University of Wisconsin-River Falls
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April 2007

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Announcing the 2007 Distinguished Alumnus
Dr. John Clemons

When UWRF undergraduate John Clemons expressed an interest in medicine in the mid-1950s, chemistry professor Richard Swensen encouraged him—“even to the point of obtaining an application for me to medical school,” recalls Clemons.

Today, the 2007 UWRF Distinguished Alumnus is retired from his career as a reconstructive surgeon. But in the wake of his career, numerous people lead improved lives because of his care. During his 27-year practice, Clemons gained notoriety by improving the procedure to reattach a totally severed ear. Applying microscopic techniques for surgery on fine bone structure, he developed what the Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery now calls the “Clemons Technique.”

In addition, Clemons is considered the “founding father” of the ear, nose and throat department at Gundersen Clinic in La Crosse, Wis., where he began his practice in 1969. He also established the first cleft lip and palette clinic and head and neck cancer center in the region.

Clemons was a mentor to other physicians as well. “My medical knowledge, clinical skills and bedside manner were honed and tempered by Dr. Clemons’s open, honest, calm and capable demeanor,” notes colleague Dr. Carleton Lee.

Clemons received an M.D. from the University of Wisconsin Medical School in 1962. Yet, he says his life’s work was built on the foundation of agricultural studies under the tutelage of UW-River Falls professors Ray Wall, Richard Delorit, Benny Kettelkamp and Art Johnson. “My degree in agricultural education was an excellent background for the study of medicine,” says Clemons.

Clemons will be honored at Spring 2007 commencement ceremonies where he will have a chance to address graduates and their families. A portrait of Clemons will be commissioned to hang in the campus gallery of Distinguished Alumni.

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