Where Others Built Walls and Drew lines, Don McClain Built Bridges
Mar 16, 2015 9:00 AM
Donald McClain, M.D., Ph.D. is a “triple threat” to diabetes–and then some.
Endocrinologist, scholar, mentor and friend to the medically underserved, he has brought healing and hope to countless patients over his more than 30-year career, while contributing to seminal advances in diabetes research and nurturing the next generation of health professionals and scientists.
So it is with sadness that I say farewell to McClain, who, on April 1 departs for Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center to found and direct a new Center on Diabetes, Obesity and Metabolism.
It's hard to imagine a better person for the job. McClain has served as chair of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) study section on cellular aspects of diabetes and obesity and as an adviser or reviewer for several NIH, Defense Department and Veterans Administration study sections. Here at University of Utah Health Care he holds an endowed chair in diabetes research. Among his other roles since joining us in 1999: director of our Division of Endocrinology and Metabolism; director of Huntsman General Clinical Research Center; and associate vice president for translational research.
I’ll best remember his contributions to the U, though, as a bridge-builder. In all his leadership roles, McClain recognized the power of partnering. He launched educational outreach programs to medically underserved populations of Native Americans in Montana and Wyoming and helped establish an outpatient diabetes program to the Hopi Tribe in northeastern Arizona. And as endocrinology chief at Salt Lake's Veteran's Affairs Medical Center, McClain reached across institutions – the VA, the University and Intermountain Healthcare – to form collaborative partnerships and advance translational research under the auspices of the Utah Center for Clinical and Translational Science (CCTS).
Together, McClain and CCTS Co-Director Carrie Byington, M.D., established a unified Study Design and Biostatistics Core that formed the impetus for the School of Medicine's new Department of Population Health Sciences, established educational programs including the Master of Science in Clinical Investigation, and propelled a significant growth in funding for translational research at the University. In CCTS's first fledgling years, federal funding for translational research increased 4.2 fold to $72.6 million, and the proportion of studies that were translational increased threefold to 24 percent.
These bridges and institutional cores will live on under a new leadership pairing. Dr. Byington has graciously agreed to step in as the director, and joining her as co-director of CCTS will be Willard H. Dere, M.D., FACP, executive director of our Program in Personalized Health, a role he assumes beginning March 2. Byington serves on the national steering committee for the Clinical and Translational Science Award (CTSA) consortium and is part of the lead team for CTSA scientific workforce development. She serves in a number of major leadership roles at the University, including the AVP for Faculty and Academic Affairs. She was the 2012 recipient of the Linda Amos award for service to women. Dere is an internationally regarded medical researcher with 25 years experience in the pharmaceutical industry, where he held numerous executive positions at Amgen and Eli Lilly. His dual expertise in academia and drug discovery will uniquely benefit the CCTS mission of translating promising bench science into practices that improve health and patient outcomes.
Byington and Dere are working locally to build an environment that supports and values translational science through developing innovative programs in health services, genomics, and mentoring. In their capable hands, our continued success in clinical and translational research is assured.
So, though we're sorry to see Don McClain go, we are grateful for the lasting and generous legacy he leaves behind. And we wish him only the best in his new endeavors.
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