40 Things to Know: The world’s first transgenic mammal was developed here

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Pictured (from left): Joseph Jollick and Thomas Wagner, both then faculty members at the Heritage College, were part of a research team responsible for a discovery that revolutionized biomedical research.

“It’s because of the way the medical school was founded – different from any osteopathic medical school before it. It changed the standing of osteopathic medicine, and that happened at Ohio University. Period.”

– Thomas Wagner, Ph.D., retired distinguished professor of molecular and cellular biology


Apparently, research really has been in our DNA from the start.

It was in 1980 – just four years after the college opened its doors – that a team led by Thomas E. Wagner, Ph.D., then a chemistry professor on our clinical and basic science faculty, developed DNA microinjection. In this process, an important addition to the genetic engineer’s toolbox, scientists take a gene for a particular trait from one animal and inject it into the embryo of another animal shortly after it’s fertilized. The new gene enters the DNA of the recipient, which can then pass the trait along to its offspring.

This discovery – and Wagner’s use of the process to create the world’s first transgenic mammal by transferring a rabbit gene into a mouse – revolutionized biomedical research, making national news at a time when gene-splicing was still in its infancy. A major collaborator in that research was microbiologist Joseph D. Jollick, Ph.D., who like Wagner was an original member of the college’s science faculty. The patented process of DNA microinjection, developed right here, remains a widely used, powerful tool in genetic medical research.

Wagner, who in 1983 co-founded biotech firm Diagnostic Hybrids Inc. and is now a retired distinguished professor of molecular and cellular biology, is still finding ways to use molecular biology to treat disease. In 2013 he founded Perseus PCI (Personalized Cancer Immuno-therapeutics), a clinic that treats cancer with vaccines made from patients’ own tumor cells.

At a time when the college is developing a comprehensive research strategy to reaffirm its commitment to focused scientific study, it’s worth remembering that our researchers have engaged in world-class work almost from day one. Recalling the earliest days of the college, Wagner stresses that a commitment to hiring top-notch basic science faculty was a hallmark from the start. In turn, he says, the high value placed on research raised the prestige of the college, and ultimately, the entire osteopathic profession.

“It’s because of the way the medical school was founded – different from any osteopathic medical school before it,” Wagner said recently. “It changed the standing of osteopathic medicine, and that happened at Ohio University. Period.”

News coverage about Dr. Wagner’s research:

Ohio University Compass (2014)

The Christian Science Monitor (1992)

The New York Times (1989)

 

40 Things to Know: Our Family Health radio program offered consumer health information for more than 30 years

Pictured: Frank Myers, D.O., dean emeritus; Carl Denbow, Ph.D., director emeritus of communications; and Doug Partusch, a producer for WOUB at that time.
Pictured: Frank Myers, D.O., dean emeritus; Carl Denbow, Ph.D., director emeritus of communications; and Doug Partusch, a producer for WOUB at that time.

“In this photo, which was taken in the control room of the recording studio at WOUB, we appear to be discussing a script – probably looking at a troublesome sentence that needed to be reworded in some way. We had a good team and always worked together to provide sound medical information in an easy-to-understand way. We’d make changes as necessary right up to the point that we did the recording.”  

– Carl Denbow, Ph.D., director emeritus of communications


In the age before WebMD and Internet-accessible medical and health news-you-can-use, there was Family Health radio. The program was the brainchild of Dr. Myers and championed by Dr. Denbow, Don Bilski, and many other radio announcers, producers and writers for more than 30 years. The two-and-a-half-minute program offered listeners timely, practical consumer-oriented health information. At its height, the program reached an estimated hundreds of thousands of listeners, on 250 radio stations domestically and worldwide in China, Canada, New Zealand, United Kingdom and the American Forces Radio Network.

40 Things to Know: Our college was led by the first female African American dean of a medical school

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Embracing diversity and serving the underserved are bedrock values for both our college and the osteopathic profession. So it shouldn’t be too surprising that we made history in August 1993, when our university and college chose an African American woman to be our dean.

When we announced that our new physician leader was Barbara Ross Lee, D.O., sister of Motown superstar Diana Ross, it marked a step forward for diversity in medical education. And Dr. Ross-Lee clearly understood that bringing more minorities into health care can mean better care for underserved populations. She also stressed the important role that osteopathic medicine can play in making that happen.

Speaking to Black Issues in Higher Education about her new job, Dr. Ross-Lee said osteopathic medicine offers great opportunities for minority physicians to improve care delivery to populations “we are most concerned about.” And as she has throughout her career, she spoke frankly about racial disparities in health care, calling them “a scandal of such long standing that it has lost the power to shock.”

Predictably, the national press had some fun with the fact that the new dean was sibling to a pop music icon. “Diana Ross’s big sister hit No. 1 on the charts this month,” deadpanned Knight Ridder/Tribune News Service. “Not the record charts. The medical charts.”

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Dr. Ross-Lee speaks at the 2014 Ohio Osteopathic Symposium.

African American media, though, cheered the appointment as a landmark. Dr. Ross-Lee herself hinted it was about time, telling Jet magazine that initially, she hadn’t realized her appointment was a historic first. “I probably, like the rest of the country, was a little surprised,” she admitted, adding that she hoped “this breaking of a barrier will just turn into a tide and we’ll see a lot more black females achieving in medical academics.”

Dr. Ross-Lee’s seven years at the helm were important for more than barrier-busting. Dean emeritus Jack Brose, D.O., who served from 2001-2012 and is now vice provost for health affairs, praises Ross-Lee for her bold innovation and “terrific leadership skills. I know I certainly learned a lot from her.”

Creative leadership was indeed, as Dr. Brose suggests, a hallmark of her tenure. Under her direction the college developed the nation’s first osteopathic post-doctoral training institute; its Centers for Osteopathic Research and Education; its two curricular options; an independent Department of Biomedical Sciences; and a Center of Excellence for Multicultural Medicine.

In 2001 Dr. Ross-Lee left our college to go to the New York Institute of Technology, where she currently serves as vice president for health sciences and medical affairs, and site dean for the Jonesboro, Ark., campus of NYIT’s College of Osteopathic Medicine.

Since moving on, she has continued to carry the standard for osteopathic medicine, health care diversity, and serving the underserved. In doing so, she has carried on a tradition as old as osteopathic medicine founder A.T. Still, who battled throughout his 19th century career against slavery and racism, and in favor of women’s rights.

Perhaps the symbolic breakthrough she achieved should have come earlier. We’re proud that it happened here.

40 Things to Know: We dance

The Heritage Ball at the Baker Ballroom

Many families have deep traditions that make for memories and lifelong connections. Our college is no exception.

On Saturday, Jan. 9, students from all three Heritage College campuses gathered in Athens for the high-gloss Heritage Ball, also known as the HCOM Prom. Sponsored by the Family Practice Club/Student Association of the American College of Osteopathic Family Physicians, this annual event means it’s time for students, faculty and staff to brush off the formal wear and join in the Nae Nae. View photos from this year’s Heritage Ball.

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Dancing is nothing new for us. Back in the early 1980s, our students celebrated with their classmates during the annual Champagne Dinner. By the 1990s, the Family Practice Banquet gave students a reason to pull out their dance shoes. And in the 2000s, the banquet, which began as a modest sit-down dinner with guest speaker, evolved into today’s gala.

The Heritage Ball at the Baker BallroomMemories aren’t just made in the classroom. Here they’re made on the dance floor, a football field and the stage in Irvine 194. The Heritage Ball is just one example of the many events our students have initiated over the last 40 years as ways to enjoy time outside the lecture hall with their classmates, families, faculty and staff. Our students develop friendships that remain long after graduation.

With the opening of our two new campuses, we’re watching traditions change as we grow. New traditions are emerging at our Dublin and Cleveland campuses. Will Dublin’s Ugly Sweater Holiday Potluck stand the test of time?

40 Things to Know: We’re recognized nationally as innovators in medical education

AMA_sig_RGBWe launch our transformative care curriculum in Cleveland in 2018, and the new competency-based, primary care-focused program is already capturing national attention. Referencing our efforts with Cleveland Clinic to develop a new and better model for medical education, we were recently named a member of the American Medical Association’s Accelerating Change in Medical Education Consortium.

As one of 32 medical schools selected nationwide to help lead the transformation of undergraduate medical education to better align with today’s health care systems, we’re in very good company.

We’re proud of our ongoing efforts to adapt our training to the changes our graduates are already experiencing in patient care. And it’s always gratifying when national experts acknowledge that we’re headed in the right direction. As members of the consortium, we’re ready to learn from our colleagues what curricular innovation looks like nationally – and we’re ready to share with them how it’s done in Ohio.

40 Things to Know About the Heritage College

A lot can happen in 40 years. Since our founding, our alumni, our faculty and staff, and our students have accomplished so much.

Each achievement is striking in its own right. Together, though, they tell an impressive story about the integral role our college has played – and will continue to play – in improving the health of people throughout our state, our nation and around the world.

In this “40 Things to Know” series, we’ve chosen 40 facts, initiatives, ideas and people that make our college extraordinary. Whether you’re a longtime Heritage College family member or you’re learning about us for the first time, please follow along as we lift up a few of the things that shape who we are today.

We hope you’ll be as proud as we are. Our previous successes provide the foundation that is sure to make the next 40 years even better.