A tribute to Donald W. Seldin, MD

We are saddened by the passing of Donald W. Seldin, MD, on April 25 at age 97.

Dr. Seldin was an iconic figure in medicine and the very embodiment of what the ASCI represents. His dedication to the ASCI community rose to the level of legend. Since his election to the Society in 1960, he attended the annual meeting nearly without fail. He served as Councilor from 1961 to 1965, after which he was elected 1965-1966 President.

In his May 2, 1966, Presidential Address, “Some Reflections on the Role of Basic Research and Service in Clinical Departments,” Dr. Seldin noted,

“Investigation is by definition the search for truth, the discovery of new knowledge, the development of explanatory and predictive theories. If this were all, a University would be no different from a research institute. Clearly the University has the vital additional function of education. If investigation is progressively separated from clinical work and teaching, the educational process deteriorates. Only the investigator can inculcate the methods of critical inquiry acquired in research into the routine practice of medicine. Only he can bring physiology and biochemistry meaningfully to bear in the study and treatment of the sick.”

His comments came 14 years into his tenure as Chair of the UT Southwestern Department of Internal Medicine, a position he would hold for another 22 years until 1988. He had begun his UT Southwestern career in 1951, and for a time he was the lone person in the Department, within a medical school sited in a former Army barracks. From this inauspicious foundation, Dr. Seldin transformed UT Southwestern into one of the great institutions worldwide built by physician-scientist powerhouses.

In recent years, the ASCI honored Dr. Seldin and his contributions to the physician-scientist community by creating the Donald W. Seldin~Holly Smith Award for Pioneering Research. The Award connects the careers of these two physician-scientist luminaries with outstanding early-career physician-scientists, and we were fortunate that Dr. Seldin, along with his wife Dr. Ellen Taylor Seldin, was able to attend recent AAP/ASCI/APSA Joint Meetings to celebrate the next generation that the Seldin~Smith Award represents.

We’ve compiled a collection of photographs featuring Dr. Seldin and a video excerpt from his interview in the Journal of Clinical Investigation series “Conversations with Giants in Medicine.” While he leaves a legacy of tremendous accomplishments, he will also be remembered for his sharp wit.

With Dr. Seldin’s passing, his mantle of integrity, intellect, and dedication to academic medicine and the aspiring physician-scientist becomes all of ours to pick up and carry forward.

Kieren Marr, MD
2018-2019 President
On behalf of the ASCI Council

Mukesh K. Jain, MD
2014-2015 President
Chair, Seldin~Smith Award Selection Committee