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n 1984, the medical center looked to strengthen its molecular biology expertise,

especially in the area of gene cloning, because the process had become a critically important component of biomedical research. The medical school was on the hunt for a Chairman of the Department of Biochemistry, which took Joe Goldstein, MD, to Cold Spring Harbor Laboratories in Long Island, New York — a place Mike Brown, MD, once described as being to biology “what Athens was to philosophy.” There, Goldstein met with Joseph Sambrook, PhD. Sambrook was a British molecular virologist, internationally known for his work with the genetics of DNA tumor viruses and how they integrate their DNA into a host cell. He had been personally responsible for many of the advances in molecular biology technique and had co-authored the definitive manual on gene cloning. Joseph Sambrook, PhD, was world renowned for his studies of viruses and the molecular biology of normal and cancerous cells. His

In short, Sambrook was exactly who the medical school needed.

work effectively changed the ways in which

While there was little doubt that Sambrook could propel

scientists approach the cellular development

UT Southwestern to the leading edge of molecular biology, few

of many forms of human cancer. Sambrook was often described by his peers as brilliant, feisty, driven and highly competitive.

thought he would leave the academic environment offered by Cold Spring Harbor. Sambrook had been personally hired as assistant director there by James Watson, MD, the co-discoverer

of the structure of DNA, and was the logical choice to succeed him. UT Southwestern invited Sambrook to spend time on campus beginning in September 1984. During his time in Dallas, he witnessed the level of community support given to the molecular biology department through a significant, anonymous gift donated through Southwestern Medical Foundation. It made an impression. “The standard of science here is very high,” Sambrook noted, “and the people have a great desire to have the place be number one.” He accepted the position as Chairman of the Department of Biochemistry on August 1, 1985.


t was several months earlier in 1985 that Ralph Rogers went to call on a good friend,

H. Ross Perot. Perot had consistently expressed interest in supporting “world-class” institutions, and in the previous six years, six UT Southwestern faculty members had been elected to the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) — a prestigious achievement by any measure. But Perot declined Rogers’ request, saying, “Perception is more important than reality”— suggesting that the medical center was not widely perceived as world-class. As it turnes out, Perot was simply tempting fate. 18

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Southwestern Medical Perspectives Fall 2015  

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