Dr Arne Vainio to receive prestigious award

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Duluth, Minnesota (ICC) 6-08

The University of Minnesota Medical Alumni Society (MAS) has named two physicians close to the University of Minnesota Medical School-Duluth Campus to receive its most prestigious awards. Arne Vainio, M.D., will receive the Early Distinguished Career Award given to a physician for exceptional accomplishments within 15 years of graduating from medical school.

John Thomas, M.D., one of the founders of the Duluth medical school, will receive the Harold S. Diehl Award, a lifetime award granted to individuals who have made outstanding professional contributions to the Medical School, the University, and the community.

The MAS will present the awards to both men at its annual celebration banquet on September 26, 2008, in Minneapolis.

“This is a proud moment for our campus,” commented Gary L. Davis, Ph.D., senior associate dean of the Duluth campus medical school. “Dr. Vainio is the first Native American and the first Duluth alumnus to receive a Medical Alumni Society award, and Dr. Thomas was among the leaders who established this school and curriculum in the early ’70s.”

An enrolled member of the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe, Dr. Vainio completed his undergraduate studies in 1990 at the University of Minnesota Duluth, entered the University of Minnesota School of Medicine at UMD (now the University of Minnesota Medical School-Duluth Campus) and graduated in 1994. He has been a family-practice physician at the Min-No-Aya-Win Human Services Clinic on the Fond du Lac Ojibwe Reservation in Cloquet, Minn., since September 1997. He also is employed as a preceptor at the Duluth Family Practice Center and volunteers as a preceptor for the University of Minnesota Medical School-Duluth Campus. He is a member of the Association of American Family Physicians and the Association of American Indian Physicians.

“I was humbled to read each of the nominating letters of support. That would have been reward enough,” commented Vainio. “I thank the committee that also reviewed those letters and chose me,” he added.

Dr. Vainio’s nomination was supported with letters from fellow alumni; other Duluth medical campus administrators; medical students; administrators at the Min-No-Aya-Win Human Services Clinic and Seattle Indian Health Board, where he was a resident; and Melanie Benjamin, Chief Executive of the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe Indians.

Dr. John Thomas practiced general surgery in Duluth from 1954 until his retirement in 1988. He was among the Duluth leaders who supported the startup of the University of Minnesota School of Medicine at UMD by serving on a committee that dealt with the clinical aspects of organization and curriculum. When the school admitted its first class in 1972, he taught anatomy and continued teaching until 2006.