December 12, 1997

Oates’ dedication to Vanderbilt celebrated in day-long Festschrift

Oates' dedication to Vanderbilt celebrated in day-long Festschrift

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Colleagues and students, past and present, gathered at VUMC recently to honor Dr. John Oates (left). Among the were Dr. Anders Rane (center), of Uppsala Universitet in Sweden, and Dr. Albert Sjoerdsma, of Kitty Hawk, N.C. Photo by Donna Jones Bailey

Dr. John A. Oates, who recently stepped down as chairman of the Department of Medicine, was honored recently with an impressive gathering of many of the physicians and scientists he has helped train during the past three decades at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

Oates, Thomas F. Frist Professor of Medicine and director of the Center for Clinical Pharmacology and Drug Toxicology, came to VUMC in 1963 from the National Heart Institute in Bethesda, Ma., where he had served as a senior investigator. Oates succeeded Dr. Grant W. Liddle, chair of Medicine from 1968 until 1983. Oates has authored nearly 300 publications and is best known for his work in the areas of hypertension, heart disease and prostaglandin biology.

The day-long Festschrift, a German term meaning celebration of the career, focused on "Bridging Basic and Clinical Sciences in Pursuit of Improved Drug Therapy."

The seminar began with a welcome from Dr. Harry R. Jacobson, Vice Chancellor for Health Affairs. Jacobson, a former division chief under Oates, said the day was a "wonderful tribute to a great academician and clinician."

"Just like everyone in this room, my life was significantly touched by John Oates," Jacobson said. "In 1985, he convinced me to come to Vanderbilt to assume the position of director of the division of Nephrology. That was clearly the best move I made in my academic career for two reasons ‹ John's fantastic support and guidance and encouragement in helping me develop what I think is a pretty good nephrology program at Vanderbilt, and that clearly was responsible for people recognizing that I had some management skills and could do something like be vice chancellor."

Dr. Dan M. Roden, professor of Medicine and Pharmacology and chief of the division of Clinical Pharmacology, has worked with Oates since 1978 when he was a fellow at VUMC. He spoke of the numbers of physicians and scientists who have learned from Oates.

Roden showed those attending a map with hundreds of dots designating where Oates' former charges have located.

"There are 250 trainees all over the world and that is a real accomplishment and a real tribute to John," Oates said. The Festschrift was designed in part so that some of those trainees could showcase what they have done since.

Dr. Allan D. Bass, chairman of the Department of Pharmacology from 1953 until 1973, said that Oates has "played the role of a master scientist and master teacher."

"A person who has that many dots on the map is hard to compete with," Bass said. "A person like John comes to a university very infrequently. He has always been wanted by other people, and that's very difficult for a department chair when you have a faculty member like that."

Joel G. Hardman, Ph.D., associate vice chancellor for Health Affairs and professor of Pharmacology, said that it was a true stroke of good luck that Oates chose Pharmacology as a career. Hardman was chair of the Department of Pharmacology from 1975 until 1990.

"John Oates has established himself as a scientist who is equally at home in the laboratory or in the hospital or clinic examining a subject in a clinical research trial," Hardman said. "John Oates would have been a success in any field. Vanderbilt and its Pharmacology department are indeed fortunate that John would have an early interest in cardiovascular diseases, that we hooked him on a pharmacology line, and that Vanderbilt landed him and didn't let him out of the net. We thank him for spending his career at Vanderbilt"

In addition to numerous current faculty members, others with ties to VUMC who participated in the seminar included Dr. Robert Branch, director of the Center for Clinical Pharmacology at The University of Pittsburgh; Dr. Raymond Woosley, chair of the Department of Pharmacology at Georgetown University; Dr. Russell G. McAllister, clinical professor of Medicine, Duke University Medical Center; Dr. Ross Feldman, chair of the division of Clinical Pharmacology, University of Western Ontario; Dr. Alan S. Nies, vice president of Clinical Sciences, Merck Research Laboratories; Colin Funk, Ph.D., associate professor of Pharmacology, University of Pennsylvania; Dr. Richard Maas, associate professor of Medicine, Brigham and Woman's Hospital and Harvard Medical School; and Dr. Joann Data, Sr. vice president of clinical development and regulatory affairs, Co-censys Pharmaceutical.