The passing of Dr. Donald W. Seldin was a great loss for our medical community, both locally and nationally. At the Foundation, we’ve been sharing stories and memories of his legendary teaching style, his charisma, and his brilliance. Like others who had the pleasure of knowing and learning from Dr. Seldin, we take great comfort in knowing that the lessons he blessed us with are timeless.
Following Dr. Seldin’s tenure as Head of Internal Medicine at UT Southwestern, he accepted the role of President from 1988-1993. He then served faithfully as Vice President for Medical Center Relations for more than 20 years. He played the key role in establishing the Foundation’s annual Public Health Forums on important and timely issues affecting the health of our community, such as bioterrorism, the avian flu, and the impact of personal behaviors on long-term health. These forums were the precursor to our Leading the Conversation on Health series, a cornerstone of the Foundation’s programming today.
In his 67-year career at UT Southwestern, Dr. Seldin inspired the greatest of scientific achievements and always asked the best of his students. He also asked for the best from our community. During a 2014 Southwestern Medical Foundation Executive Committee meeting, Dr. Seldin spoke very candidly about an opportunity he saw – for UT Southwestern to become a renowned leader in the field of neuroscience.
This is an excerpt from his impassioned speech, which like many of Dr. Seldin’s – was off the cuff yet delivered exquisitely. He gave us a call to action, and we were listening.
"Now we have a terrific opportunity to become the Neuroscience Center of Texas. And more than Texas. Look at our assets. Under Dr. Podolsky's leadership, we have designated significant hospital facilities to the treatment of neurological diseases. Not many places have that resource. The University hospitals are being transformed into an international neurosurgical center.
We have the ingredients of a very powerful basic science faculty.
Supposing the Foundation were to take on as its project the development of a neuroscience center. We already have many resources at hand. As I've said, we have a hospital. Nobody has a hospital easily available the way we have. We have a great deal of basic science support, very powerful, some of it of world significance.
Why shouldn't the Foundation take this on as a project? Something that will give us international acclaim and impact.
The Foundation could focus on the development of a neuroscience program, with campaigns focused on neurosurgery, strokes. The Federal Government investing billions into this, as the aging population is growing. Something has to be done.
Consider a formidable program to mobilize the resources we have, adding the resources we need, accompanied by appropriate public announcements. We have the talent, the production and the facilities to do something unique."
Our Chairman, Robert B. Rowling, with Dr. Daniel K. Podolsky, UT Southwestern President, have launched a leading Campaign for the Brain. This will provide funding for the formidable progress in neuroscience of which Dr. Seldin’s call to action spoke. Our deepest condolences go out to Dr. Seldin’s family. He was an extraordinary man. We will forever honor and hold him in the highest regard. We will have a permanent joy as we pass, and meet in our Seldin Conference room every day.
You can read more about his impact in our three-part Perspective Magazine series, 75 Years of Vision:
Dr. Donald W. Seldin, 'intellectual father' of UT Southwestern, dies at 97
UT Southwestern Medical Center
Dr. Donald Seldin, Who Put a Medical School on the Map, Dies at 97
The New York Times