Minna brothers continue medical legacy, service

By Erin Prather Stafford / Feb. 12-18, 2011

As a family practitioner, Dr. John Battista Minna had no idea his choices would one day impact UT Southwestern. The San Diego physician considered his office to be open 24 hours a day and often took his children on house calls.

Today his sons — Dr. John Minna, director of the W.A. “Tex” and Deborah Moncrief Jr. Center for Cancer Genetics and the Nancy B. and Jake L. Hamon Center for Therapeutic Oncology Research, and Dr. David Minna, associate professor of internal medicine — credit those experiences with steering them toward medicine and, eventually, to
UT Southwestern.

Drs. John Minna (left), David Minna

“The practice of medicine was not left at my father’s office,” Dr. David Minna recalled. “It was at home all the time. Our mother was a public health nurse, so both she and my father heavily influenced our interest in medicine. Honestly, I can’t remember a time when I didn’t want to become a physician.”

Dr. John Minna added: “Our parents genuinely enjoyed caring for patients and knowing them. They definitely instilled in us a sense of service and community.”

A graduate of Stanford University School of Medicine, Dr. John Minna spent time at both the National Cancer Institute (NCI) and the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., before coming to UT Southwestern in 1991.

His research focuses on understanding the molecular pathogenesis of common human cancers, such as lung and breast cancer, and using this information for diagnosis, prevention and treatment.

“I’ve made my home in academic medicine at UT Southwestern,” he said. “With NCI designation and the support of both NCI and Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas grants, my research is going at an incredible pace. And having a role in the growth of the Harold C. Simmons Cancer Center has been a great honor.”

A graduate of Saint Louis University School of Medicine, Dr. David Minna chose a clinical path. Specializing in rheumatology, he had a private practice in Huntington Beach, Calif., for 30 years. In 2008 he accepted a position at UT Southwestern and moved to Dallas with his wife. His brother said he knew the relocation was serious when Dr. David Minna brought his boat to Lake Ray Hubbard.

“It became obvious he was committed to staying in Texas for a while,” Dr. John Minna said.

The Minna family — including sister Judith and the siblings’ seven children — now spans the U.S. Both siblings express pride in being a part of the UT Southwestern community and are grateful for the opportunity to again live in the same town.

“UT Southwestern accepted us with open arms when we came,” said Dr. David Minna. “John had a similar experience. A large part of being happy is not where you are, but who you are with. And we’re thrilled to be here.”