With more than 440,000 living alumni and a top-tier reputation, UW–Madison has no shortage of exceptional graduates. Selecting the superlative among this crowd is no easy task, but the Wisconsin Alumni Association has offered Distinguished Alumni Awards annually since 1936. This year, WAA’s highest honor acknowledges four alumni who have made stellar contributions to their professions, their communities, and their alma mater.
Physician Dennis Maki has an international reputation as one of the fathers of modern-day hospital infection prevention. Maki is the Ovid O. Meyer Professor of Medicine (emeritus) in the infectious diseases and pulmonary-critical care divisions at UW–Madison.
After doing his postgraduate training at Harvard and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, he returned to the UW in 1974 and has served in numerous roles at UW Health over the past 46 years. They include hospital epidemiologist, chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases, chief and attending physician in the UW Hospital Trauma and Life Support Center, and staff critical care physician for the UW Electronic ICU.
His research on hospital-acquired infections has saved the lives of countless patients worldwide. Other research focuses have been the clinical application of novel agents for the treatment of septic shock and the treatment of antibiotic-resistant infections. Doctors throughout the region refer their patients to Maki when they are in a quandary regarding diagnosis and treatment of complicated or life-threatening illnesses.
Robert Golden, MD, dean of the UW School of Medicine and Public Health, calls Maki a triple threat, referring to his expertise in education, research, and patient care. Maki has won more than a dozen teaching awards, and according to his fellow physician David Andes, his outreach is unsurpassed by anyone in the history of the medical school.
Maki, a 1958 graduate of Edgar High School in Marathon County, personifies the Wisconsin Idea. He has visited virtually every hospital in the state of Wisconsin and has held visiting professorships throughout the world. His more than 370 research papers provide the scientific foundation for much of the infection-prevention practice used in hospitals around the world. He has built a nationally renowned UW infectious disease division and training program, which he led for more than three decades, and has served on literally hundreds of university, national, and international committees.
On top of this, he has been generous in his financial support of the university. A member of the Bascom Hill Society, he has given to many different areas of campus, including the School of Medicine and Public Health, the All Ways Forward Campaign, the Great People Scholarship Fund, and the Dr. William A. Craig Endowed Professorship Fund.
He and his wife, Gail Dawson Maki ’62, have also made gifts to a number of local foundations and charitable entities, including Access Community Health Centers, Madison-Area Urban Ministry, the Wisconsin Medical Society Foundation, and the Foundation for Madison Public Schools.
Maki has served as a consultant to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Institutes of Health, the Food and Drug Administration, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and the United Kingdom National Health Service.
He has also been a member — and in several cases, president — of a long list of professional societies and organizations. Among other honors, in 2001 he won a UW–Madison Hilldale Award, and in 2009 he was named a Wisconsin Medical Alumni Association Distinguished Alumnus.
Learn more about the honorees at uwalumni.com/about/alumni-awards/distinguished-alumni-award/