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SPRINGFIELD - Dr. J. Kevin Dorsey of Carbondale became the first graduate of Southern Illinois University Medical School to reach the school's top job.

On Monday he was introduced as the next dean and provost by Walter V. Wendler, chancellor of Southern Illinois University Carbondale.

"I love this place," said Dorsey, age 59. "To come back as dean is something I never ever dreamed of."

The appointment takes effect Aug. 16 and is subject to confirmation by the university's Board of Trustees. Wendler said SIU President James E. Walker has approved the choice of Dorsey, who would earn $330,000 a year. That is about the average salary for the dean of a public medical school in the United States.

Wendler, who is the dean's immediate supervisor, had warm praise for Dorsey at an SIU Medical School news conference.

"He is a person of great vision and great energy, and perhaps most important for me, impeccable integrity," Wendler said. "Without that, all else is in vain."

Dorsey will oversee medical school campuses at Carbondale, where freshmen are taught, and Springfield, where students complete their classes. The school also operates three sites for family practice residencies at Decatur, Carbondale and Quincy.

Dorsey earned a doctorate in biology from the University of Wisconsin at Madison in 1968, then did research at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. He joined SIU School of Medicine in 1973, teaching freshmen in Carbondale for two years. The next year he became a medical student.

"I got tired of the pace of research. It's slow, and I'm an impatient person," Dorsey said. "I liked what the students were doing more than what I was doing."

He married his now-deceased wife, the former Diane Neill of Carbondale, while studying medicine. After additional training in internal medicine and rheumatology the University of Iowa in Iowa City, they moved back to Carbondale in 1983.

Kevin Dorsey went into private practice as a rheumatologist, treating patients with arthritis and related diseases for 15 years at Carbondale Clinic. At the same time, he taught freshmen at the medical school. During that period, he helped develop and teach lessons in empathy to medical students. He also helped found a medical software company called DxR Development Group Inc. of Carbondale, which won a Jackson County Business Development Corp. award in 2001.

Diane Dorsey became a civic leader, developing the idea for Carbondale's first lighted parade in 1990 that now draws upwards of 20,000 visitors annually and winning Citizen of the Year honors from the Carbondale Chamber of Commerce in 1993. She died in 1999 at age 44 after battling amyloidosis, a disease that eventually choked the heart muscle.

In 1998, Kevin Dorsey was named associate provost at the Carbondale medical school campus. For the past nine months, he has served as interim dean while the search committee conducted a national search to replace Dr. Carl J. Getto, who left last fall for the University of Wisconsin Hospital and Clinics and Medical School in Madison.

Dorsey said he has commuted from Carbondale to Springfield as often as six times a week. He and his second wife, Linda, plan to move to Springfield, and he will periodically commute to Carbondale.

Dr. David Steward, professor and chairman of the internal medicine department, headed the search committee. He said a number of factors made Dorsey the No. 1 choice.

"He is very personable. He is sincere. He understands our mission and he expresses it well. He lets people know he wants to be part of the team," Steward said.

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Dorsey said the school focuses on medical education, turning out doctors to serve people in Illinois who have limited options for care. It also promotes research.

"We serve a rural population, a population that has difficulty getting access; an older population, a population that doesn't have much money; a sicker population, and we have to point our resources to that," he said.

Resources will be an issue for Dorsey. He said the state's money woes meant a medical school budget cut in the current fiscal year of 10 percent, just under $4 million. The school has coped by consolidating some jobs. He said seven people were laid off or moved to part time. He warned continued cutbacks could hurt the quality of training.

The new dean said he would like to continue practicing medicine as well as running the school, but that may not be possible. It would be difficult for patients to reach him if he were in a meeting or out of town.

"If I can do it well, I'll do it," Dorsey said.

nancy.chesley@lee.net / 217-782-4043

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