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.

Our People: Mark Loudin, Technology Expert and Friend

Mark-Loudin

“I have never enjoyed anything more than becoming friends with our many students”

There are those who sit in the front of the class and those who prefer the back of the class. And then there are those who’d rather sit with Mark Loudin.

How many of our alumni, faculty and staff did a spell in the Irvine 194 lecture hall control booth with Mark? Mark joined the Heritage College in 1999 as multimedia producer and director, with a responsibility and an incomparable talent for ensuring that the classroom technology works effortlessly for faculty and students. A familiar face – and voice – to nearly half of our graduates, many of us have have appreciated his warm welcome and a moment of respite in that dark room, participating in the classroom intensity from behind the glass wall, and enjoying Mark’s company, counsel and hundreds of refrigerator magnets and collection of college memorabilia.

Favorite part of his job: “Seeing a first-year student attending orientation, timid and afraid, without confidence and a bit more than overwhelmed. In four short years, that same individual blossoms into a confident, competent leader and then graduates – and enters a practice as a trusted and life-altering physician.”

Thoughts on technology: “Computer-age students have demanded that we change the way we approach education. We record and post thousands of classes and events and make them available in minutes online. We have integrated several types of technology into a cohesive unit of learning, which is unique of any medical school on the planet. Our students are amazing, and giving them the proper tools to learn and truly integrate the medical knowledge they must possess helps them in the real world.”

Inspiration: “I have had a very fortunate career. I have interviewed two sitting presidents, worked NFL sidelines for thousands of games, won a bunch of TV awards. All of that pales in my mind to the pride and accomplishment I feel on a Heritage College graduation day. I have never enjoyed anything more than becoming friends with our many students, and I certainly enjoy keeping in touch with as many as I can.”

Parting thought: “Let’s go! On to the next ideas, advancements and accomplishments!”

Our People: Sherman Brooks, ‘Resident Dean of Humanity’

yearbook024Reminisce with any member of our first class and sooner or later you’re likely to hear about Sherman Brooks, who served as mentor, confidante, adviser and tutor to students from 1976, when the college opened, till his retirement in 1985. And he did it all while keeping the hallways clean.

“There was a janitor – he was the nicest guy,” remembers 1980 alum Stephanie Knapp, D.O., now a pediatrician and allergist in Pennsylvania. “He was from southern Ohio. He was very encouraging when we were studying at night. He was such a great guy, and I really remember him and how kind he was and how welcoming.”

Knapp is just one of the many alums who still remember Brooks, who died in 1987. A 1978 student yearbook featured an in-depth feature on him, reporting that the custodian “has gained a legacy of respect from the osteopathic students by not only being a physical plant employee, but also a ‘resident dean of humanity’ … What can you say about a janitor who can tell you how cadavers are preserved, explain the functions of the heart, know the birthdates of 59 students and root and cheer for them through every arduous step of their scholastic career?”

Brooks reportedly had a lifelong interest in medicine, and had asked Ohio University to transfer him to work in Grosvenor Hall when the new medical school opened. “He would quiz the kids, and they loved him,” recalls Chip Rogers, who first worked for the college as assistant and driver to first Dean Gerald Faverman, and later went on to become director of alumni relations and director of advocacy.

In 1990, a number of people who had been with the college from its earliest days got together to honor the man who had always remembered students’ birthdays and had a kindly word to offer when they needed one. Some 25 year later, the Sherman Brooks Memorial Scholarship is still helping first-year students from small southeastern Ohio towns who have expressed an interest in rural family practice.

Do you have a Sherman story? If so, please share below.