Penn State College of Medicine Alumni Update

Three Longtime Faculty Members Pass Away

Over the past two months the Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center and Penn State College of Medicine have had three highly-respected, longtime faculty members pass away. Alumni and current students will feel the loss of, but never forget Dr. Michael Bongiovanni, Dr. Timothy Harrison, and Dr. E.A. (Al) Vastyan.

Dr. Bongiovanni began his medical career at Penn State Hershey Medical Center (PSHMC) in 1982 as the medical director of the Blood Bank and Apheresis. He played a leading role in the growth and development of laboratory services at the Medical Center, expanding these services to include state-of-the-art testing to support diagnosis and treatment of patients. At the time of his passing, Dr. Bongiovanni held the positions of chief of the division of clinical pathology and director of the Medical Center’s Clinical Laboratories, and professor of pathology at the Penn State College of Medicine.

Dr. Bongiovanni was widely recognized for his dedication to patients and to the PSHMC. He was a strong believer in giving to his community, whether it was the medical center community or the local community. In addition to his normal responsibilities, he served on 27 hospital committees and eight Department of Pathology committees. He was actively involved in medical student, resident, and fellowship education and was a sought-after advisor and mentor to many.

Dr. Harrison, professor emeritus of surgery and cellular and molecular physiology, served as a special research fellow at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden from 1959 to 1960. He worked under the direction of U.S. von Euler, Nobel Laureate in Medicine in 1970. At Karolinska, Dr. Harrison developed a keen interest in catecholamine biochemistry and physiology, which proved to be his lifelong research passion.

After spending one year at Yale University as an instructor, Dr. Harrison assumed his first academic position as assistant professor of surgery at the University Of Michigan School of Medicine and rose to the rank of professor in 1971. In 1975, he took a position at Penn State College of Medicine as a professor of surgery and of cellular and molecular physiology.

Dr. Harrison retired in 1994, at which time he was appointed professor emeritus.

Dr. Vastyan was the founding chair of the Department of Humanities at the Penn State College of Medicine and held the post for 21 years. He earned his undergraduate degree from Dennison University, a bachelor of divinity degree from Episcopal Theological School in Cambridge, Mass., and pursued further studies in programs at the University of Southampton (England), the University of Chicago, and Harvard University.

Vastyan crusaded for humanities in the establishment of a national organization, the Society for Health and Human Values, which was subsumed within the American Society for Bioethics and Humanities in 1998. Recognized by his colleagues at many institutions, Vastyan was awarded Fulbright and Danforth fellowships and received an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston.

He was recruited from the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston by Founding Dean George Harrell and remained in his position until his retirement in December of 1990.

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