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Wake Forest Medical Alumni Association Honors Five Physicians

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. – June 5, 2017 – The Medical Alumni Association (MAA) of Wake Forest School of Medicine has presented its annual awards. Honored during Wake Forest School of Medicine’s 2017 M.D. Alumni Weekend activities on May 5 were:

  • Steven M. Block, MBBCh, FAAP, of Clemmons, N.C., Distinguished Service Award;
  • William R. Cowan, M.D. ’57, of Weaverville, N.C., and Louis Weinstein, M.D. ’72, of Charleston, S.C., Distinguished Achievement Award; and
  • Gary Poehling, M.D., and John W. Reed, M.D. ’62, both of Winston-Salem, Distinguished Faculty Award.

Block, a native of Johannesburg, South Africa, joined the School of Medicine faculty in 1983 and remained active at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center until he retired in 2016, when he was named professor emeritus.

He has maintained a career-long interest in patient- and family-centered care, particularly involving extremely ill newborns and their parents, while teaching a generation of medical students, pediatric residents and neonatology fellows.

Block served as medical director of the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at Brenner Children’s Hospital, part of Wake Forest Baptist, from 1991 to 2007. Under his leadership, the NICU expanded from 24 beds to 42 in a new, state-of-the-art facility, and he started the neonatology fellowship training program for clinicians, educators and researchers.

He was appointed associate dean in 2004 and senior associate dean in 2007. He worked with faculty affairs and career development, medical education, student affairs and wellness, and diversity and inclusion. He also advocated for the adoption of modern approaches to quality and safety and the use of the electronic medical record.

Block received his medical degree from the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, and after immigrating to the United States, completed training in pediatrics and neonatology at the University of Colorado, Denver.

Cowan, a native of Asheville, N.C., earned bachelor's and medical degrees from Wake Forest in 1954 and 1957, respectively. He began his U.S. Air Force career with an internship at San Francisco General Hospital followed by a sponsored residence in pathology at Wake Forest Baptist in 1958-62. He continued his prestigious career with assignments as chief of pathology at Carswell Air Force Base (AFB) in Texas and Scott AFB in Illinois. While at Carswell, he attended the Air Force course in flight medicine and was designated as a flight surgeon.

In 1968-73 he was assigned as chief of pathology at the Air Force Hospital in Wiesbaden, Germany. He then returned to join the staff the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology in Washington, D.C., where he served as deputy director from 1973-80 and director 1980-84, when he retired with the rank of colonel. The institute serves as consultant, final review authority and centralized storage facility for pathology specimens for military, Veterans Administration and U.S. public service throughout the world. Each year, it receives tens of thousands of difficult and uncommon civilian cases for consultation, study and preparation of educational material for conferences and publications.

In 1977, Cowan led the team that identified American victims among the 583 people killed in the Canary Islands aircraft disaster, which remains the deadliest accident in aviation history. He also served as team chief in the identification of the Jonestown, Guyana, mass suicide in 1978 and in a 1980 plane crash in Warsaw, Poland, which claimed 87 lives including 22 members of the U.S. Olympic Boxing team.

Cowan was awarded Meritorious Service Medals from the Department of Defense and the Air Force, Commendation Medals from the Joint Services and the Air Force, and the Humanitarian Service Medal with Oak Leaf Cluster. Upon his retirement from the institute, he received the Department of Defense’s Medal for Superior Service.

Following military retirement, Cowan joined Joseph Black, M.D., a 1959 graduate of Wake Forest School of Medicine, as a partner in the pathology department at Hilton Head, S.C., Hospital from 1986 until 1993. He later retired from practice and settled in Weaverville, N.C.

Weinstein, a native of Cambridge, Mass., specialized in obstetrics and gynecology. In 1982, while serving on the faculty at the University of Arizona, he became the first physician to recognize and name HELLP (hemolysis, elevated liver enzymes and low platelets) syndrome, a severe form of preeclampsia that has substantial morbidity and mortality for pregnant women.

In 2010, his original publication on HELLP syndrome was recognized by the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology as the 12th most frequently cited publication in Ob-Gyn during the previous 50 years.

At Arizona, he served as director of separate divisions overseeing maternal fetal medicine and research. He later served as professor and chair of Ob-Gyn at the University of Toledo College of Medicine in Ohio, and as the Bowers Professor and chair of Ob-Gyn at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia.

He also was the first in the U.S. to write about and initiate the laborist movement, the most rapidly growing specialty within Ob-Gyn. He has remained active nationally, serving on various committees and task forces for the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists for 35 consecutive years. As a member of the Governing Council of the Senior Physicians Section of the American Medical Association, he advocates for greater involvement of the senior physician in the teaching and mentoring of medical students, residents and junior faculty.

In 2011, Weinstein moved to Charleston, S.C., where he became director of women’s services for the Barrier Island Free Medical Clinic, which serves the region’s uninsured patients. He also serves as a volunteer with numerous community activities including the school board, historic Charleston foundation and the city tourism commission, among others.

Weinstein, a veteran of the U.S. Navy, received a bachelor’s degree from Bates College in Lewiston, Maine, and following medical school at Wake Forest, he completed his Ob-Gyn residency at the University of Colorado and a fellowship in maternal fetal medicine at the University of Arizona.

Poehling, a native of LaCrosse, Wis., joined the Wake Forest School of Medicine faculty in 1976, became the first arthroscopist in North Carolina, and served as professor and chairman of orthopaedic surgery at Wake Forest Baptist from 1989 to 2007.

His clinical interests focused on developing new techniques in arthroscopy and minimally invasive orthopaedic surgery. While serving in the U.S. Air Force and stationed in Japan, he trained under one of the world’s first arthroscopists and developed his interest in the specialty.

After experimenting with minimally invasive wrist arthroscopy, Poehling helped organize the first conference to discuss the procedure in 1986. The national leaders in surgery who attended the conference in Winston-Salem helped put the new procedure he had developed into widespread practice.

Poehling’s other pioneering work included conducting robotic surgery for knee replacement, creating a new approach for elbow arthroscopy that uses the prone position and a proximal medial portal to improve visualization and safety, and developing new surgical instruments.

He is a former president and an active honorary member of the International Society for Arthroscopy and Knee Orthopedic Surgery. He was appointed editor in chief of The Journal of Arthroscopic and Related Surgery by the Arthroscopy Association of North America, serving in that capacity from 1992 to 2014, and he was editor of Arthroscopy: The Journal of Arthroscopic and Related Surgery for 24 years.

Poehling earned a bachelor’s degree from Marquette University before completing his medical degree at Marquette’s School of Medicine (now the Medical College of Wisconsin). He completed an internship and three surgical residencies at Duke University Medical Center, where he was chief resident.

Reed, a native of North, S.C., focused his work on the clinical aspects of corneal and cataract surgery and on teaching ophthalmology residents. He performed up to 150 corneal transplants a year, and during his career, he restored and improved the vision of thousands of patients around the world ranging in age from young children to senior adults.

Reed played on the men’s basketball team and earned bachelor’s and medical degrees from Wake Forest in 1958 and 1962, respectively. He completed a residency in ophthalmology at Harvard Medical School and a National Institutes of Health fellowship at the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary in Boston. He also completed a medical and surgical internship at San Francisco General Hospital and served as a medical officer in the U.S. Air Force.

Following medical training, he joined the faculty of Duke University Medical Center in 1969, and in 1978, he became a member of the Wake Forest School of Medicine faculty. He began work with the North Carolina Eye and Human Tissue Bank in the 1970s, and later served as the Eye Bank’s medical director for more than a decade.

Reed traveled internationally to teach and to perform corneal transplants. He made his first overseas trip as a fourth-year medical student, spending three months working in a mission hospital in Nigeria. Following his residency in Boston, he spent a year as director of the eye bank at St. John Ophthalmic Hospital in Jerusalem, where he performed 50 corneal transplants.

He later held visiting professorships, lectured and performed corneal transplants in Afghanistan, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Haiti, Israel, Jordan and Kenya.

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Last Updated: 06-05-2017
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