2014 SOUTHERN REGIONAL MEETING
Presentation of the 2014 Founders’ Medal Award David M. Guidot, MD
r. President, colleagues, and guests.
It is my great pleasure to present this year’s Southern Society of Clinical Investigation (SSCI) Founders’ Medal to my close friend and colleague Dr. Jesse Roman. This award is presented each year to a member of the SSCI who has made important and enduring contributions to our society. I have attended the SSCI meeting and been in the audience for every Founders’ Medal presentation since 1996, and I am proud to place Jesse Roman’s name on that prestigious list. He embodies all that we value in our society and his contributions as a physician, a scientist, a mentor and an academic leader have strengthened the SSCI. Jesse Roman-Rodriguez (2 last names per the Spanish tradition) was born in Mayaguez, Puerto Rico, on July 6, 1959. He was almost born in Alabama where his father was a student but his mother ﬂew to Puerto Rico very late in her pregnancy so that their son would be born on their home soil and be welcomed by the extended family. Jesse would later spend several formative years as a young boy near the campus of North Carolina State University where his father was pursuing graduate studies in entomology. Jesse Roman Sr. and his wife Zaida had, and continue to have, an incredibly positive and supportive inﬂuence on their only child’s life. Jesse’s father was an accomplished scientist and served as a dean of the School of Agriculture at the University of Puerto Rico, and he and Zaida ensured that education and service were core values in Jesse’s life. Jesse was a brilliant student and graduated from medical school at the prestigious University of Puerto Rico before his 24th birthday. However, his greatest “achievement” during this period was meeting and later marrying his wife Millie, who has been his loving and steadfast companion throughout his extraordinary career. On graduating from medical school, Jesse joined the Internal Medicine Residency at the Veterans Affairs Hospital in San Juan, Puerto, under the leadership of Manuel MartinezMaldonado. “Manny” to his friends is a legendary ﬁgure in Puerto Rico and is himself a former recipient of the Founders’ Medal. He mentored many of the ﬁnest graduates of the medical school in San Juan and encouraged many of them to perform academic research fellowships at the premier medical schools throughout the United States. Jesse heeded this advice, and he and Millie moved to St. Louis where he entered the pulmonary medicine fellowship at Washington University. It was there that he had the good fortune of working with Dr. John McDonald, who was a pioneer in studies of the pulmonary extracellular matrix. However, John McDonald has told me on several occasions that it was in fact his good fortune that Jesse chose to work with him, as From the Department of Medicine, Division of Pulmonary, Allergy & Critical Care Medicine, Emory University School of Medicine, Atlanta, Georgia and the Atlanta VA Medical Center, Atlanta, GA. Presented at the Joint Plenary Session at the Southern Regional Meeting New Orleans, LA, February 21, 2014. The author has no ﬁnancial or other conﬂicts of interest to disclose. Correspondence: David M. Guidot, MD, Department of Medicine, Division of Pulmonary, Allergy & Critical Care Medicine, Emory University School of Medicine, 615 Michael Street, Suite 205-M, Atlanta, GA 30322 (E-mail: [email protected]
their mentoring relationship was productive scientiﬁcally but even more importantly to John, it created a lifelong friendship. While at Washington University, Jesse developed an incredible passion for laboratory research and the die was cast for him to devote his career to biomedical investigation. When Jesse completed his combined clinical and research fellowship at Washington University in 1991, he was recruited to Emory University and to the Atlanta, VA, by none other than Manny Martinez-Maldonado, who had moved to Atlanta and was then the Chief of Medicine. Manny recognized that Jesse would enhance that institution as a promising young physician-scientist, and Jesse proved this to be true. He quickly established an independent research laboratory and made seminal discoveries on the role of integrin signaling in the lung and how the formation of an aberrant extracellular matrix was not just a consequence of a disease process but could in fact drive and amplify pathophysiological sequences in acute and chronic lung injury. Jesse and Millie also built a wonderful family life in Atlanta where their 2 beautiful daughters, Veronica and Victoria, would grow up. Although he was a dedicated and passionate physician-scientist, Jesse was even more dedicated to his family and made time with them a priority. In 1995, I was fortunate to be recruited to the Atlanta VA, and Emory University where I joined Jesse and a young faculty with a relatively limited history of research activity but a clear plan to develop into a great academic division. I met Jesse during the interview process, and we have been close friends and colleagues ever since. It was clear to me from our ﬁrst meeting that he was a brilliant scientist and on the fast track for academic greatness. However, I was even more impressed with the great compassion and skill he brought to patient care. Patients and staff absolutely adored Jesse. However, although he may have been a fantastic physician, he was at times not a great driver. I still remember how he locked his keys in the car with the engine running in the parking lot at Crawford Long Hospital in Midtown Atlanta, where he had driven me for a meeting with the Chief of Pulmonary, the world-famous Roland Ingram. While Jesse searched for a way to call Millie (the “pre-cell phone world”) and ask her to drive down with a spare set of keys, I was sent off unescorted to try to ﬁnd Dr. Ingram’s ofﬁce. Several years later, when I was well established at Emory and was collaborating with Jesse, we drove from the VA Hospital to the Emory campus to meet with a colleague. We were running late and Jesse stopped in front of the building and told me to go in and tell her that he was parking the car. I had only 1 foot on the pavement when Jesse took off at high speed while I held on to the open passenger door for dear life, screaming for him to stop. It is a testament to my affection for Jesse that I was not even upset, and as I was unharmed became a humorous story for later retellings. When Jesse rose to division director in 2002, it marked the beginning of a time of explosive growth for us at Emory. Over the next 7 years, my greatest satisfaction was serving as Jesse’s wing man while he led the division to undreamed of heights. Under his leadership, the division and the fellowship grew in size and stature; notable accomplishments included the awarding of 2 separate T32 Training Grants from NIH, the
The American Journal of the Medical Sciences
Volume 348, Number 1, July 2014
Presentation of the Founders’ Medal Award
recruitment of outstanding biomedical investigators and the training and retaining of wonderful fellows from within. It was truly a magical time for us at Emory. Jesse would tell fellows and junior faculty that “you can read the book and drive a Porsche, or you can write the book and drive a Chevy.” Jesse has always been the scientist who “wrote the book,” and his scientiﬁc discoveries in lung biology, with a particular focus on how the lung becomes pathologically scarred in a range of acute and chronic diseases, have made him an internationally recognized leader in this ﬁeld (although I am not sure about what kind of car he is driving these days). However, Jesse was always looking for new and bigger challenges and in 2009, he left Emory University to become the new Chairman of Medicine at the University of Louisville. It is a testament to Jesse’s charisma and leadership that junior faculty who had only known Jesse as their leader were distraught at his departure; in fact, you would have thought the world was coming to an end. I spent many hours reassuring them that Jesse had set the stage for the division to thrive even after he left, although I must admit I did so while simultaneously hiding my own anxiety about the “post-Roman era.” Needless to say, Jesse brought his boundless enthusiasm and passion to Louisville where he had an immediate impact on the Department of Medicine and the entire institution. One of my greatest pleasures in academic medicine is to interview senior medical students for our Internal Medicine residency at Emory. All of us are used to seeing letters from Chairs of Medicine in the application packets, but how often does one have an interviewing student spontaneously cite the Chair of Medicine’s inﬂuence in their professional decisions? Students from Louisville all speak warmly and admiringly about their personal interactions with Jesse as he advised them through the process. He is never too busy to make a student feel like the most important person on his calendar that day. I have been a member of the Southern Society of Clinical Investigation for almost 20 years, and I can say without reservation that my 1 great contribution to our society was
Ó 2014 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins
encouraging Jesse to get involved. He has served the society in every conceivable way including as our President from 2009 to 2010 and continues to serve on our Council. He has been a wonderful ambassador for the society and is the quintessential embodiment of its mission statement. In parallel, he is a highly respected and beloved member of several other academic societies including the American Thoracic Society, where he has been a leader and role model. Jesse, Millie, Veronica and Victoria have been among our closest friends for the past 2 decades. My wife and I, along with our son and daughter, have spent many wonderful Thanksgiving and Christmas Holidays with the Romans. They are constant reminders that the personal relationships will always be more important than our academic careers but that with the right inspiration and the right attitude, it is possible to have both. You could take away everything that Jesse Roman has achieved in terms of leadership positions, and he would still be happy as long as he had his family, his research laboratory and the incredibly loyal and productive team therein, and his joy and privilege in caring for patients. Jesse is a wonderful humanist and scholar in many areas besides medicine. One of my favorite poets, Alexander Pope, is well known for the line “A little learning is a dangerous thing.” This line is often quoted but few know the 2nd line of Pope’s couplet, which is “Drink deep or taste not the Pierian spring.” (In Greek mythology, the Pierian Spring was the metaphorical source of knowledge in arts and science). Jesse has always drunk deep from this spring, and his academic career has been ﬁlled with the rewards of his efforts. Importantly, he has always given more of himself to others, and his mentorship and leadership at Emory University and now at the University of Louisville remain treasures in which we all are fortunate to share. Ladies and gentlemen, it gives me the greatest pleasure in my professional life to present the 2014 Founders’ Medal to a husband, a father, a son, a physician, a mentor, a scientist, a leader, a colleague and to my wonderful friend, Dr. Jesse Roman.