UT Southwestern faculty and friends gathered to celebrate UT Southwestern’s 75-year history and look toward its future at a signature event held Nov. 2 in the Tom and Lula Gooch Auditorium. The event featured a keynote speech from Dr. Richard Lifton, President of Rockefeller University, and a panel discussion among UT Southwestern faculty moderated by Dr. Lifton.
The event’s primary goal was to highlight UT Southwestern’s immutable mission and how its steadfast commitment to education, discovery, and healing serves as the bridge linking UT Southwestern’s past, present, and future. Three videos, “Illuminating the Next Era,” “The Future of Medicine,” and “Possibilities,” juxtaposed UT Southwestern’s past and present.
UT Southwestern President Dr. Daniel K. Podolsky greeted attendees by reviewing the institution’s evolution from small shacks to the present: “Since its founding, UT Southwestern’s mission has been to improve the health of individuals and the health of our community. In this anniversary year, we have taken some time to reconsider how we articulate that – it is not that our mission has changed, it is that we now see it in a broader context,” Dr. Podolsky said.
In his keynote remarks, Dr. Lifton praised UT Southwestern for its relationship with the community: “UT Southwestern is one of my favorite institutions to visit, both because of the extraordinary colleagues I get to interact with, but also because I think it has one of the most special and amazing relationships between a community and an academic medical institution that exists anywhere on the planet.” The “Game Changers in Medicine” panel featured UT Southwestern faculty Dr. Robert Collins, Professor of Internal Medicine and Director of the Hematology Malignancies/Blood and Marrow Transplant Program and the combined Adult/Pediatric Stem Cell Transplant Program; Dr. Gaudenz Danuser, Chair of the Lyda Hill Department of Bioinformatics; Dr. Lora Hooper, Chair of the Department of Immunology; Dr. Eric Olson, Chair of the Department of Molecular Biology; and Dr. Sandra Schmid, Chair of the Department of Cell Biology. The panel highlighted the advances UT Southwestern is making in the use of technology to pursue research breakthroughs.
Dr. Olson shared one such advance: “I feel that we are in a truly unique moment in human history, because we know not only the sequence of the human genome, but we can do something about it. This is through a revolutionary technology called CRISPR, which makes it possible to identify even a single letter in the 3 billion letters of the human genome and to correct it – and to do it with high efficiency and high accuracy,” he said. “Through this technology, we’ve cured Duchenne muscular dystrophy in mice, and then dogs. This, I believe, is just the beginning of an entire revolution in which we can correct the many mutations for the devastating diseases of mankind.”
Following the panel discussion, attendees enjoyed a reception with displays and interactive stations that included a Simulation Center manikin, an inflatable domed theater that played a film from the Peter O’Donnell Jr. Brain Institute, and virtual reality goggles that placed viewers in a mock operating room during a heart transplant.