Dr. Thomas Jessen, a retired Newton family physician who practiced in the community for 40 years, was recently honored with an Award for Service during the University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine 2014 Distinguished Alumni Awards.
Established in 1998, these awards are the highest honor that the medical school bestows upon its outstanding graduates. The Award for Service, specifically, honors alumni for meritorious leadership and service in a professional capacity or in the broader community.
In addition to his decades of medical practice, Dr. Jessen served as the high school football team physician and volunteered at the Jasper County free medical clinic. He led by example through his involvement with a variety of local organizations and, as written in literature from the award ceremony, “is a well-respected and trusted figure in the Newton community. He has always gone above and beyond for his patients and is always available to help anyone in need. Even since his retirement in 2010, Jessen’s compassion for his patients and community members is unparalleled, and he has dedicated himself to serving others.”
In attendance at the ceremony to support Dr. Jessen was Brett Altman, current COO of Skiff Medical Center and soon to be CEO. “While Dr. Jessen is very humble about receiving this award, it is a very big deal that only a select few attain,” Altman said. “Dr. Jessen has been a blessing for Skiff Medical Center and the Newton community and this honor is well deserved.”
Dr. Jessen said that his decision to pursue medicine followed the influence of his time as an undergraduate student (class of 1964) at the University of Iowa.
“Opportunity was everywhere, and leadership from the professors was remarkable,” he said.
After his time at the University of Iowa and completing an internship and rotating residency at Butterworth Hospital in Grand Rapids, Mich., Dr. Jessen returned to Iowa to practice family medicine, which was a suitable fit for his community-oriented inclinations.
“I was able for 40 years to provide day-to-day, continuous medical care for a large number of patients,” he said.
Throughout his career, Dr. Jessen had a reputation for making himself readily available, even giving his personal phone number to patients who needed constant monitoring.
In addition to his many hours in a clinical setting, Dr. Jessen also extended his health-care expertise to local youth by spending much of his career serving as the Newton High School football team physician.
“For 37 years, I attended essentially all of the football games, in town and away, of both the varsity and sophomore teams at the high school,” he said. “Needless to say, I gained much experience and benefited much from the opportunity. Those young men and coaches added much to my life.”
Altman, who himself spent significant time with local sports teams in his role as a licensed physical therapist and athletic trainer, said, “Dr. Jessen welcomed me to the sidelines in 1994 and served as a friend and mentor to me in the provision of sports medicine services for 17 years, which was not even half of his total sports medicine tenure. Tom is a leader with a golden heart and always kept the athletes’ best interest in mind when injuries occurred.”
Newton Senior High School football coach Ed Ergenbright, who also attended the ceremony, said that Dr. Jessen was known for going the extra mile for the student athletes.
“Doc was a fixture on our sideline for many years serving the young men who played in our program,” he said. “As a head coach, I can say having him on our sideline gave me great peace of mind knowing that in the event of an injury he was very qualified to provide whatever care was needed for our athletes. Medical service aside, I consider Doc a good friend and loyal supporter of Newton athletics to this day. Our team motto is, ‘Character first, last and always,’ and he sets an example of this every day. The best kind of leader I know is one who leads by example, and that’s Dr. Jessen.”