John Oates: A closer look  pg. 5

Growing a discipline

The Oates family on vacation in the mid-1990s. From left, Meredith, Oates’ wife of 49 years, John Oates, daughter-in-law Jennifer, youngest son Jim, daughter Larkin, granddaughter Caroline, daughter-in-law Jane, and oldest son David. Of their grandchildren, who now number six, Meredith Oates says they think their grandfather is “the best playmate.”
Photo courtesy of the Oates family
Oates was not alone in embracing the notion of a discipline that would bridge laboratory research and clinical investigation. He and a handful of other young scientists, some of them his peers from the NIH, began to call themselves clinical pharmacologists and form units around the country in the early 1960s.

“Clinical pharmacology became what those five or so investigators took it to be,” says David Robertson, M.D., director of the Elliott V. Newman Clinical Research Center at Vanderbilt. “They all knew each other, and they met and called themselves the ‘non-society of clinical pharmacology.’

“They were each great scientists in their own fields, and they insisted on carefully controlled studies. I think if John had an ideology with which he approached research, it was that measuring things carefully and thinking properly about study design was the way to make discoveries.”

At Vanderbilt, Oates found a confluence of the right ingredients for a successful program, including a pharmacology chairman, Allan D. Bass, M.D., who was committed to the idea and a thriving clinical research center, one of the first NIH-funded centers in the country.

“Allan Bass had a vision that the scope of pharmacology ought to include clinical investigation and human pharmacology,” Oates recalls, “and that was unique at the time.”

So with Bass’s enthusiastic support and an early award from the Burroughs Wellcome Fund, Oates set about building a world-class clinical pharmacology program—a division of the Department of Medicine with strong connections to the basic scientists in the Department of Pharmacology. His efforts met with stunning success.

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