UAMS College of Medicine Honors Faculty, Alumni at Annual Ceremony

By Susan Van Dusen

The college’s Distinguished Faculty Service Award was presented to Robert E. McGehee Jr., Ph.D., who has been one of the most influential educators of both medical and graduate students at UAMS for over two decades as well as a successful researcher. Among many leadership posts, McGehee has served as dean of the UAMS Graduate School since 2004.

“Dr. McGehee is an extraordinary teacher, a remarkable leader and an outstanding scholar,” UAMS Executive Vice Chancellor and College of Medicine Dean Pope L. Moseley said when presenting the award.

McGehee joined the faculty in 1993. He is a professor in the Department of Pediatrics Neonatology Section and holds additional appointments in the departments of Physiology and Biophysics and Pathology. McGehee’s research laboratory has been recognized for its discoveries in developmental molecular biology and the molecular mechanisms between type 2 diabetes and obesity.

McGehee played a key role in developing a fundamental course on cell biology for first-year medical students in 2001. As the course director or co-director for 12 years, he taught more than 2,000 medical students in their very first hour of classes.

“Dr. McGehee has taught or mentored scores of medical and graduate students, pediatric fellows and junior colleagues, earning many teaching awards and accolades along the way,” Moseley said. “His rapport with medical students is almost legendary.”

McGehee was an early advocate of “active learning” methods that are now central to the education of first- and second-year medical students. Moseley praised McGehee for helping students in their pre-clinical years of medical school understand why basic science knowledge is crucial to the practice of medicine.

McGehee said he was “humbled beyond belief” to receive the award. “This is a cherry on top of what has been a very blessed career,” McGehee said, thanking many mentors and current and former UAMS leaders for their support.

The ceremony featured 15 specific awards and other recognitions honoring more than 60 faculty, alumni and staff members. It began with another signature honor of the college, the induction of 1984 graduate D. Brent Polk, M.D., into its Hall of Fame.

Polk has served as physician-in-chief of Children’s Hospital Los Angeles (CHLA) and chair of the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Southern California (USC) since 2010. Polk is also vice president for academic affairs at CHLA, vice dean for child health at CHLA and USC and director of the hospital’s Saban Research Institute.

Polk previously served for 20 years on the faculty at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine in Nashville, Tenn. His accomplishments as chief of the Division of Pediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition spurred the school to rename the division in his honor.

The Lonoke County native was also honored by UAMS as the College of Medicine’s Distinguished Alumnus in 2009. He said after his Hall of Fame induction that the mentoring he received during medical school and residency at UAMS was an important factor in his success.

Polk said the late anatomy professor Lawrence E. Scheving, Ph.D., and now-retired physiology professor James Pasley, Ph.D., inspired him to pursue a career as a physician-scientist, which allowed him to combine his love of research and teaching with patient care. Polk also credited several current and former pediatric leaders at UAMS and Arkansas Children’s Hospital (ACH), including the late renowned physicians Betty Lowe, M.D., Tom Dungan, M.D., and Robert Fiser Jr., M.D.

“A kid growing up on the Arkansas River was able to go to college, medical school, residency and fellowship and have a great number of opportunities, leading to those of being responsible for the care and health of 2.9 million children living in one of the great cities of the world,” Polk said.

The 2016 Distinguished Alumnus Award went to UAMS Department of Pediatrics Chairman Richard F. Jacobs, M.D. The 1977 graduate is a national leader in pediatrics. He is president-elect of the Association of Medical School Pediatric Department Chairs and a past president of the Pediatric Infectious Diseases Society.

Jacobs has been a faculty member since 1982 and became chief of the Pediatric Infectious Diseases section in 1989. He was the Horace C. Cabe Professor of Pediatrics at ACH from 1993 to 2005. Jacobs became chair of pediatrics in 2006 and was formally invested in the Robert H. Fiser Jr., M.D., Endowed Chair in Pediatrics in 2008. He served as president of the Arkansas Children’s Research Institute from 2004 to 2015.

“Dr. Jacobs has excelled in patient care, research and health administration – and the inspiration has been clear throughout his 34 years on our faculty,” Moseley said when presenting the award. “It is his devotion to the children of Arkansas.”

Like other honorees, Jacobs emphasized that many mentors during his education, training and early and middle years as a faculty member at UAMS helped him to succeed. “That old saying about ‘standing on the shoulders of giants’ really has special meaning for me,” Jacobs said.


UAMS is the state's only health sciences university, with colleges of Medicine, Nursing, Pharmacy, Health Professions and Public Health; a graduate school; a hospital; a main campus in Little Rock; a Northwest Arkansas regional campus in Fayetteville; a statewide network of regional campuses; and seven institutes: the Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute, Jackson T. Stephens Spine & Neurosciences Institute, Harvey & Bernice Jones Eye Institute, Psychiatric Research Institute, Donald W. Reynolds Institute on Aging, Translational Research Institute and Institute for Digital Health & Innovation. UAMS includes UAMS Health, a statewide health system that encompasses all of UAMS' clinical enterprise. UAMS is the only adult Level 1 trauma center in the state. UAMS has 3,275 students, 890 medical residents and fellows, and five dental residents. It is the state's largest public employer with more than 12,000 employees, including 1,200 physicians who provide care to patients at UAMS, its regional campuses, Arkansas Children's, the VA Medical Center and Baptist Health. Visit or Find us on Facebook, X (formerly Twitter), YouTube or Instagram.