Today in the United States, more than 6,000 people a year receive a liver transplant, and since liver transplants have begun, over 200,000 patients have received this therapy. They survive today due to the efforts of a legendary scientist and surgeon: Thomas Starzl of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. He performed the first successful liver transplant in 1967 and refined the use of immunosuppressive drugs such that patients could tolerate their grafts — some for decades. With Starzl’s efforts over the last 50 years, thousands of patients with end-stage liver disease have been able to live long and active lives.
After Francis Collins received his PhD in Physical Chemistry at Yale University and his medical degree at the University of North Carolina, he zeroed in on genetics. He is noted for his landmark discoveries of disease genes and later his leadership of the Human Genome Project, which culminated in April 2003 with the completion of a finished sequence of the human genome. Since August 2009, Collins has served as the director of the NIH, the largest supporter of biomedical research in the world.
Paul Marks is recognized as a leader in the cancer field and as a world-class scientist, clinician, and administrator. He served as president and CEO of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center (MSKCC) between 1980 and 1999 after serving as the dean (1970–1973) and vice president for Medical Sciences (1973–1980) of the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons (P&S). Marks led the discovery, testing, and recent approval of SAHA (suberoylanilide hydroxamic acid), the treatment for cutaneous T-cell lymphoma. SAHA and other histone deacetylase (HDAC) inhibitors are now undergoing trials for a broad array of cancers.
Dr. Jean Wilson from the University of Texas Southwestern Medical School joins the JCI for its series Conversations with Giants in Medicine. Dr. Wilson was the editor in chief of the JCI between 1972 and 1977. His research centered on cholesterol metabolism and steroid hormone action, laid the groundwork for understanding male/female genital development, and led to the first medical therapy for benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH).
Donald Seldin from The University of Texas Southwestern Medical School joins the JCI for its Conversations with Giants in Medicine. Seldin served as the chairman of medicine at UT Southwestern for nearly four decades and transformed the department and the school from a grouping of ramshackle army barracks to a world-class medical center, host to Nobel Laureates and members of the national academies. He was also a major figure in the emergence of nephrology as a legitimate discipline, and in this role he was one of the founders of the American Society of Nephrology and served as its second president. Among his many attributes, Seldin has been described as one of the most magnetic and charismatic mentors academic medicine has encountered.