Alumni award winners shine at bedside – and worldwide

There is little more gratifying than seeing UC Davis School of Medicine graduates not only thriving professionally, but also giving back to our local and worldwide communities. Their impacts reflect on all of the graduates and on the mission of the school. This fall, physicians and medical alumni Robert B. Miller, Garen J. Wintemute and Douglas S. Gross were acknowledged for their longstanding commitment to excellence on both professional and personal levels. Each of these physicians has demonstrated enormous commitment to his patients, as well as to the causes and concerns closest to his heart.

Humanitarian Award
Robert B. Miller, M.D.

Ophthalmologist Bob Miller, medical director of Advanced Valley Eye Associates, has logged thousands of miles ensuring vision for those in need around the world. For the past 20 years, Miller has helmed Yolo SightSavers, a group of doctors who travel regularly to Sinaloa, Mexico, providing cataract surgeries to patients with little or no resources. Often, the eyesight of these individuals has been completely impaired. When Miller and his partners arrive, they work to restore the patients’ vision – along with their ability to work and live independently.

In addition to improving the vision of those worldwide, Miller has done a great deal to further eye care for those in Yolo County. Through his solo practice, Miller has been able to focus on serving the underserved and uninsured, while also creating one of the finest refractive surgery practices in the region. And, this compassionate, personal approach of Miller’s isn’t one he reserves solely for his patients – as a volunteer clinical faculty member at UC Davis, he works with residents who are completing their ophthalmology training. These residents have twice recognized him as the clinical teacher of the year.

Transformational Leadership Award
Garen J. Wintemute, M.D., M.P.H.

Not satisfied with merely saving lives as a front-line emergency medicine physician in a major trauma center, physician Garen Wintemute works to prevent people from ever becoming patients in an emergency room. Despite receiving death threats, Wintemute has gone undercover at gun stores, pawn shops and gun shows to tirelessly collect data and insights on gun violence to delineate issues around firearms, including highlighting loopholes in U.S. gun control legislation. Wintemute has extensively studied the impact of inadequate policies on innocent victims, including victims of domestic violence, children accidentally shot by other children and those injured or killed by stray bullets.

A powerful voice for change and the author of two books on the subject, Wintemute was featured in the 2010 HBO documentary “Gun Fight,” directed by Oscar-winning filmmaker Barbara Kopple. The film brought to light the complex issues surrounding firearms and the debate over how best to reduce violence. As the director of the Violence Prevention Research Program at UC Davis, Wintemute envisions taking the program to the next level to extend its impact into the next decade.

Distinguished Alumnus Award
Douglas S. Gross, M.D., Ph.D.

Doug Gross has devoted over 35 years to teaching UC Davis medical and undergraduate students as well as pediatric residents. A conservative estimate suggests he has taught more than 12,000 students. His numerous teaching awards underscore his excellence and popularity with students.

Gross has worked extensively as a pediatrician in Africa and Central and South America, and has served as a consultant to the World Health Organization. He also is a member of California’s federal Disaster Medical Assistance Team that provides medical care during a disaster. Gross has served with disaster teams during the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, the Haiti earthquake and Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines. Gross established the University of California’s Haiti Initiative, a systemwide program involving a collaboration between the State University of Haiti and all 10 UC campuses, helping improve the care for Haitian patients, along with furnishing much needed equipment and supplies. He continues to travel with pediatric specialists to Haiti.

Gross also is involved in the Yolo County foster care system. He and his wife have cared for more than 30 children, including two who were adopted by the Gross family.