H. Brownell Wheeler, MD awarded honorary degree





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Published on Jun 1, 2014

When Bruce S. Cutler, MD, professor emeritus of surgery, came to campus to interview for a faculty position in 1976, he met H. Brownell "Brownie" Wheeler, MD, outside the medical school building. Dr. Wheeler, the founding chairman of the Department of Surgery and at the time serving as the first chief of staff for the hospital, headed to the stairwell to lead Dr. Cutler up to his office on the third floor for the interview, taking the stairs two at a time.

"He galloped up the stairs, and I said to myself, 'I love this guy already,'" said Cutler. "He was a young man with a lot of energy and commitment. The interview was scheduled for an hour, but after two hours I knew this is the place I wanted to begin my academic career, and Wheeler was the man I wanted to work for."

Wheeler needed energy in the early years of UMass Medical School, when he was instrumental in helping founding chancellor Lamar Soutter build the school from the ground up. Dr. Soutter recruited Wheeler as the first faculty member, even before the school was officially founded.

"When Dr. Soutter first approached me, there was no faculty. In July of 1964, he asked me if I would like to join him, and I said, 'Sure why not?' It was just him and me," said Wheeler. "I liked him and I admired him and I thought he would be exciting to work with, despite the fact that I had no salary, he had no money, I had no title, and he had no positions to recruit for. So I started out pro bono just for the fun of it."

For his tireless efforts, including a distinguished 25-year career as the chair of the Department of Surgery, Wheeler received an honorary degree at Commencement on Sunday, June 1.

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