M.D./Ph.D. students, Baptist nursing students celebrate Adler family’s gift of $1.5 million

SAN ANTONIO (Dec. 6, 2012) — Doctoral students, nursing students, and officials of the UT Health Science Center San Antonio and the Baptist Health Foundation of San Antonio are celebrating $1.5 million in gifts from the estate of Laura A. Adler in memory of her husband, Harry F. Adler, M.D., Ph.D.

From the Adler estate, $1 million is a gift to the Health Science Center. Half of this gift will establish the Harry F. Adler, M.D., Ph.D., Laboratory in the South Texas Research Facility. The other half will establish the Harry F. Adler, M.D., Ph.D., President’s Endowment. The second gift, $500,000, will establish through the Baptist Health Foundation of San Antonio the Harry F. Adler, M.D., Ph.D., Endowed Scholarship Fund for nursing students at the Baptist Health System School of Health Professions.

Pioneer in translational medicine

Dr. Harry Adler was an early pioneer in translational medicine who achieved the rigorous educational milestone of physician with his M.D. degree and of biomedical scientist with his Ph.D. degree. In 1950 he wrote an unpublished report on altitude decompression sickness that became a classic review used by many investigators. It was made into a book in 1964. Dr. Adler, a Chicago native, ran a family practice from 1949 to 1979 in San Antonio and was chief of staff at a Baptist hospital. He died in 1997.

At a reception in November, Dallas dermatologist Max Adler, M.D., a 1976 alumnus of the School of Medicine at the UT Health Science Center, spoke on behalf of the Adler family. “Mom and Dad would be very proud of this,” he said.

The event honored the memory of Dr. Adler and his wife, Laura, who met her husband when both were at Randolph Air Force Base. Although never formally trained, she developed great skill as a nurse. A group of nursing students from the Baptist Health System School of Health Professions symbolized the excellence she acquired in on-the-job training under the watchful eye of Dr. Adler. Mrs. Adler died in 2009.

Supporting science, education and patient care

Several speakers addressed the significance of this private gift.

“Creating successful laboratories and investigators requires the state of Texas, the National Institutes of Health, and private partners and companies — private partners like the Adler family,” said Kenneth L. Kalkwarf, D.D.S., M.S., president ad interim of the Health Science Center. “To this generous family, we say thank you for supporting two institutions of San Antonio, the UT Health Science Center and Baptist Health System.”

Cody Knowlton, president and CEO of the Baptist Health Foundation of San Antonio, said scholarships are the lifeblood of Baptist health professions students. He said the Adler gift would “undergird tuition of countless students until the Lord comes” and give the shade of financial provision on hot afternoons to future health professionals. “The Adlers have planted a rather large tree for students to sit under,” Knowlton said.

Love of science and medicine

First-year M.D./Ph.D. student Jeffrey Cooney, co-author of a paper published in the prestigious journal Nature, spoke on behalf of the M.D./Ph.D. program including its director, Jose Cavazos, M.D., Ph.D. “A big part of my decision to do an M.D./Ph.D. degree was rooted in the fact that I loved both science and medicine,” Cooney said. “I spent several years doing hematology research and fell in love with the elegance of a well-designed experiment.”

Cooney’s mentor gave him the chance to work in a pediatric oncology clinic. “Here I fell in love with the patients and their families, and began to experience the human side of medicine, he said. He saw how 50 years of advances were applied to treat pediatric leukemia patients. “The ability to contribute to these advances is the real reason that I chose a career as a physician-scientist,” he said.

“For students of the M.D./Ph.D. program, the bar is set high,” Dr. Max Adler said to those standing before him. “In conducting research, always make it an honest effort — that is all we ask.”

Thanks to the Adler family, students such as Cooney will have laboratory space and endowed scholarships for perpetuity.

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