Peter J. Deckers, M.D., '62
As Ignatius Loyola devoted himself to the "magis" — to seek always the greater — so has Dr. Peter J. Deckers shaped his life as a superb surgeon, an excellent teacher, an accomplished scholarly investigator, and an acclaimed academic leader.
Highly respected for his work in breast and gastrointestinal tumor surgery, Peter is dean emeritus of the University of Connecticut's School of Medicine and former executive vice president of the university's Health Center. During his 15-year tenure as dean, he was responsible for a major transformation at the medical school by supporting the development of a new educational curriculum; by overseeing a dramatic increase in patient care provided by John Dempsey Hospital and the UConn Medical Group; and by spearheading strong growth in public and private research awards to biomedical scientists and clinicians.
Joining the university's Health Center in 1987, he assumed the top administrative position on an interim basis in 1999 and, then, permanently in 2000. At the time, the Health Center was in a period marked by low reimbursement rates from Medicare, Medicaid and health insurers looking to rein in skyrocketing costs. Peter was instrumental in the lobbying effort that won for the Health Center special financial assistance of $20 million from the state legislature. He then helped engineer the turnaround that achieved $74 million in cost reductions and revenue enhancements; focused resources on areas of excellence; stepped up recruitment of nationally prominent physicians and researchers; and brought more patients to the Health Center.
During his tenure, Peter was adamant that the Health Center's special strength came from its combined mission of research, education and clinical care-helping propel the School of Dental Medicine to a No. 1 ranking, building new facilities, developing signature programs, and nearly doubling research expenditures.
Peter has published more than 150 scholarly contributions and served as president of the New England Cancer and New England Surgical societies. A Boston University School of Medicine graduate, he garnered top awards as a student and resident, and completed his fellowship training in the surgical branch of the National Cancer Institute at the National Institutes of Health.
Peter and his wife Barbara are parents of seven children, two of whom-Elizabeth, a Connecticut physician like her father, and Charles-are also Holy Cross graduates. After stepping down from the dean's position in 2008, he has continued to be involved with the University's Health Center, sees patients, teaches and assists with philanthropic and outreach efforts.
For his farsighted leadership, for his contributions to surgical oncology and to the advancement of medical education that will shape the learning and development of new generations of physicians and healers, the College of the Holy Cross presents to Peter J. Deckers the Sanctae Crucis Award.