SOM alumni receive top UMKC Alumni Awards

2013 UMKC Alumni Award winners: Nelson Sabates, M.D., ’86; Maj. Gen. Mark Ediger, M.D., ’78; and John Owen, M.D., ’81.
2013 UMKC Alumni Award winners: Nelson Sabates, M.D., ’86; Maj. Gen. Mark Ediger, M.D., ’78; and John Owen, M.D., ’81.


Maj. Gen. Mark Ediger, M.D., M.P.H., ’78, deputy surgeon general for the United States Air Force, called it an honor and privilege to be reconized as 2013 UMKC Alumnus of the Year during the 2013 Alumni Awards celebration on April 18 at Swinney Recreation Center. Ediger received the University’s top honor that is awarded annually to one who has achieved eminence in his or her professional field and made contributions to education, science, the arts or human welfare of national or international significance.

“This is an amazing honor for me, not something I would have imagined possible,” Ediger said. “I stand here today representing the contributions of all the UMKC graduates who have served and are serving in our military.”

It was the second year in a row that a School of Medicine graduate has received the University’s Alumnus of the Year award. Ediger was one of three School of Medicine alumni honored by the University.

Nelson Sabates, M.D., ’86, professor and chairman of the Department of Ophthalmology, founder and director of the Vision Research Center at UMKC, president and CEO of Sabates Eye Centers and president of the Vision Research Foundation of Kansas City, received the 2013 Spotlight Award for his outstanding contributions that have brought national attention to the University.

John Owen, M.D., ’81, a practicing physician at the Liberty Clinic in Liberty, Mo., and retired brigadier general in U.S. Air National Guard, received the alumni achievement award for the School of Medicine.

The family of Michael Sweeney, M.D., ’78, received the University’s Legacy Award, with 18 familiy members who have earned 25 degrees from UMKC.

Alumnus of the Year

mark_ediger2__2_Maj. Gen. Mark Ediger, M.D., M.P.H., ’78, is Deputy Surgeon General of the U.S. Air Force at the Pentagon. Last year’s UMKC Alumna of the Year was Catherine Spong, M.D. ’91.

Ediger has made a career of serving his local and worldwide community. Four years into private practice as a rural family physician, he realized he wanted to broaden his experience. In 1985, he went on to active duty in the U.S. Air Force, where he continued to practice family medicine and move up in the ranks.

In 2012, he was confirmed by the U.S. Senate to the rank of Major General, making him one of only four active duty two-star generals serving in the Air Force Medical Service. In July 2012, he assumed his current position of Deputy Surgeon General for the U.S. Air Force, a role where he supports the Surgeon General in overseeing the operations of the $7.1 billion, 43,000-person integrated health care delivery system that includes the Air Force’s deployable medical capability.

Spotlight Award

sabates__nelson_photo_2Through his scholarly and clinical efforts, Nelson Sabates, M.D., ’86, has attracted world-class scholars and researchers to Kansas City and UMKC, pioneering new treatments and advancing basic and clinical studies to improve patient care. Sabates, who has taught residents and medical students for more than 20 years, is professor and chairman of the Department of Ophthalmology at UMKC, founder and director of the Vision Research Center at UMKC, president and CEO of Sabates Eye Centers and president of the Vision Research Foundation of Kansas City.

His work through the Vision Research Foundation and the UMKC Department of Ophthalmology recently elicited a significant grant from Research to Prevent Blindness, a prestigious voluntary health organization in support of eye research. The Vision Research Foundation’s focus on bench-to-bedside translational research – the only regional eye center to combine this research with clinical trials – seeks to improve treatment for eye diseases that affect millions. Sabates also has an international, national, regional and local presence as a leader, board member, speaker and author. The UMKC Spotlight Award recognizes a graduate whose accomplishments, leadership and public service have caused regional and national attention to be focused on the University and the metropolitan area.

School of Medicine Alumni Achievement Award

owen__john_photoBrig. Gen. John Owen, M.D., ’81, is a practicing physician who is also a decorated military leader. Owen is a practicing physician at the Liberty Clinic in Liberty, Mo. He recently retired from his post as the Air National Guard Assistant to the Command Surgeon, Air Mobility Command. Owen received the Surgeon General’s Air National Guard State Air Surgeon of the Year award in 2007 and the Harry Truman Public Service Award in 2012, which he accepted on behalf of the members of the Armed Forces during the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Owen served the State of Missouri as director of the Joint Staff, Missouri Joint Force Headquarters, where he oversaw domestic operation, joint staff, special staff and the state partnership program to the nation of Panama. He has received many honors for his service, including the Legion of Merit, the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, the Air Force Commendation Medal and the Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal.

For more information about the 2013 alumni award winners, visit

In May, the School of Medicine will present the 2013 Take Wing Award to Thomas Toth, M.D., ’86.

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