Honorary degree recipients shine as pioneers in academic health sciences

By Kristen O’Reilly

UMass Medical School Communications

May 29, 2013

During Commencement on Sunday, June 2, UMass Worcester will award honorary degrees to two pioneering academic health scientists: James Dalen, MD, MPH, a founding UMass Worcester faculty member and champion of integrated medicine as an academic field; and former MIT president Susan Hockfield, PhD, the first life-scientist to lead the prestigious institution. Both honorary degree recipients will speak briefly during the ceremony.

James Dalen: founding faculty member


Cardiologist James Eugene Dalen, MD, MPH, is known to long-time UMass Worcester community members as a founding faculty member, joining the Medical School in 1975 as the first chairman of the Department of Cardiovascular Medicine. He later became chair of the Department of Medicine and eventually interim chancellor. He not only influenced how the institution grew and flourished during his 12 years in Worcester, his impact has been felt throughout the academic health care community because of his championing of integrated medicine as an academic field.

Dr. Dalen encouraged integrated medicine visionaries throughout his career. While at UMass Medical School, Dalen challenged Jon Kabat-Zinn, PhD, professor emeritus of medicine, to conduct scientific research on the effect of mindfulness on stress reduction, which eventually led to the creation by Dr. Kabat-Zinn of the Stress Reduction Clinic at UMass Medical School and then the Center for Mindfulness, a internationally renowned center for mind-body medicine, practice and research.

After he left UMMS to become dean of medicine at the University of Arizona, Dalen met Andrew Weil, MD, another visionary with a passion for healing-oriented medicine that addresses mind, body and spirit. Under Dalen’s leadership, the University of Arizona founded the Center for Integrative Medicine, which now has extensive educational and clinical programs, an online fellowship and research in integrative medicine. Currently dean emeritus and professor emeritus of the University of Arizona College of Medicine, he serves as executive director the Weil Foundation, an non-profit organization founded by Dr. Weil to support education in integrative medicine

What is integrative medicine?

According to the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine at the National Institutes of Health, integrative medicine “combines mainstream medical therapies and CAM [complementary and alternative medicine] therapies for which there is some high-quality scientific evidence of safety and effectiveness.”

From the Weil Foundation website:

Integrative medicine emphasizes the innate healing capacities of the organism; views patients as mental-emotional beings, spiritual entities, and community members as well as physical bodies; addresses all aspects of lifestyle in evaluating health and illness; places great importance on the role of the practitioner-patient relationship in the healing process; and makes use of all appropriate therapies.

“Dr. Dalen was the first medical school dean in the country to promote the values of integrative medicine in academia, and many of the inroads we have made over the past decade can be directly attributed to his passion and hard work,” said Weil. “The reform of medical education has long been the foundation’s top priority, and Dr. Dalen’s leadership, experience and credentials in academic medicine strengthens our efforts to change the way physicians are taught.”

A graduate of Washington State University and the University of Michigan, where he received a master’s degree in psychology, Dalen received his MD at the University of Washington. From 1967 to 1975, he was an associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and a cardiologist at Peter Bent Brigham Hospital (now Brigham and Women’s Hospital). During that time, Dalen made seminal strides in the diagnosis and understanding of pulmonary thromboembolism, pulmonary hypertension and rheumatic valvular disease.

Susan Hockfield, PhD: a neuroscientist at heart


Susan Hockfield, PhD, is a respected neuroscientist who became the first life scientist to lead MIT, an institution better known for its advances in engineering and technology.

A graduate of the University of Rochester who earned her PhD from Georgetown University’s School of Medicine, Dr. Hockfield was a National Institutes of Health Fellow and a scientist at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in New York before joining the faculty of Yale University in 1985. There, she carried out research on the development of the brain and glioma, a deadly form of brain cancer, and pioneered the use of monoclonal antibody technology in brain research. She was named the William Edward Gilbert Professor of Neurobiology and served first as dean of Yale’s Graduate School of Arts and Sciences and then as provost.

Hockfield led the Massachusetts Institute of Technology as its 16th president from 2004 to 2012, and continues to hold a faculty appointment there as professor of neuroscience. She championed breakthroughs emerging from the convergence of the life sciences with engineering and physical sciences, in fields from clean energy to cancer, including the work of MIT’s David H. Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research.

In the first year of her presidency, Hockfield inaugurated the MIT Energy Initiative, a massive research and education program. Long an advocate for the research university as an engine of innovation and economic growth, Hockfield also worked to shape emerging national policy on energy technology and next-generation manufacturing. In June 2011, President Obama asked her to co-chair the steering committee of the Advanced Manufacturing Partnership.

Hockfield is currently the Marie Curie Visiting Professor at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government. An elected member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and an elected fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, she serves as a director of the General Electric Company and Qualcomm Incorporated, a member of the board of trustees of the Carnegie Corporation of New York, and a member of the board of overseers of the Boston Symphony Orchestra. She also serves as a U.S. Science Envoy to Turkey with the U.S. Department of State.