Zabner presented with Distinguished Mentor Award

Yesterday the Carver College of Medicine recognized Joseph Zabner, MD, with the 2023 Daryl and Nancy Granner Distinguished Mentor Award. A packed audience filled the seats and even the stairs in Prem Sahai Auditorium inside the Medical Education Research Facility.

After opening remarks from Vice President for Medical Affairs and the Tyrone D. Artz Dean of the Carver College of Medicine, Denise Jamieson, MD, MPH, three speakers each took a few moments to share what it was like to be mentored by Zabner and how they have brought his methods into their own careers.

Kate Excoffon, PhD, vice president for research at Spirovant Sciences, Inc., shared a number of lessons, but specifically cited Zabner’s successful efforts to welcome her as a woman into an all-too-male-dominated space. Alejandro Pezzulo, MD, associate professor of internal medicine at the University of Iowa, delved deeply into photo archives, while pointing out how Zabner encouraged learning more from failures than successes. Edward Chang, MD, FACS vice-chair and professor of otolaryngology at the University of Arizona, described what it was like for Zabner to “believe in you before you would believe in yourself.”

Zabner himself then delivered an acceptance speech that recognized the influences of some of his own mentors, including Roberto Sánchez-de León, MD, PhD, and Michael Welsh, MD. “Mentors are more than teachers, they are appointed fathers,” Zabner said. As much as he acknowledged their impact, he also recognized the importance of his wife, Kineret, and his sons, David, Jonathan, and Adam, to his career. (Chang had previously described the importance of family to Zabner as “not a work-life balance, but a work-life swirl.”)

Zabner also described how the environment at Iowa was especially conducive to being nurtured and nurturing good scientists. “[Former department chair] Frank Abboud and [former college dean] Jean Robillard would end every meeting by asking, ‘What else do you need?’” Finally, Zabner talked about the pride he feels in seeing his own trainees become mentors themselves. “The Iowa Mentoring Secret,” he said, “continues to be strong.”

After Zabner’s speech, Welsh introduced the keynote presentation from William G. Kaelin Jr., MD, the Sidney Farber Professor of Medicine at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Harvard Medical School. Kaelin received the 2019 Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine and presented a variety of data both from his own work as well as future data and work from his own trainees, continuing the theme of the day.

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