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Prominent physicians feted for their ‘passion,’ ‘spirit’

Published on Thursday, August 18, 2016

By: Gary Pettus at 601-815-9266 or

Published in News Stories on August 18, 2016

Dr. Walter “Mack” Gorton of Belzoni, who for four decades has cared for patients with some of the nation's highest rates of heart disease, diabetes and obesity, was celebrated Saturday as the 2016 Distinguished Medical Alumnus - much to his initial surprise.

“Several weeks ago when they told me about this, I nearly fainted,” he said in his remarks during an awards dinner in Jackson.

Gorton, a 1968 UMMC School of Medicine graduate, was one of six physicians honored, including the five latest inductees into the university's Medical Alumni Chapter Hall of Fame. They are Dr. Alton Cobb, Dr. Martin L. Dalton Jr., Dr. W. Briggs Hopson Jr., Dr. James “Jim” Martin and Dr. David Watson.

Sponsored by the Medical Alumni Chapter and the Office of Alumni Affairs at UMMC, the event paid tribute to those who “embody that spirit, that passion and that commitment we need in Mississippi,” said Dr. LouAnn Woodward, vice chancellor for health affairs and dean of the School of Medicine.

Also commending the guests of honor was Dr. Jeffrey Vitter, University of Mississippi chancellor, who said, “Our greatest strength is our people. That value resonates around the world. … I continue to be wowed on a daily basis about the transformational value of the Medical Center.”

Dr. Walter "Mack" Gorton of Belzoni is the 2016 recipient of the Distinguished Medical Alumnus Award.
Dr. Walter "Mack" Gorton of Belzoni is the 2016 recipient of the Distinguished Medical Alumnus Award.

An internal medicine specialist, Gorton is the seventh recipient of the award. He began practicing medicine in the county seat of Humphreys County in 1973; 21 years later he welcomed to his practice one of his sons, Dr. S. Carlton Gorton, a 2004 medical school alumnus, who introduced his father at the dinner.

“My dad has a gift for developing relationships with his patients and colleagues,” Carlton Gorton said, “but his greatest gift is the gift of love … . If you ask each of his patients, 'Who is Dr. Gorton's favorite?' each would said they are.”

Lionized locally with a “Mack Gorton Day” and a medical school scholarship established in his name, Mack Gorton acknowledged the rapport he enjoys with his patients and neighbors, including high school football coaches.

“They'll let you walk up and down the sidelines dressed like a coach,” he said. “One of them let me call a play or two.”

The Hall of Fame Awards recipients:

Dr. Alton Cobb - The Camden native and 1952 graduate of the University of Mississippi's two-year medical school in Oxford, Cobb is renowned for his contributions to public health.

For 20 years, starting in 1973, he was director of the Mississippi State Department of Health, helping the state attain national recognition for its public health achievements, many of which endure, including high immunization rates.

He was introduced by his son-in-law Dr. Timothy Alford, a Kosciusko family medicine physician, who said, “There's a chance that at least half of you had your birth certificate signed by Dr. Cobb.”

Dr. Martin L. Dalton Jr. - A nationally recognized thoracic surgeon, Dalton participated in the world's first lung transplant, with Dr. James Hardy, in 1963.

He has  served as a research fellow at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research in Washington, D.C.; on the faculty of the Texas Tech University School of Medicine in Lubbock; and as a professor in the Department of Surgery at UMMC.

In 1991, Dalton was named professor and chairman of the Department of Surgery at Mercer University School of Medicine in Macon, Georgia, where, later, as dean, he oversaw the school's re-accreditation and the establishment of a four-year School of Medicine campus in Savannah.

Dr. W. Briggs Hopson Jr. - A former clinical associate professor of surgery at UMMC, Hopson is credited with developing a statewide trauma network.

He taught the first advanced Trauma Life Support Course in the state. For 30 years, he was medical control director for Mississippi's Emergency Medical Services.

Hopson now practices as a general and peripheral vascular surgeon in Vicksburg, where he also serves as medical director and vice president for medi­cal affairs at River Region Medical Center.

Dr. James “Jim” Martin - In 2005, he reported in Obstetrics & Gynecology a recommendation for treating hypertension that has had a lasting impact on obstetric and pregnancy care across the world.

He retired from private practice and UMMC in 2014 after serving as professor of OB-GYN, director of the Division of Maternal-Fetal Medicine for the Winfred L. Wiser Hospital for Women and Infants, and vice chair for research and academic development.

Martin served as a maternal-fetal medicine subspecialist, educator, administrator and investigator at the University of Michigan and UMMC. He is a recognized expert in treating eclampsia and preeclampsia, and the related HELLP syndrome

Dr. David Watson - His many accomplishments include commencing and leading the effort to build the Ronald McDonald House at UMMC, and supporting the admission of the first African-American resident at UMMC, the late Dr. Aaron Shirley.

Recruited by Dr. Blair E. Batson to the four-year-old Medical Center, he was chief of the UMMC Pediatric Cardiology Division from 1959 to 1993.

He retired as Professor Emeritus in 1993 and moved to Sandestin, Florida.