Did you know that the UC Davis School of Medicine is celebrating its 50th anniversary?? And Pathology and Laboratory Medicine is celebrating 50 years as an academic department, too – 1967-68 was the academic year in which Robert Stowell MD PhD arrived from the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology to serve as the first chair in our new school. 1968 was also the year that this budding new medical school enrolled its first class.
1968 is considered one of the most historic years of modern American history – CNN referred to 1968 as “the year that changed America”. This was the year that both Martin Luther King and Robert F. Kennedy were assassinated, two African-American Olympic medalists raised their fists during the national anthem to silently protest racial discrimination, and the first televised inter-racial kiss took place on “Star Trek”. In medicine and science, 1968 was the year of the world’s second heart transplant and this patient was the first to live more than a year afterward. Brain death was established as a technical “fact” by a group of Harvard faculty. And Douglas Engelbart, a computer scientist at Stanford, gave a presentation which has become to be known as the “the mother of all demos” since he demonstrated a system that included the mouse, a graphical user interface, desktop sharing and video conferencing which set the stage for our personal computers today.
On top of all that, that average cost of new house was $14,950, the average American’s income was $7,850.00, and gas was only 34 cents a gallon!
Our School of Medicine was born in this historic year of rising social consciousness and in its own way has helped change America by meeting the challenges of that era and the times that have followed. We are proud that our student body demonstrates our commitment to diversity and inclusion. Over the past five years, 43% of our students are from backgrounds that are under-represented in medicine, and 51% who are socio-economically disadvantaged. Our school’s research continues to address the most important social issues and impactful diseases of our times: gun violence, cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, autism, social determinants of health, and more.
I’m proud – as I hope that all of you are – that our department has played a special role in educating outstanding physicians who serve California and the world and in making discoveries that have made our school among the top quartile at #39 of research medical schools, and #10 among medical schools for primary care, according to US News.
Here are just a few fast facts about our department over the years:
- Leveraging UC Davis’ international stature in agriculture and nutrition, our faculty have led the way in elucidating the role of nutrients and diet and their effects on health and the development of disease.
- Founding chair Robert Stowell led an extensive and detailed multi-institutional review of research data on the artificial sweetener Aspartame. Due to many high-profile controversies surrounding this sweetener, the Food and Drug Administration would not approve Asparatame without Dr. Stowell’s thorough and impartial, outside review which led to the eventual approval.
- Chair emeritus Ralph Green, an international expert in health effects of folate and other B vitamins, has served as a consultant to the World Health Organization, US Food and Drug Administration National Academy of Sciences, Institute of Medicine, biotechnology and pharmaceutical industries.
- Work by Vice Chair of Research Yvonne Wan and her lab have gained considerable attention for their findings on the effects of the Western diet on the microbiome and its influence on the development of liver disease, including liver cancer.
- Modern understanding of breast cancer development and the risk associated with pre-invasive lesions have been shaped by the foundational work of chair emeritus Sefton Wellings and faculty member Hanne Jensen. Drs. Wellings and Jensen defined the sub-gross anatomy of the female breast, as well as the earliest pre-cancerous lesions and the anatomical structure where they arise: the terminal ductal-lobular unit.
- Chair emeritus George Lundberg MD created the “brain-to-brain loop” conceptual framework for clinical testing, an important concept that remains at the heart of clinical quality programs and the National Academy of Medicine’s recent report on diagnostic error reduction.
- Ground-breaking work on the pathogenesis of AIDS was conducted by department faculty members during the AIDS epidemic of the 1980s. Chair emeritus Murray Gardner and other UC Davis colleagues discovered simian AIDS, the latter serving as the model for human AIDS research. As a result of this work, Dr. Gardner and departmental colleague Paul Luciw and others co-founded UC Davis’ Center for Comparative Medicine.
- One of the earliest informatics fellowships in the nation began right here in our department by chair emeritus Robert Cardiff MD PhD. One of our early informatics graduates was Jose Galvez who is also an alum of our residency program. Today, Jose is Chief of Biomedical Translational Research Informatics at the National Institutes of Health. Together Drs. Cardiff and Galvez created informatics tools that supported many national efforts including the Pathology Core for the National Cancer Institute’s Mouse Models of Human Cancer, a core led by Dr. Cardiff.
- Our department has a tradition of leadership in educational technology. We were among the first departments in the nation to replace glass slides with virtual microscopy for medical school pathology course, an innovation introduced by Regina Gandour-Edwards. Today, Hooman Rashidi continues this legacy of educational innovation with his HemeQuiz app which includes many faculty as chapter authors, along with interactive online textbooks such as Hematology Outlines and others in the works.
On 5/24, we will be celebrating our 50 years as an academic department, and these are just a few of the many accomplishments we have to celebrate. Our chair emeriti will be returning to share their reflections and vision of the future during a panel lunch discussion and in rotating roundtables to follow. We will showcase our research in a moderated poster walk before lunch and well as in afternoon platform presentations. And the event will conclude with the highlight of the day, our annual Stowell Lecture delivered by Abul Abbas, Chair of the Department of Pathology at UCSF who will speak on one of today’s hottest topics and treatments, “Recent Advances in Immunology: Understanding Disease Mechanisms and New Therapies.” I’m delighted that the Stowell family will be with us to share in this special day and present to the department, Dr. Stowell’s Golden Headed Cane Award, the highest honor in the discipline of experimental pathology. Please click on the flyer to register for the event.
History is the thread that binds us together, engenders pride in who we are, and shapes where we go in the future. Please join us on 5/24 to celebrate our history and the history that we will make together going forward – I hope to see you there! And to learn more about our department’s history, check out our historic timeline.