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Joseph Pysh: Honoring the Past by Ensuring the Future

“Joe was always the first person to step up, the first to help in any endeavor,” said Ward. “He’s a professor emeritus right now, but it’s typical of him that he still works nine months a year teaching OST 571 and works with residents.”

    Jayne Ward, David Kaufman, and Joe Pysh — all from the Department of Neurology and Ophthalmology — were among those recently celebrating a successful residency recruitment season. Ward’s friend Jimi Young at the end of the evening had a  question. “Joe Pysh is committed to education and excited about the residents and clerkships and students. Have you ever done something to honor him?”

    The query resonated for Ward, a 1996 MSUCOM alumna and an associate professor in the department, because Pysh had not only been a faculty colleague, but one of her instructors.  It also was attractive to Kaufman, chairperson, who had seen Pysh’s work and can-do attitude close-up for years. As a result, the two decided to create the Joseph Pysh, D.O./Ph.D. Endowed Scholarship in his honor, and solicited support from faculty, staff, alumni and friends of the department. They presented it to him this spring as a surprise.

    “Joe was always the first person to step up, the first to help in any endeavor,” said Ward. “He’s a professor emeritus right now, but it’s typical of him that he still works nine months a year teaching OST 571 [Neuromusculoskeletal System] and works with residents.”

    Pysh, who retired in 2008, is a neurologist and neuroanatomist who maintained active research, teaching and clinical practices as a professor. He joined MSUCOM in 1986 as an associate professor of internal medicine, after 20 years of service on the faculty in the then Department of Cell Biology and Anatomy at Northwestern University’s medical and dental schools in Chicago.

    His research interests include environmental influences on brain development, cellular mechanisms in synaptic transmission, stroke, Parkinson’s disease and movement disorders, and epilepsy. He is the author of numerous peer-reviewed publications, educational videos and invited presentations, and held a number of National Institutes of Health research grants.

    But it was Pysh’s commitment to his trainees that was most memorable; he spent a substantial amount of time educating master’s and doctoral students and providing clinical education for interns, residents and fellows.

    “Joseph Pysh represents people who are utterly loyal to their profession and college,” said Kaufman. “He has served MSUCOM and its students, never wavering in his devotion to teaching young doctors. He also provides outstanding neurological care to his patients. Best of all, he inspires the people around him to do things the right way.”

    The Pysh scholarships will be awarded to third-year MSUCOM students with a demonstrated interest in neurology and who have performed well in their required third-year neurology clerkship.

    “Because we are very lucky to have Joe Pysh among us, we have an interest in honoring him and all that he stands for by developing this scholarship in his name. We believe students now and deep into the future should be very aware of the qualities he represents,” Kaufman said.