Personalized medicine is not just a term to Jeffrey L. Clothier, M.D., medical director of the UAMS Psychiatric Research Institute and executive vice chair of the Department of Psychiatry in the UAMS College of Medicine.
It’s something much more…personal.
“Personalized or precision medicine allows us to seek out our patients’ pain, to determine the cause and contributors of their suffering,” said Clothier at a ceremony Oct. 6 honoring him as the inaugural recipient of the G. Richard Smith, M.D., Distinguished Chair in Personalized Medicine.
The ceremony, held at UAMS, was attended by a number of UAMS dignitaries and many of Clothier’s colleagues and family members as well as Smith, the former dean of the UAMS College of Medicine and the first director of the Psychiatric Research Institute.
An endowed chair is the highest academic honor that can be bestowed by a university on its faculty. A chair can honor the memory of a loved one or to honor a person’s accomplishments, such as with Smith, now a professor in the College of Medicine departments of Psychiatry and Internal Medicine and in the College of Public Health.
An endowed distinguished chair is supported with gifts of $1.5 million or more. The chair holder uses the interest proceeds for research, teaching or service activities.
“Personalized care takes a more physiological approach to treating the patient,” said Clothier, a longtime advocate of genomic testing. “It allows us to provide care of the right kind at the right time with the right technology.”
Clothier expressed his gratitude for the support he has received since coming to UAMS in 1990 and the opportunity to teach some of the brightest minds to come through UAMS. That included Kent McKelvey, M.D., director of Cancer Genetics Services at the UAMS Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute.
McKelvey used words like honest, trustworthy, trusting and forgiving to describe his former teacher and mentor. “Whenever we had a tough case, Jeff used to say, ‘We’ll all know when we get to heaven,’ which also shows that he’s an optimist,” said McKelvey.
Amy Clothier Grooms, M.D., Clothier’s daughter and a third-year resident in psychiatry at Brown University in Providence, R.I., remembered following her father around the hospital as a young girl.
“One time he got called in to the hospital and his long white coat was flowing behind him like a superhero’s cape,” said Grooms. “He was running so fast and I kept asking him to slow down. He said, ‘That’s what you have to do, I learned that as a resident.’ So I made it my mission to keep up with him.
“You’ve always been my hero, Dad. One of the best pieces of advice my dad ever gave me and my brother was to do what you love, and the rest will come later. This award will make such a huge difference in helping you take care of patients, which is what you really enjoy doing.”
Smith thanked several long-time supporters of the facility, including Patricia Bailey, Helen Porter and Vic Jacuzzi, for their contributions to the endowed chair, which will be used to fund special projects overseen by Clothier and future holders of the chair.
“The funds you donated will go a long way toward alleviating some of the pain and suffering of our patients,” said a visibly moved Smith. “It’s a great honor to be a small part of this journey. And to Jeff, I am thankful to you for your friendship and to call you a colleague.”