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2015 Alumni of Distinction Recipients

From the neonatal unit and operating room to the classroom, clinic and the community, the six recipients of the 2015 Alumni of Distinction Awards have all made a tremendous impact on the lives of people in Canada and around the world.

Congratulations to Fred Possmayer, PhD’65; Dr. William Wall, MD’70; Dr. Len Chumak, DDS, MClD’85; Dr. George Kim, MD’03’ Dr. Jill Bashutski, DDS’05; and Bessie Borwein, PhD’73.

Fred Possmayer, PhD’65
Excellence in Basic Science Research Award

Fred Possmayer’s passion for research and discovery and his nearly half century of commitment to Western University demonstrates he is the epitome of an individual who has made outstanding contributions to the field of basic sciences research, setting a standard of excellence to which others can aspire.

Possmayer completed his PhD in Biochemistry in 1965. He then pursued advanced research training at University of Cologne, University of Utrecht and the University of California. He made his way back to Western in 1971 when he accepted an appointment with the Departments of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, and Biochemistry.

He is best known for his leadership contributions to the development of bovine lipid extract surfactant (BLES). This live-saving advance has dramatically enhanced the survival of countless premature babies that experience Respiratory Distress Syndrome. His BLES was delivered to 99 per cent of neonatal units in Canada and to many other countries including New Zealand and India.

Throughout his career, he published more than 280 publications and presented more than 100 invited lectures. His publications have been cited more than 8,000 times, and he has an H index of nearly 50. To this day, his publications continue to be cited at a rate of nearly one per day.

Dr. William Wall, MD’70
Professional Achievement Award - Medicine

Dr. William Wall is known as “Mr. Liver Transplantation” in Canada. An award-winning medical student, he pursued training in what was then the new area of surgical treatment of liver disease by transplantation. After completing his medical degree, he pursued his training at Cambridge, and when he returned to London he developed a referral practice in hepatobiliary surgery for Southwestern and Northern Ontario. He is credited with conducting the first liver transplant in Canada in the late 1970s.

In addition to his surgical innovations and achievements, Dr. Wall has taught and mentored many surgeons, who now occupy senior positions in every academic centre in Canada and many abroad. He regards each student as an unpolished gem capable of high potential and deserving of his full investment in teaching.

His commitment to patient care is described as outstanding. Despite long days, as a surgeon, he has never been “too busy” to spend time with his patients, nor their families, during catastrophic illness and during recovery. By projecting these positive attributes to trainees, he has been a strong and powerful role model.

He has been a champion for encouraging public awareness about organ donation in Canada. In collaboration with the Trillium Gift of Life Network and The Kidney Foundation of Canada, he is recognized for leading the creation of the award-winning educational campaign “One Life… Many Gifts,” which is now part of the Ontario high school curriculum. It is for this work that he received the Order of Canada. 

Dr. Wall has also contributed to the scientific community and has more than 150 peer-reviewed publications

Dr. Len Chumak, DDS, MClD’85
Alumni of Distinction Award - Dentistry

Dr. Chumak completed his Master of Clinical Dentistry in Orthodontics at Western in 1985. Immediately following graduation, he was appointed Assistant Professor, and has been a major contributor to the education mission at Schulich Dentistry since that time. For the past 15 years, he has offered lectures to current dentistry residents. His students attest to his insightful seminars, which help to prepare them for their board exams and future clinical practice.

Dr. Chumak is known for his genuine concern for the success of his students, and his kind nature and gentle sense of humour, which accompany his lectures.

Beloved by students and colleagues alike, more than 25 people supported Dr. Chumak’s nomination for the award.

Dr. George Kim, MD’03
Young Alumni Award

Dr. Kim’s youthful enthusiasm, informal teaching style, passionate energy and dedication are just some of the qualities that have enabled him to earn tremendous admiration and respect from his colleagues, peers and students. He is described as being “always available,” a trusted colleague, who takes time to listen and care. His hallmark as an educator has always been his ability to model the School’s values in all aspects of its four Pillars of Professionalism: Altruism, Integrity, Responsibility and Respect for students and faculty.

Dr. Kim completed his medical degree in 2003, and his residency in Family Medicine in 2005. In 2006, he became an adjunct faculty member with the Department of Family Medicine. In 2008, he became the coordinator for the undergraduate education program in Family Medicine. In 2012, he was appointed to a full-time position as Assistant Professor and in 2015, Dr. Kim was appointed Assistant Dean, Rural Regional & Community Engagement. Through this role he leads the School’s extensive Distributed Education Network.

Although early in his career, Dr. Kim has served as a mentor and role model for many and established a record of distinguished performance.

Dr. Jill Bashutski, DDS’05
Young Alumni Award - Dentistry

Dr. Jill Bashutski graduated with a Doctor of Dentistry degree in 2005. A top-ranked, award-winning student throughout her undergraduate studies, she spent several summer terms as a research student working with Ed Lui, PhD, Dr. Jeff Dixon and Stephen Sims, PhD. Her former teachers and research advisors describe her as hardworking, collaborative and a person with great integrity and humility.

Following her studies at Western University, Dr. Bashutski completed her Certificate in Periodontics and her Master of Science in Periodontics from the University of Michigan School of Dentistry. Since graduation, she has established herself as a leading researcher and educator.

Today, Dr. Bashutski is a Clinical Assistant Professor and the Acting Director of Graduate Periodontics, and Director of Undergraduate Periodontics at the University of Michigan.

Dr. Bashutski serves as a senior editorial review board member for Implant Dentistry and the Journal of Oral and Maxillofacial Research. She has published extensively, including a first-authored paper in the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine. She has authored more than 25 articles and five book chapters on periodontics and implant dentistry. Dr. Bashutski also works in private practice in Regina, Saskatchewan and Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Bessie Borwein, PhD’73
Community Service Award

Bessie Borwein is described as a tireless champion for biomedical researchers, for the community and for health care issues. Her sensitivity to social injustices stimulated her to channel her energies into solutions to many challenges in the lab and the community.

Borwein completed her PhD in 1973, and following her postdoctoral training, became an instructor and lecturer at Western University. By 1984, she was an associate professor, and 1987 she became the Associate Dean of Research for the then Faculty of Medicine at Western University.

In this role, she initiated work to protect basic researchers from the attacks of animal welfare activists and spearheaded the formation of Partners in Research (PIR). It was the goal of PIR to provide a ongoing information to the public on the importance of medical research and the essential role of well-regulated and humane use of animals in many new discoveries. PIR is now a national organization continuing its outreach to secondary school students.

As the president of the London Branch of the National Council of Jewish Women, Borwein is credited for organizing the Block Parent Program, now in existence across Canada.

Borwein’s commitment to the community enriched the lives of men, women and children through her work on the board of the Madame Vanier Children’s Services, Alzheimer’s Society of London, the Ontario Breast Screening Program Research Advisory Committee, the Foundation for Gene and Cell Therapy, and as a member of the Board of Trustees of the National Institute for Nutrition, and Chair of the Scientific Advisory Committee for the Youth Science Foundation.

Recognized nationally for her many contributions, Borwein is described as a spirited communicator with flair and eloquence.