In many ways, the tremendous success of the medical center over the next two decades (and beyond) owes much to the fact that the school had put itself in a position to leverage an unprecedented period of rapidly expanding medical knowledge — much of it ignited by a single event.
In 1953, James D. Watson and Francis Crick (Cambridge University) with Maurice Wilkins (King’s College, London) famously announced the basic structure of DNA. The three men were jointly awarded the 1962 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine “for their discoveries concerning the molecular structure of nucleic acids and its significance for information transfer in living material.”
This led to a new understanding of biology, that human cells contain chromosomes made up of genes. The ramifications of the discovery would prove endless.
For the first time, it allowed for the study of diseases caused by defective genes and the search to isolate inherited genes responsible for specific diseases.
Furthermore, the understanding of how proteins are designed and can cause disease provided windows of opportunity for drug development that had never before been possible. Pharmaceutical science would be transformed by a new understanding of the way cells within the human body worked.
Add to this the fact that medical technology was rapidly advancing. The use of ultrasound and magnetic resonance imaging would make it easier to diagnose disease.
Incredible advances in surgical instruments and techniques would lead to organ transplants, from kidneys to hearts. Major developments were occurring in replacement surgery for hips, knees and elbows. Advances in the area of reproductive science were being made as well. New understanding and treatment of cancer and the increasingly effective use of a combination of drugs, radiotherapy and surgery was underway.
This time of tremendous excitement and innovation served as a catalyst for significant increases in both state and federal funding. It also served to inspire generous private gifts from the Dallas philanthropic community.
Increased state funding was initiated by Governor John Connally. He used his political skills to increase taxes in order to raise teacher salaries, improve libraries, support education, and fund scientific and medical research. While his efforts were wide ranging, the medical school directly benefited.
Not coincidentally, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) had significantly raised its funding budget. By 1960, it had $400 million in annual grant monies — the majority of which would be awarded to thoughtfully crafted proposals for biomedical research and training.
Seldin and his teams of clinical scholars made extensive use of the opportunities afforded by NIH grants. It would soon become evident that the medical school’s quality of medical investigation could compete with the best medical schools in the country.
The conception and development of the Dan Danciger Research Building was a perfect example of the synergies in place at the time. It was completed in 1965 and connected the Hoblitzelle Clinical Sciences Building with Parkland Hospital.
It began in 1960, when the Danciger Foundation pledged $750,000 for a new research building. The Foundation added an additional $250,000. The medical school filed matching grants with the NIH and received additional funds. And in 1961, the school was given an additional $1 million grant from the National Advisory Council on Health Research.
The medical school continued to expand.
A key reason for its growth was inextricably linked to Parkland as its teaching hospital.
The bulk of all clinical teaching, internships, residencies and rounds provided the vast majority of the training requirements for medical students in an exceptional environment.
In January 1961, the Dallas County Hospital District Board endorsed the idea of building a medical center for children as part of the growing center. The proposal called for a 200-bed facility on seven and a half acres that the hospital district would deed for construction.
“The decision to include the Children’s Medical Center…represents a major step forward in our medical care program for the needy children of Dallas,“ said Hoblitzelle. “It also creates the opportunity for the highest order of medical coordination.”
That same year, the Foundation extended its influence beyond the medical school campus by announcing its support for the construction of a new hospital on a 71-acre site in what was considered “the northern section of Dallas.” The 350-bed facility would be called Presbyterian Hospital of Dallas and cost $7.5 million. The Foundation contributed funding, planning and development expertise. A cooperative agreement between the hospital and the medical school would provide a teaching program at both undergraduate and graduate levels.
At the close of 1962, the medical school was awarded its first general research support grant from the NIH. At the time, some 250 research projects involving 135 faculty members and more than 200 technical assistants were underway.
In the mid-60s, the Foundation saw increased levels of charitable giving for both unrestricted gifts and those earmarked for specific purposes. This was aided in part by a fundraising campaign, “The Responsive Instrument of Your Wishes,” which highlighted the results of generous support of community leaders and philanthropists in the past.
In 1966, the Dan Danciger Research Building, the Pauline and Adolf Weinberger Laboratories for Cardiopulmonary Research and the Skillern Student Union Building were dedicated. That same year, the Board of Regents changed the school’s name to The University of Texas Southwestern Medical School at Dallas.
In 1967, UT Southwestern medical students performed better on Part II of the National Boards than students at any other medical school in the country. It was a milestone academic achievement that proved the intellectual acumen of both UT Southwestern’s students and faculty.
With continued community support, the Foundation announced that another building, the Fred F. Florence Bioinformation Center, had been funded through a $1 million gift.
In March, Karl Hoblitzelle, a man of uncommon generosity who had passionately helped to steer the Foundation for nearly 30 years, died. It was difficult to imagine how Hoblitzelle’s vision and generosity would be replaced, and to honor his service, the title of chairman would not be held for another ten years. George MacGregor, as president, led the Foundation until he was later named chairman.
On July 1, 1967, Dr. Charles Sprague came to UT Southwestern as dean of the medical school from Tulane University School of Medicine. He’d grown up in Dallas (in fact, his father had served as mayor from 1937 to 1939).
Dr. Sprague had earned his medical degree from The University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston, served in the Navy and trained in internal medicine and hematology at Tulane University, Washington University and Oxford.
Both Sprague and Seldin shared a strong belief that the basic science departments should be raised to the level of the clinical sciences departments by providing much-needed physical space and recruiting additional outstanding faculty.
This kind of mutual respect between diverse departments was (and continues to be) unusual compared to that found in many universities. It came from a philosophy originally outlined by Dr. Cary and put into practice by Dr. Seldin, which led to a high level of collegiality that would come to typify the culture of UT Southwestern.
Dr. Sprague developed a proposal to expand Southwestern Medical School into a “Life Sciences Center,” that would offer education, research and patient care in medicine, allied health and related fields. The bold plan would more than double the size of the existing campus, adding close to a million square feet of new space.
Huge applications (quite literally a single application might weigh as much as ten pounds) for large grants were submitted to Washington — work that required months of preparation.
The effort paid off, and federal and state monies were approved totaling $32.5 million.
Still, the visionary project was $7.5 million short.
To make up the difference, Southwestern Medical Foundation immediately launched a major fundraising drive called the “Life Sciences Center for the Southwest.” It proved so successful that when medical school faculty members arrived at the “kick-off breakfast” to officially begin the campaign, they were told that commitments made by the Dallas philanthropic community had already surpassed the target goal by nearly $1 million.
“It was the largest sum ever raised here by a private foundation for capital improvements,” declared John M. Stemmons, vice president of the Foundation.
The first of the new buildings began to be occupied in 1972. In November, the name and scope of the medical school were changed with its reorganization into The University of Texas Health Science Center at Dallas, which now included Southwestern Medical School, the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences and the School of Allied Health Professions. Dr. Sprague was named as the institution’s first president.
The heart of the UT Southwestern campus now included the Philip R. Jonsson Basic Science Research Building, the Eugene McDermott Academic Administration Building, the Tom and Lula Gooch Auditorium, the Eugene McDermott Plaza and lecture rooms, the Cecil and Ida Green Science Building, the Fred F. Florence Bioinformation Center and the Harry S. Moss Clinical Science Building. Along with those donors, came significant gifts from the Jones, Stemmons and Zale families; and the Hoblitzelle and Sid Richardson Foundations.
It was the addition of these buildings, which finally gave the faculty the room to grow.
This transformed the regional medical school into an impressive national medical center.
It should be noted that the philanthropy directed to both the medical school and the Foundation by the three founders of Texas Instruments was remarkable, not only for its generosity but for its inspired philosophy. Each man — Erik Jonsson, Eugene McDermott and Cecil Green — firmly believed that basic research, in and of itself, could lead to the discovery of scientific principles that could change the world.
In 1979, the school’s research excellence was recognized when Ronald W. Estabrook, PhD, became the first biomedical researcher from Texas elected to the National Academy of Sciences (NAS). Many UT Southwestern researchers would later receive national and international acclaim for their work.
Throughout the 70s, the Foundation’s endowments continued to grow as new advances in medicine inspired donors to contribute to medical research, education and patient care.
This outpouring of support from the community would lead the Foundation down a permanent path. When a promising research idea needed an endowment, when a new building needed funding, when the medical school needed monies to attract the best medical minds in the country, the Foundation was there. To enhance achievement. Fill financial gaps. And accelerate innovation.
Dr. Cary had said it best years ago: “Surely, it is worthwhile.”