Dr. Gary Rosenfeld
Dr. Gary Rosenfeld

Perspectives is an ongoing series of Q&A’s with longtime faculty and staff at McGovern Medical School to give readers a glimpse into how the campus has changed over the years the impact the school has had on their professional lives. This week’s edition of Perspectives features Gary C. Rosenfeld, Ph.D., professor and associate dean of medical education in the Department of Integrative Biology and Pharmacology. Earlier this year, Rosenfield was honored with a STAR Award for his 45 years of service.

  • What first brought you to McGovern Medical School?

I was completing my postdoctoral work in 1972, at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine with Bert O’Malley, M.D. (now chair of the Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology at Baylor College of Medicine) who, knowing my background and interest in pharmacology, brought me to the attention of the late G. Alan Robison, Ph.D., who had just been hired as the pharmacology program chairman at the new UT Medical School at Houston.  Following my interview, and seeing that there was no tumbleweed on Fannin Street, and also buying into the creative vision of Cheves Smythe, M.D. and the palpable excitement of the faculty, I thought it might be great fun to help build a medical school. The rest is history.

  • How has McGovern Medical School changed throughout your tenure here?

In 1972 there was more of a wild-west approach to everything as we worked to create a new medical school. The sense was that if you were passionate about an issue, and put in the effort, you could get it done. Back then there were no departments, only programs and program chairs, and the curriculum was integrated and only three years long. That soon changed. Becoming more traditional, programs became departments with department chairs and the 3 year curriculum became four and discipline-centric. Also, at the start, there were nearly as many committees as today but so few faculty that, for better or worse, most assumed administrative responsibilities long before they would have at more mature schools. Today, for the better, there is increased diversity and quality of our research programs, education programs, clinical programs, faculty, staff, and students. Regrettably, but quite understandably, there is today a greater bureaucracy and a greater concern over the bottom line that I think sometimes slows innovation. The one thing that seemingly hasn’t changed is our vulnerability to rising water from hurricanes and tropical depressions.

  • Are there any mentors or colleagues that have been instrumental to your development and achievements?

Of course. Among the many, deans, chairs, and faculty, including my friend and colleague David Loose who is my go to technology guru, four stand out: Nachum Dafny, a colleague and friend for 45 years who has always been there for me through the ups and downs of my career; the late Tom Burks, the first hired pharmacologist at the school (before Al Robison) who was for me a research and educator collaborator, a friend, and an outstanding mentor being the only one of the 6 original department faculty hires who had any experience as an independent investigator or educator; George Stancel, also a 45 year friend and colleague who, as chairman of pharmacology at a critical junction in my career, supported my initial development and work as a medical educator; Patricia Butler, who for the past 30 years has been guide, confidant, and cheer leader in support of my local, regional, and national medical education activities.

  • Do you have any particular accomplishments, awards, or recognition that stand out and what makes them special?

There are a number of awards in recognition of my educational work and scholarship that I have been honored to receive including those from the AAMC’s Southern Group on Educational Affairs and Group on Educational Affairs, from the International Association of Medical Science Educators, and from UT System. Most of all, I am particularly proud of my work to develop programs that have had a direct positive impact on our medical students and faculty. These include my effort individually and collaboratively that resulted nationally in the creation of the American Society of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics’ Division of Pharmacology Education, in the fundamental reorganization of the MCAT exam, and in the greater recognition of the “Scholarship of Teaching” for promotion and tenure. Locally, I am proud of my work to develop the Summer Research and Scholarly Concentration Programs, the Academy of Master Educators and, above all, Problem Based Learning in which I have enthusiastically participated for 25 years as a facilitator.

  • What have you most enjoyed about your time at McGovern Medical School?

Of course I highly appreciate the friendship of my colleagues in the Office of Educational Programs and the Department of Integrative Biology and Pharmacology. That, and the intellectual stimulation, is what have kept me enjoying coming to work each day for 45 years. What I am especially grateful for, and what I have most enjoyed, are the opportunities that have been given me by leadership to participate in the development of the programs mentioned above, and particularly those programs that help promote and recognize student scholarship.