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issue Community Health 2024

New Scholarship Pays Homage to Dean Booden’s ‘Special Talent’

By Amy Knutson Strack

When Chicago Medical School (CMS) graduates share who made a meaningful difference in their lives, they invariably say “Dean Booden.”

During his tenure from 1970–98, when he climbed the ranks from a fellow to dean, Dr. Booden advised students, interviewed candidates and opened opportunities for countless postgraduates. As a tribute, alumni established the Dean Emeritus Theodore “Ted” Booden, PhD, Endowed Opportunity Scholarship to honor his legacy.

“Dean Booden had a special talent to identify the future medical student who was a ‘diamond in the rough,’” said Franklin D. Pratt, MD ’81, MPHTM, FACEP. “He was decades ahead of his time to recognize the need for physicians with backgrounds as unique as their patients.”

Ask Dr. Booden about how he had an affinity toward nurturing students, and he credits his upbringing and his mentors.

“Dad had a tough life, but he always would say, ‘Whatever you do in life, be a good person,’” said Dr. Booden.

“If you’re a good person, if you try hard, even when you stumble, you’re going to make more right decisions than bad. You’re going to be the kind of doctor that you should be.”

Early lessons shaped his approach to education, from a homeroom teacher recognizing his potential, to being coached in baseball, to professors offering connections. Dr. Booden remembers feeling encouraged because mentors helped him, “turned him loose” or said, “I will support you.”

Dr. Booden joined CMS following completion of postdoctoral research at Stanford Medical School. Soon, students approached him to become an advisor, asking him to guide them through obstacles.

“If you’re a good person, if you try hard, even when you stumble, you’re going to make more right decisions than bad. You’re going to be the kind of doctor that you should be,” said Dr. Booden.

He also championed learning about candidates beyond scores.

“They had to be capable of communicating effectively and making you feel like, ‘I could see myself being treated by that person,’” said Dr. Booden. “Success gets measured in a lot of different ways.”

“Dean Booden was exceptional in that he made medical education personal for each student,” said James Black, MD ’88. “(Once) I met with Dean Booden to withdraw, and rather than signing off, he persuaded me to undertake three months of clinical rotations. His advice was excellent. I learned medicine is more than an academic pursuit: it is personal.”

The scholarship reflects the gratitude of decades of students and will perpetually honor Dr. Booden’s legacy, and it will continue the CMS tradition of giving opportunities to students seeking to become doctors.

“It truly is a humbling experience. My goal was to make something better,” said Dr. Booden. “If I had to do it all over again, I’d live this life again.”

Amy Knutson Strack is director of advancement communications in the Office of Institutional Advancement.

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