Grinnell receives Piper Professor Award, recognizing outstanding teaching

By Lin Lofley

Dr. Frederick Grinnell
Dr. Frederick Grinnell

Dr. Frederick Grinnell, Professor of Cell Biology and founder of UT Southwestern Medical Center’s Ethics in Science and Medicine Program, was selected by the Minnie Stevens Piper Foundation to receive a prestigious Piper Professor Award for 2017. He is the 14th UT Southwestern faculty member to be honored with this award.

Dr. Daniel K. Podolsky, President of UT Southwestern, presented the award to Dr. Grinnell at the 2017 Faculty Assembly, noting that the award was established to “acknowledge and celebrate great teachers. And Dr. Grinnell is a teacher’s teacher.”

“Dr. Grinnell is an interdisciplinary scholar whose teaching goes well beyond science as the underpinning of our understanding of human biology and disease to include the important sociological and humanitarian dimensions that frame the impact of that knowledge,” Dr. Podolsky said. “His interests and teaching encompass the intersection among science, history, and ethics. Through his decades-long commitment as an educator, he has influenced legions of graduate and medical students.”

Dr. Grinnell began teaching in the microanatomy course in 1974 and served as course director from 1978 to 1989. The philosophy of science seminar, created in 1980, became the focal point of UT Southwestern’s Graduate School research integrity program. Dr. Grinnell continues to teach research integrity to students and fellows across the Medical Center, and in 2014, he also began teaching a bioethics enrichment elective for medical students.

“It’s a real ego boost,” Dr. Grinnell said of the Piper Professorship. “It’s wonderful when your colleagues ratify what you’ve done, because sometimes that doesn’t happen. I am very appreciative, and to have it announced in front of your peers makes it all the more memorable.”

The Piper Professor Award was established in 1958 by the San Antonio-based foundation, and Texas institutions of higher learning may submit only one nomination annually. Ten outstanding faculty members from colleges and universities across the state are honored each year to highlight their dedication to the teaching profession and for their outstanding academic, scientific, and scholarly achievements.

Dr. Grinnell won a UT Regents Outstanding Teaching Award in 2012. That same year, he was elected as a Fellow in the American Association for the Advancement of Science by the AAAS Section on History Philosophy of Science.

In support of his philosophy/bioethics teaching, he has published two books: The Scientific Attitude, now in its second edition (Guilford Press, 1992), and Everyday Practice of Science: Where Intuition and Passion Meet Objectivity and Logic (Oxford University Press, 2008). Everyday Practice was short-listed for the 2010 UK Royal Society Science Book Prize, a recognition Dr. Grinnell called “a wonderful honor in its own right.”

Dr. Grinnell has mentored eight doctoral students and 27 postdoctoral fellows since joining the faculty, and he still marvels at the growth of the Medical Center.

“When I came here, there were three or four buildings, all on the South Campus,” he said. “Just look at us now.”

Beyond UT Southwestern, Dr. Grinnell organized the North Texas Bioethics Network in 2004, for which he continues to act as meeting coordinator. He also serves as a philosophy and ethics resource and engages with diverse groups throughout the North Texas educational community.

Previous Piper Professors still on the faculty at UT Southwestern, and the year they were selected, are:

Dr. James Richardson, Professor of Pathology, of Molecular Biology, and of Plastic Surgery (2008); Dr. Phillip “Eugene” Jones, Chairman of Physician Assistant Studies (2009); Dr. Ellen Vitetta, Professor of Immunology and of Microbiology (2011); Dr. Jerry Shay, Professor of Cell Biology (2013); Dr. Joel Goodman, Professor of Pharmacology (2014); and Dr. Dennis Burns, Professor of Pathology (2016). 

Dr. Burns holds the Jane B. and Edwin P. Jenevein, M.D. Chair in Pathology.

Dr. Goodman holds the Jan and Bob Bullock Distinguished Chair for Science Education.

Dr. Grinnell holds the Robert McLemore Professorship in Medical Science.

Dr. Podolsky holds the Philip O’Bryan Montgomery, Jr., M.D. Distinguished Presidential Chair in Academic Administration, and the Doris and Bryan Wildenthal Distinguished Chair in Medical Science.

Dr. Shay holds The Southland Financial Corporation Distinguished Chair in Geriatrics.

Dr. Vitetta holds The Scheryle Simmons Patigian Distinguished Chair in Cancer Immunobiology.