Zinn named associate dean of physician-scientist studies

By Amanda Siegfried 

Dr. Andrew Zinn, associate professor in the Eugene McDermott Center for Human Growth and Development and of internal medicine, has been named the new associate dean for UT Southwestern's acclaimed Medical Scientist Training Program (MSTP).

The program integrates medical and research training, leading highly qualified students to earn both M.D. and Ph.D. degrees. 

"I am honored to be able to give back in this way to the M.D./Ph.D. program and to the school that has done so much for me," said Dr. Zinn, a 1988 graduate of the program. "It is humbling to follow in the footsteps of exemplary role models such as Dr. Jean Wilson [professor of internal medicine], the first director of the MSTP, and to have the opportunity to mentor future physician-scientists."

Dr. Andrew Zinn

Entry into the Medical Scientist Training Program is based solely on merit, and more than 300 applications are received each year for approximately 15 spots. The goal of the program, which usually takes seven to eight years to complete, is to prepare individuals as physician-scientists. MSTP graduates typically pursue careers in academic medicine and biomedical research at the nation’s leading institutions.

Combining the strengths of UT Southwestern Medical School and the UT Southwestern Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences, the MSTP curriculum is flexible and individualized to suit the background and interest of each medical scientist fellow.

Ross Perot and his wife, Margot, began their support of the program in 1987, with a multiyear, multimillion-dollar pledge. The Perots and their foundation recently extended their support well into the next decade, as part of their $50 million commitment to UT Southwestern’s Innovations in Medicine campaign.

Nobel laureate Dr. Michael Brown, director of the Erik Jonsson Center for Research in Molecular Genetics and Human Disease, has directed the pro­gram since 1996. Dr. Robert Munford, professor of internal medicine and microbiology, is co-director.

Dr. Dennis McKearin, professor of molecular biology, has been the associate dean administering the MSTP since 2004. Dr. McKearin is leaving UT Southwestern to join the Howard Hughes Medical Institute as a scientific officer. 

"Dennis McKearin is a successful developmental biologist and he has done a fabulous job as associate dean for the MSTP," Dr. Brown said. "He is respected and admired by students and faculty alike. We will miss his calm wisdom and his thoughtful advice."

Like Dr. McKearin, Dr. Zinn will continue his research while administering the program.

"We’re all overjoyed that Andrew Zinn has agreed to accept the position as associate dean in charge of the MSTP," Dr. Brown said. "He compiled a brilliant record as an MSTP student at UT Southwestern in the 1980s, and he went on to a highly successful residency in internal medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital and a postdoctoral fellowship in human genetics at Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

"We were fortunate to recruit Dr. Zinn back to Dallas, where he has made important discoveries in human genetics and has provided new insights into the common problem of obesity in humans.

"Dr. Zinn’s career embodies the essence of the MSTP — training in basic science applied to the solution of human disease."

In addition to Dr. Zinn, five other current UT Southwestern faculty members are graduates of the program, and 18 MSTP alumni are currently residents or postdoctoral clinical fellows on campus.

The MSTP receives support from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences, as well as substantial private support from the Perots and others.