Dr. Donald Seldin, Chairman Emeritus of Internal Medicine at UT Southwestern and a towering figure in the history of modern medicine, died Wednesday at the age of 97, the university announced.
Seldin, who chaired the department for 36 years, started at UT Southwestern in 1951, when it was the newest medical school in the country. A native New Yorker recruited from Yale University, Seldin was shocked to find that, at the time, the school amounted to little more than “ramshackle military barracks, a dilapidated brick building, and garbage strewn in front of the entranceway.” Six months later, Seldin was the med school’s only remaining faculty member.
It was Seldin who transformed the school, and in the process, became the “Father of Dallas Medicine,” as a 2013 D Magazine profile by Mike Mooney called him:
Under Seldin’s direction, UT Southwestern Medical School would go on to produce some of the most important medical research in the world. He was hardly alone, but no other individual is more responsible for this transformation than Seldin. His three-pronged approach to research, patient care, and instruction changed the medical discipline forever. Today, there are five Nobel laureates at UT Southwestern (plus a sixth who got her start there), more than $400 million in annual research funding, and an endowment worth more than $1 billion.
His former students call him “magical” and “incredible” and “the only truly great man I know.” Some of the biggest names in medical science line up to praise him. Dr. Eugene Braunwald, the faculty dean at Harvard Medical School, has said Seldin is “one of the most impactful figures in the history of modern medicine.” Dr. Joseph Goldstein, who was a student of Seldin’s and won the Nobel Prize in 1985 for his work at UT Southwestern, calls him “an exceptionalist in academic medicine like Babe Ruth was an exceptionalist in baseball, Leonard Bernstein in music, and Steve Jobs in computer technology.” Dr. Michael Brown, another Nobel laureate, calls Seldin “my hero.”
In 2015, UT Southwestern dedicated the “Dr. Donald Seldin Plaza” and unveiled a 7-foot-tall bronze statue of Seldin. Per UT Southwestern, donations honoring Seldin can be sent to the medical school at P.O. Box 910888, Dallas, TX 75391-0888 or online at engage.utsouthwestern.edu.