When the American Thoracic Society (ATS) chose Joseph Zabner, MD, to receive the 2021 Recognition Award for Scientific Accomplishment, they invited him to deliver a lecture as well. Zabner, the Sterba Professor of Internal Medicine and Division Director of Pulmonary, Critical Care, and Occupational Medicine, recorded that presentation and sent it off to ATS for later upload and broadcast (scroll down).
Zabner delivered a live version of that same lecture recently for those closest to him–friends, long-time colleagues, and others. The story he told was of milestones on a path, personally and scientifically, from institution to institution, Venezuela to Texas to Iowa, mentor to mentor, and insight to setback to discovery.
Before that narrative, Zabner was introduced by Department Chair E. Dale Abel, MD, PhD, and Julia Klesney-Tait, MD, PhD, associate professor in Pulmonary, Critical Care, and Occupational Medicine. Both Abel and Klesney-Tait discussed Zabner’s abilities as a leader and a colleague, expressing their admiration and gratitude for his talents and his friendship.
After Zabner’s presentation, a few others had similar words of praise. Michael Welsh, MD, professor in Pulmonary, Critical Care, and Occupational Medicine and long-time leader of the Lung Biology and Cystic Fibrosis Research Center, was one of the reasons that Zabner came to Iowa and with whom he learned to study cystic fibrosis. Welsh shared a couple anecdotes that exemplified Zabner’s approach to research and mentorship, specifically Zabner’s talent for helping lead people to their own answers with a supportive questioning style.
Thomas Gross, MD, is another professor in the division who has watched Zabner’s career develop from fellow to faculty to division director. In his inimitable style he offered a light-hearted and warm perspective of Zabner as a good leader and a good friend. Gross also introduced a couple former colleagues who joined virtually, Michael Peterson, MD, and Gunnar Guðmundsson, MD, PhD, the latter of whom finally set the record straight regarding his past career in the movies.
The hour drew to a close and guests were invited to grab box lunches catered by a local bakery, a favorite of Zabner’s. This detail was perhaps the final piece to complete the picture of Zabner painted that afternoon, a man who maintains equally high standards when it comes to the culinary world as well as to the world of science.