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Luncheon Honors the Retiring Michael Plaut

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

 Dean Reece presented Dr. Plaut with gifts from the medical school, including a University of Maryland lamp and a print of Davidge Hall.

After 35 years at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, Michael Plaut, PhD, Associate Dean for Student Affairs and an associate professor in the Department of Psychiatry, announced his retirement. A luncheon in his honor on May 19, 2008 attracted a crowd of supporters from across the campus.

"Working with students and colleagues from different professions, schools and programs on campus has been very special to me," said Plaut. "One of the best things about being here is I felt like a perpetual student, always having the opportunity to learn something new, to develop my teaching and to face new challenges."

The challenges were many during Plaut's years at the school, 30 of which were spent in Student Affairs. "Mike is always behind the scenes in a very humble, no-publicity way, gathering information and putting the right spin on it so we can interpret it correctly," said Bruce Jarrell, MD, Vice Dean for Research and Academic Affairs and a professor in the Department of Surgery. "He knows more about the policies of this school and the history of them and how they've been applied than anybody in this institution. And of course that's really important to us, because we need to deal with students in a consistent fashion, and he's been the lynchpin for our being able to do that."

Dean E. Albert Reece, MD, PhD, MBA echoed Jarrell's praise. "In order for a school of our size to function as effectively as it does, it requires key people in important roles to function independently and effectively," he said. "Mike epitomizes such a person, one who actually sees things that need to occur and does them independently without being told to do them."

“We are going to miss Mike Plaut a lot,” said Anthony F. Lehman M.D., M.S.P.H, Chair of the Department of Psychiatry, which helped organize the event. “If you have a problem, you can always go to him and he will do whatever he can do to help. He has always been loyal to the Department of Psychiatry and to the School of Medicine.”

In addition to his high-level participation in school affairs, Plaut has also been very active in teaching and is remembered well by generations of medical students for his subject matter: courses on sexual dysfunction and on setting boundaries between physicians and patients. "All those medical students Mike has embarrassed, appalled, amused, enraged or enlightened – they all remember what he had to say," teased Donna Parker, MD, who was once a student of Plaut's and is now Associate Dean for Student Affairs and a clinical assistant professor in the Department of Medicine. "That's more than you can say for most teachers in medical school."

What Parker will miss most about her colleague, though, is "his sage council, helping hand and sincere friendship when it was surely needed. For all those things, I am eternally grateful to him."

Plaut is grateful to have had the chance to touch so many lives. "As we all know, things don't always go the way we want them to, and that is especially true when you work in the kind of sensitive areas I do," he told the audience at his farewell. "But I learned long before I came here that if I pick my battles carefully, if I depend on feedback and support from people whose values and opinions I respect, if I try to be at my best in whatever I do every day, someone out there will appreciate it and I'll be able to make a meaningful contribution. One of our speakers at convocation, Michael Cryor, said that whatever you do, make it matter. That is an ideal to which I've always aspired."

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 A chair from Dr. Parker and the Office of Student Affairs honored Plaut's many years of service.

 Dr. Plaut and his wife Judy will be retiring to the beaches of North Carolina.

group shot
 (L to R) Department of Psychiatry Chair Dr. Tony Lehman, Dr. Bruce Jarrell and Dr. Michael Plaut

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