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In Memoriam: Former School of Medicine Dean John M. Dennis, M.D.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

John M. Dennis, M.D.
 John M. Dennis, M.D.

John M. Dennis, M.D., ’45, former dean of the University of Maryland School of Medicine (1974-1990), passed away on January 17 at the age of 90. Dr. Dennis had devoted nearly 50 years of service to the University of Maryland upon his retirement, and 17 years as dean of the School of Medicine. His extraordinary work is an inspiration and the School of Medicine is indebted to him for his fine leadership and his dedication to this campus.

Dr. Dennis was born in 1923 in Wicomico County on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. In 1943, Dr. Dennis earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of Maryland, College Park. He earned his M.D. from the University of Maryland School of Medicine in 1945, completing course work in three years. The curriculum was condensed into three 12-month sessions to meet the increased demand for physicians during wartime. After an internship at the University of Maryland, Dr. Dennis entered the U.S. Army School of Roentgenology, and for two years he served as chief of radiology at Station Hospital in Langley Air Force Base, Virginia.

He returned to the University of Maryland for a two-year residency before pursuing fellowship training at the University of Pennsylvania from 1950 to 1951. Arriving back at the University of Maryland School of Medicine in late 1951 as an instructor and associate in the Department of Radiology, he became the department’s first full-time chairman in 1953. 

Dr. Dennis served as radiology chairman until 1973, when he was made acting dean. He was appointed dean the following year, vice chancellor for health affairs in 1975, and vice president for academic affairs in 1983. Dr. Dennis was named dean emeritus in 1990, and professor emeritus in diagnostic radiology in 1995. At its 1993 commencement, the University of Maryland, Baltimore, honored Dr. Dennis with an honorary Sc.D. degree.

During Dr. Dennis’s deanship, the School of Medicine developed into a major research institution with considerable growth in faculty and research support. Dr. Dennis stewarded the development of a new Baltimore Veterans Administration Medical Center on the University of Maryland, Baltimore, campus. The Baltimore VA Medical Center’s Dr. John M. Dennis Auditorium honors his dedication to this effort.

Dr. Dennis’s leadership helped to raise the university’s ranking to the top third in research funding. He recruited quality personnel for departmental chairs, made the medical school a major player in the field of biomedical research, and managed twice to rebuild the school’s basic science departments. Dr. Dennis was instrumental in developing the Area Health Education Centers (AHECs) to expose students to rural practice – a program that is still thriving today. He is also credited with creating the faculty practice plan, chairing the ad-hoc committee responsible for its establishment.

He was also very active in organized radiology. He served as president the American College of Radiology and chairman of its board of chancellors. He was honored with that organization’s Gold Medal for distinguished and extraordinary service. Other honors include Alpha Omega Alpha, the Gold Medal of the American Roentgen-Ray Society, the Gold Key of the Medical Alumni Association and Loyola College’s Andre White Medal for distinguished service to Maryland. The University of Maryland’s 1984 alumnus of the year, Dr. Dennis chaired the Medical Chirurgical Faculty’s Committee to Establish a Commission on Medical Discipline.

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