Robert J. Kaplan, MD, a prominent Memphis dermatologist, generous philanthropist, and long-time patron of the University of Tennessee, was awarded the Jim and Natalie Haslam Presidential Medal on Friday during the 2017 University of Tennessee President’s Council Awards Dinner at The Peabody.
The medal is given to individuals who have a record of supporting the university through exemplary giving, volunteer leadership and service. Recipients also motivate others to support the University of Tennessee, and exhibit a personal history of integrity and excellence.
A 1973 graduate of the UT Health Science Center (UTHSC) College of Medicine, Dr. Kaplan practices medicine at Kaplan Dermatology in Memphis, and holds multiple leadership positions at his alma mater. He serves on the UTHSC Foundation’s board of directors and the UTHSC College of Medicine Alumni Council. Dr. Kaplan’s philanthropic contributions to the College of Medicine allowed for the creation in 2005 of the Kaplan Clinical Skills and Assessment Center at UTHSC, where medical students hone their clinical and communications skills with simulation training and standardized patient encounters.
“We wanted to teach the students the science of medicine, but also the art of medicine, and this is a good way of doing it,” Dr. Kaplan said, in accepting the award. “It’s very important to me that you need to communicate with your patients. The practice of medicine is an honor and a privilege, and you cannot take it for granted.”
Dr. Kaplan’s support and vision led to the creation the Kaplan-Amonette Department of Dermatology at UTHSC in 2013, for which the University of Tennessee named him Philanthropist of the Year. In 2014, the position of dean of the UTHSC College of Medicine was named the Robert Kaplan Executive Dean in his honor. David M. Stern, MD, is the first Robert Kaplan Executive Dean.
Dr. Kaplan and his friend and fellow College of Medicine alumnus, Rodney Wolf, MD, a respected cardiovascular surgeon in Memphis, provided support to establish the Wolf-Kaplan Athletics Recruiting Center in Neyland Stadium in 2002.
“Your contributions to the University of Tennessee give us hope for a bright future, not only in Memphis and Knoxville, but across the entire state,” UT System President Joe DiPietro said. “You have not only improved the quality of dermatology education at UTHSC through the lives of its students, in addition, your contributions to UT athletics have elevated its ability to recruit the best athletes across the country.”
Past recipients of the award include former Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen; Lady Vols Head Coach Emeritus, the late Pat Summitt; former NFL quarterback Peyton Manning; and the late Sen. Howard H. Baker, Jr.
“I’ve been associated with this university 47 years,” Dr. Kaplan said. “I made one of the great decisions of my life in coming to Tennessee.”
Other awards presented include:
- Alan Ledger, UT-Knoxville, ’87, was the UT Alumni Association (UTAA) Past Presidents Council Inductee. Ledger served as president of the UTAA in 2015-2016.
- Phillip Fulmer, UT-Knoxville, ’73, received the President’s Council Service Award, for exceptional service in the advancement of excellence at the University of Tennessee. Fulmer was head coach of the Volunteers football team for 17 years.
- Jim and Judi Herbert, UT-Knoxville ’62/’63, received the UT Philanthropist of the Year Award, presented to a donor who has made a significant gift to the University of Tennessee.
Earlier in the day, UTHSC hosted President DiPietro and members of the President’s Council on campus, with tours of the Interprofessional Simulation and Patient Safety Center, Emergency Operations Center, Plough Center for Sterile Drug Delivery Systems, and the Mobile Stroke Unit. The day also included presentations by student leaders.