November 19, 2004

Morrow set to assume helm of Division of Clinical Pharmacology

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Jason Morrow, M.D.

Morrow set to assume helm of Division of Clinical Pharmacology

Jason D. Morrow, M.D., was only planning on a one-year research stint in Clinical Pharmacology back in 1988. Today, he is poised to take the reins and lead the division, one of 13 divisions in the Department of Medicine.

Morrow will become the fourth director of Clinical Pharmacology on Jan. 1, 2005. Dan M. Roden, M.D., William Stokes Professor of Experimental Therapeutics and director of Clinical Pharmacology since 1992, is facing new challenges as director of the recently established John A. Oates Institute for Experimental Therapeutics.

“Dan is leaving this division as the strongest division of Clinical Pharmacology in the world,” Morrow said. “National Institutes of Health funding has doubled over the past five years, and trainees from this division continue to fill leadership positions in academia and industry.”

Vanderbilt's excellence in Clinical Pharmacology can be traced directly to the division's founding in 1963 by John A. Oates, M.D., Thomas F. Frist Professor of Medicine, Morrow said.

“John Oates had a vision for what it would take to establish a great Division of Clinical Pharmacology. He realized that it would require a strong alliance with basic pharmacology, an environment where clinicians interact with basic pharmacologists and do hypothesis-driven research,” Morrow said.

“That will continue to be my goal for the division: to have a strong hypothesis-driven scientific basis to what we do.”

Clinical Pharmacology's ties to the Department of Pharmacology make it unique among the divisions of Medicine. Heidi E. Hamm, Ph.D., Earl W. Sutherland Jr. Professor and Chair of Pharmacology, looks forward to the ongoing “synergistic relationship.”

“It's a dynamic time,” Hamm said. “Pharmacology is very actively moving in the direction of bolstering drug discovery — trying to find new targets and new molecules that hit those targets and then pushing those along the drug development spectrum. It's an area of growth for both Pharmacology and Clinical Pharmacology.”

Morrow sees Clinical Pharmacology fitting into a continuum of drug discovery research activities at Vanderbilt. “The infrastructure for drug discovery, starting with the Vanderbilt Institute of Chemical Biology, going through the Department of Pharmacology, the Division of Clinical Pharmacology and now the Oates Institute, is very strong at Vanderbilt,” Morrow said.

“We're very excited about the evolution of Clinical Pharmacology and the founding of the Oates Institute,” said Eric G. Neilson, M.D., Hugh J. Morgan Professor and Chair of Medicine. “Jason's leadership is vital to this transition, and as an accomplished thinker and mentor, he has all the right stuff to make a superb contribution to this area of science and scholarship.”

Morrow embraces the opportunity to move the division forward.

“I think this division is uniquely poised because of the NIH Roadmap, the commitment to translational research,” Morrow said. “In collaboration with the VICB, the Department of Pharmacology, and the Oates Institute, we can do translational research here like no other place in the United States.”

Morrow will move to take advantage of upcoming NIH initiatives including those related to translational research, pediatric pharmacology, and cancer pharmacology, he said. He also plans to “beat the bushes” for the best trainees in order to grow the next generation of clinical pharmacologists.

Morrow received his B.A. from Vanderbilt University and his M.D from Washington University in St. Louis. He served his Medical internship and residency at Vanderbilt and was the Hugh J. Morgan Chief Medical Resident from 1987 to 1988.

Instead of returning to a clinical fellowship in Infectious Diseases at Washington University following his term as chief resident, he approached Oates about a research position in Clinical Pharmacology. One year turned into a faculty position.

“I think it shows the importance of trying research,” Morrow said, “and that it's very difficult to predict how your career will go.”