Dr. Donald Seldin, Known as the ‘Intellectual Father’ of UT Southwestern, Dies at Age 97

Dr. Donald Seldin, the ‘intellectual father’ of UT Southwestern Medical Center, died Wednesday at age 97. (Photo by: Ben Garrett)

UT Southwestern Medical Center broke the news Wednesday afternoon that Dr. Donald Seldin, who joined the med school in 1951 and became its “intellectual father, helping build it into what it is today, has died at the age of 97. Seldin spent 36 years as chairman of the Department of Internal Medicine. He was one of the most influential medical figures in Dallas history, and the subject of a 2013 D Magazine feature by Michael Mooney that had a title declaring as much.

A taste of that story, called “The Father of Dallas Medicine”:

In January 1951, at the age of 30, he left Yale for a job in Dallas, at the newest medical school in the country. He drove from Connecticut to Dallas with his wife and daughter in a big, lumbering Kaiser. He’d never been to Texas and was curious to see the school’s facilities. When he got to the corner of Maple and Oak Lawn, the young doctor pulled into a filling station. He asked the attendant how to get to the medical school. The attendant gestured in the vague direction of a railroad overpass down the road. Seldin drove on, but he found nothing but ramshackle military barracks, a dilapidated brick building, and garbage strewn in front of the entranceway.

He returned to the filling station, and told the attendant that all he’d seen were shacks and trash.

“That’s it,” the attendant said. “That’s the medical school.”

And one more snippet:

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.”

More on Seldin’s life and legacy to come on Thursday. Read Mooney’s story here.

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