virginia Moralez, R.N., retired in August from Clinica Santa Maria, a West Side outreach health center serving the working poor, the homeless and the Hispanic community.

She was a national Hispanic Nurse of the Year award recipient and considered a role model for nurses everywhere.

Moralez “has been its visionary, its chief spokesperson, its fundraiser, and its persistent advocate,” wrote nominator Micki Benz of Saint Mary’s Medical Center at the time. Moralez “has overseen all aspects of Clinica, from choosing a site to recruiting dentists as volunteers, to speaking publicly about the needs of the Hispanic population in Grand Rapids, to overseeing her growing staff, and even making sure that patients who need winter coats get them.”

Morales lives in Georgetown Township with her husband, Roberto.

Diane Forbes
, who still works as a program assistant at the Kent District Library, was inducted into the Med Hall for the volunteer work she did to help establish the Diabetic Support Group at Catherine’s Care Center. The group disbanded in November 2007.

“A lot of members moved away or passed away,” Forbes said. “We had a good run.”

Forbes still volunteers when the American Diabetes Association calls, and remains active with the organization Joining People With Diabetes, a statewide task force established to help provide assistance and support to those who’d like to start their own support groups.

Steven Byers, her co-founder of the local support group, nominated Forbes because of her “concern for the health of others and the hard work and enthusiasm that has helped and benefited so many.”

Forbes maintains her statewide reputation as a tireless volunteer in helping others deal with diabetes.

DLP (Medtronic)
James DeVries
and Ronald Williams, Ph.D., were inducted as co-founders of DLP Inc., now Medtronic DLP. DLP, founded in 1979, has introduced several unique medical products, including those to protect the heart during bypass surgery and a stabilization system allowing surgeons to operate on a beating heart.

Medtronic, the $5 billion international maker of medical devices, purchased the company in 1994. DeVries holds more than 50 U.S. patents in the health care field. Both men worked in product development for more than 30 years.

DeVries, who lives in Ada, is no longer active in the medical business, but he said that since the purchase of DLP Inc. by Medtronic, DLP has grown five times larger. DeVries also said a number of spin-off health care companies have surfaced over the years at the hands of former DLP employees. Williams retired from the health care field in 1997. He lives a few miles away from DeVries.

Both DeVries and Williams, through DLP Inc. and other initiatives, are responsible for helping to rehabilitate several declining neighborhoods throughout Grand Rapids. GR

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