Surrounded by friends, colleagues, former mentors, and loved ones, two members of the Division of Pulmonary, Critical Care, and Occupational Medicine each received formal recognition of their appointment to two newly formed professorships. Julia Klesney-Tait, MD, PhD, in addition to being the Medical Director of the Lung Transplantation program within University of Iowa Health Care (among other roles), is now also the William M. Spear Associate Professor in Pulmonary Research. David Stoltz, MD, PhD, in addition to being the Director of the Physician-Scientist Training Program in the Carver College of Medicine (among other roles), now also holds the Pulmonary Research Professorship. Each three-year position was created to recognize a faculty member who has excelled in the study of pathogenesis or treatment of a pulmonary disease.
As a welcome to the assembled guests, Joseph Zabner, MD, Pulmonary Division Director, briefly described the accomplishments of both Klesney-Tait and Stoltz, but indicated he would not steal the thunder of those who would follow him. Instead, he recognized the spouses of each honoree, thanking them for their years of support and encouragement that allowed the two of achieve so much.
Zabner then called up Kal Parekh, MBBS, professor in Cardiothoracic Surgery, and Klesney-Tait’s partner in the institution’s lung transplant program. Parekh described the early days when they had been tasked with the program’s creation and how proud he has been to work alongside Klesney-Tait as they built it into one of the strongest programs with the highest success rates in the country. Parekh was followed by Tahuanty Pena, MD, who works alongside Klesney-Tait in the lab. It fell to Pena to lightly roast Klesney-Tait but in the midst of his mild teasing what emerged was a portrait of a colleague who is deeply admired for her skill, wisdom, and collegiality.
Klesney-Tait then offered her own words of gratitude to her family, to her division and lab colleagues, Zabner especially. She compared Zabner to the narrator of the Lake Wobegon stories, “where everyone is above average.”
Next, it was Stoltz’s turn. Michael Welsh, MD, director of the Pappajohn Biomedical Institute, offered a brief overview of Stoltz’s career and the breakthroughs he has made in the study and treatment of cystic fibrosis. That the University of Iowa is synonymous with cutting-edge discovery in this field is due in part, Welsh made clear, to Stoltz’s dogged pursuit of answers to thorny questions. Welsh was followed by Greg Bagby, PhD, Emeritus Professor of Physiology at Louisiana State University, where Stoltz completed his MD-PhD. Bagby echoed Welsh’s characterization of Stoltz as determined, describing how in the first year he and his colleagues had to tell Stoltz to take some time off, that he was working too hard and for too many hours at a time.
Postdoctoral fellow Michael Rector offered a trainee’s perspective on the kind of mentor that Stoltz has been to him since his days as an undergraduate. Rector described one time in particular in which Stoltz cleared an afternoon to help him prepare for a presentation competition. Stoltz literally gave him the coat off his back to help Rector appear more professional. Rector’s success, he says, was due not just to the coat, but the investment that Stoltz made in Rector’s training.
Stoltz followed and offered praise similar to Klesney-Tait’s. Gratitude to a supportive family, department, and division, awe at the lucky set of circumstances that led to his recruitment to Iowa for his residency, and humility for the long line of excellent mentors he was fortunate to receive attention from throughout his career.
The formal portion concluded it was time for photos with friends and family.
And then it was time to celebrate on the twelfth floor of the Vue above downtown Iowa City. Congratulations to both Dr. Julia Klesney-Tait and Dr. David Stoltz on a monumental achievement recognizing decades of outstanding contributions to pulmonary treatment and research.