Dr. Karen DenBesten said au revoir to Bowling Green High School twenty years ago, but she continued using the French she learned there while striving to improve medical care in Africa.
As a Peace Corps volunteer from 1988 to 1990, Dr. DenBesten organized vaccination campaigns in the West African nation of Mauritania. When a conflict erupted between Mauritania and the neighboring country of Senegal, she helped with sanitation projects at refugee camps.
"There was an upheaval of hundreds of thousands of Mauritanian citizens from their homes," Dr. DenBesten said. "It was shocking to see."
Dr. DenBesten, who is now an infectious disease specialist in Chicago and recently traveled back to Africa to train health care professionals on HIV/AIDS education, is one of five Bowling Green High School graduates being honored this year as distinguished alumni. The honorees were recognized last week during a reception at Stone Ridge Country Club in Bowling Green.
The Bowling Green Schools Foundation began giving awards to accomplished alumni in 2001.
Susan Halleck, another of this year's distinguished alumni, focuses her efforts on medical care in her hometown. Mrs. Halleck, who graduated from Bowling Green High School in 1962, is the director of volunteer services at Wood County Hospital.
"I like being able to facilitate between the needs of the hospital and the people who want to help," she said. "It's nice to be part of such a positive effort."
Mrs. Halleck has worked at the hospital for about 15 years. She oversees 200 volunteers who work inside the hospital, and assists the Wood County Hospital Guild with organizing volunteers for fundraising efforts.
This year's other distinguished alumni are:
-w●Dave Young, class of 1958, who gives talks all over the Cincinnati area encouraging organ and tissue donation.
Mr. Young was the sports information director for 25 years at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, where he still lives. He has suffered two heart attacks, the first when he was just 39 years old. He later developed a weakness in his heart muscle and had a heart transplant in 2000.
The transplant inspired him to become active in LifeCenter, a non-profit organ donor network. He helps to run a speaker's bureau for the organization and gives lectures with his wife at area churches and schools.
w●Dr. Keith Kisselle, class of 1985, who teaches environmental studies and biology at Austin College in Texas.
Dr. Kisselle received a master's degree in environmental science from Ohio State University and a Ph.D. in ecology from the University of Georgia. He worked with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to do research in Brazil on farming methods that are not harmful to the environment.
As a professor at Austin College, Dr. Kisselle directs students and volunteers in a prairie restoration project. He plans to develop a service-learning course at the college that would deal with environmental issues.
w●Dr. William Paxton, class of 1985, who is researching kidney disorders.
Dr. Paxton received M.D. and Ph.D. degrees from Emory University in Atlanta and is licensed to practice internal medicine. A research grant is funding his current work on finding ways to help patients with kidney diseases.