John Oates: A closer look  pg. 6

“I think John’s extraordinary talents have been in having a vision for the field of clinical pharmacology and in recruiting and retaining people who have very complementary skills and creating an environment in which they flourish,” says FitzGerald, who served as the second director of Clinical Pharmacology at Vanderbilt.

“Those talents have been why, under John’s leadership, this model of what we call translational research now really flourished at Vanderbilt in a way that I don’t think it did anywhere else, and that’s really his great gift to that institution and to the country.”

John Oates, M.D., (center) featured on the cover of the May 3, 1971, issue of Modern Medicine with (from left) research fellows Russ McAllister, M.D., Barton Grooms, M.D., and Cliff Cleveland, M.D.
Branch, who was a faculty member in Vanderbilt’s Clinical Pharmacology division for 16 years, borrowed from Oates’s model when he set up the division at Pittsburgh.

“The most important thing was the atmosphere of getting enterprising people to be enterprising,” Branch says. “He didn’t tell people what to do. He had foresight in putting together infrastructures, like the mass spectrometry resource. He understood the mechanics of networking and cooperative multidisciplinary research way before it became popular and a buzzword at the NIH.

“In the first generation of clinical pharmacology centers, as the leaders retired, the centers fell apart. John’s is the only one, that when he moved on to become chairman of Medicine, continued to grow. And it’s the most substantial clinical pharmacology unit anywhere.”

From the vantage of this influential division, Oates shaped clinical pharmacology’s impact. He has served as a scientific advisor over the years to various pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies, including Merck.

“He understood what was required to work out how well drugs worked, and why they worked, and who they worked in,” says David Shand, M.D., Ph.D., a retired pharmaceutical company executive who was on the Vanderbilt faculty in the 1970s.

“He has been instrumental in our way of thinking about groups of drugs and drug interactions; it’s really a style of thinking that he’s contributed to the drug discovery and development process,” Branch adds.

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