IUSM-SB Honors Outstanding Physicians at the annual Medicine Ball

Blakesley, Halperin named 'Outstanding Physicians'

Michael Blakesley, M.D., and David Halperin, M.D., longtime instructors of Gross Anatomy at Indiana University School of Medicine-South Bend (IUSM-SB), will be honored as Outstanding Physicians of the Year at the 2014 Medicine Ball on Saturday, Nov. 8. 

The Outstanding Physician Award is given annually to acknowledge the support and accomplishments of practicing physicians whose work with IUSM-SB has made an outstanding impact. Recipients are selected by past winners of the honor as well as past chairs of the Medicine Ball. Past recipients are Faye Magneson, M.D., Gary Fromm, M.D., David Van Ryn, M.D., Mark Walsh, M.D., and Joseph Prahlow, M.D.

This is the first year the award is being made to a pair of physicians, but their impact is difficult to individualize. Even as young emergency room physicians at Memorial Hospital,the two say they were often mistaken for one another, although they have few physical similarities save moustaches.

“David and Michael’s combined fund of medical knowledge and zeal for teaching is unparalleled, and the exceptional clinical correlates that they interject into the gross anatomy dissections are the stuff of legend and live on to this day in the minds of our medical students,” said Carl Marfurt, Ph.D., interim associate dean who has observed the two for more than two decades.  “The sacrifice that these two individuals make annually—stepping away from their busy practices to devote eight weeks to teaching the toughest course in medical school-- is extraordinary and appreciated beyond words by faculty and students alike.” 

Michael Blakesley began teaching at IUSM-SB in 1986 as an instructor for Jack O’Malley, Ph.D., anatomy course director. In 1993, Blakesley recommended that Halperin join as an assistant. They became co-course directors when O’Malley stepped down in 2007.

Gross Anatomy is one of the earliest experiences for first-year students. With embryology, it defines the first two months of the basic science program, combining classroom lectures with instruction in the cadaver lab. Blakesley and Halperin instruct in a partnership, with Halperin having the larger role as a lecturer and Blakesley as coordinator of dissection instruction.

Halperin self-identifies as being “passionate” about creating a transformative experience that transitions students to the demands of medical school and preserves anatomy’s role as the traditional rite of passage. Blakesley’s passion is a well-equipped and well-functioning lab. He has been known to scout discount stores for the necessary equipment and employ his own tools to upgrade the ventilation or fix the surgical lighting.

Upon their arrival at medical school, first-year students are often puzzled to hear they will be issued a Blakesley innovation: their own red toolbox and bag. When opened, the box reveals human bones and, in the bag, a skull, for hands-on learning of the intricacies of the skeletal system.