To set the stage for the establishment of ISCRM, it may be helpful to reveal my own biases and beliefs. My outlook on science and education was formed by my experiences in the 1970’s at a very unorthodox and innovative college: New College, in Sarasota, Florida. New College challenged its students to raise questions about everything, and gave students the tools, training, and confidence to persevere until they had answers. This training served me well as my research moved from developmental biology to signal transduction pathways.
The second set of events which influenced me were my own experiences as a patient fighting major health issues at several points in my life. From these experiences I began to truly appreciate the remarkable dedication, sacrifice, and skills of most physicians. I also came to believe that the gap between standard of care and medical therapies in the clinic was way too large compared to what was known about normal and diseased states from research in laboratories. So, I was poised by my own medical history to want to have an impact on medical care, and my undergraduate education gave me the tools to function outside of the usual quiet academic world. So how did I end up aligning with Tony and Chuck?
Chuck, Tony, and I had started traveling to Olympia to argue to the legislature for guidelines on the use of stem cells in Washington state. This experience made us realize that at UW we had in place all the ingredients for a world class stem cell and regenerative medicine institute. We shared this vision with the leadership of the University of Washington. The administration, with the support of departmental chairs, backed our plans to launch the ISCRM. I was asked by Dean Ramsey to serve as the Founding Director, which I was thrilled to do. In the ten years I served in that capacity, and with input from Tony and Chuck, we began testing our vision that insights into normal biology could be leveraged to develop new therapeutics.
ISCRM has now matured. After a decade at the helm, it was my pleasure to have Chuck Murry to take over the position of Director. ISCRM has indeed been a success and therapies for multiple conditions will be emerging in the next few years, traceable to the dedication and skills of the students, senior fellows, and faculty who joined us at South Lake Union.
It is my hope that, by sharing these thoughts, others may feel encouraged to embark on their own journeys in science and medicine, both within and outside of the University of Washington. I further hope that my comments will convey to students that it is never too late to find and follow your passions. Lastly, my comments will hopefully reinforce the fact that, in both science and medicine, all advances are predicated on the work of the whole community, and ISCRM is yet another example of the power of seeing further by standing on the shoulders of our predecessors.