Celebrating Peter Densen’s retirement and career

UI Health Care faculty, staff members, and students are invited to a retirement reception for Peter Densen, MD, professor of internal medicine. The reception will be held from 4 to 6 p.m. Friday, Sept. 21, in the Eckstein Medical Research Building Atrium, with remarks at approximately 4:40 p.m.

Densen’s career at the University of Iowa has spanned more than 35 years and involved patient care at UI Hospitals & Clinics and the VA Medical Center, NIH- and Veterans Administration–supported research on complement deficiencies, and broad engagement in medical education at the UI Roy J. and Lucille A. Carver College of Medicine. He has held multiple leadership positions within the college including:

  • Associate dean for Student Affairs and Curriculum (1995–2001)
  • Interim head of the Department of Internal Medicine (2002–2004)
  • Executive associate dean of the college (2004–2007)
  • Executive dean (2007–2010)

Since stepping down from the dean’s office he has co-chaired the Curriculum Renewal Committee, served as director for three pre-clinical courses, been the faculty director for the Bean Learning Community, and chaired the Clinical Experiences Committee.

As the first associate dean for curriculum, he led the college through a dramatic overhaul of its curriculum, participated in the re-design of the medical campus, directed the design of facilities dedicated to medical education, and initiated the innovative development of the Medical Learning Communities to foster a supportive learning environment for students, staff, and faculty alike. He was also instrumental in the preparation for several full surveys by the Liaison Committee on Medical Education (LCME), which led to accreditation of the college’s education programs. In a fortuitous example of history repeating itself, the college benefitted from Densen’s experience and longevity by tapping him to co-lead the second major curriculum redesign, and participate in the most recent LCME accreditation review and site visit.

Over the years, recognition of Densen’s educational contributions has included multiple teaching excellence awards, including the inaugural UI President and Provost Award for Teaching Excellence, in 2004. Other awards have included the Leonard Tow Humanism in Medicine Award for faculty in 2012, UI Carver College of Medicine Distinguished Mentor Award in 2014, and the Ron Arky Award from the Learning Communities Institute (LCI) in 2017.

The Ron Arky Award recognized Densen for spearheading the development and implementation of the learning communities at the Carver College of Medicine and the development of the national Learning Community Institute, the first meeting of which was held at the Carver College of Medicine in 2005. A consequence of these initiatives has been the implementation of learning communities by more than half of nation’s allopathic medical schools.

Reflecting on his career at Iowa, Densen shared two thoughts, one personal and the other a concern:

“During my career, I have been extremely fortunate to have been surrounded by wonderful colleagues who have been extraordinarily tolerant of my love of exploring new ideas and then translating them to reality.

“It seems to me that academic medicine today is in the midst of broad disruptive changes that threaten its traditional missions and values. Bold leadership and extra-ordinary communication skills are needed to address this turmoil. It will not be enough for individuals to be excellent within their own sphere. That will be necessary, but it will not be sufficient. Collectively and individually, we—the faculty—must assume collaborative leadership for defining our future and the environment in which we will work.”