Dr Kern Wildenthal Dallas

Kern Wildernthal Building A World Class Medical Institution

The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, Texas is one of the best academic medical centers in the world. Much of that success can be attributed to its long-standing president from 1986-2008, Dr. Kern Wildenthal.

Dr. Wildenthal was born in San Marcos, TX and earned a bachelor's degree in English Literature from Sul Ross State University in 1960. Four years later he would earn his M.D. from the University of Texas Southwestern where he would later complete his residency in Internal Medicine after a brief stint as an intern at Bellevue Hospital. In 1970, he received his Ph.D. in cell physiology at the prestigious Cambridge University in the United Kingdom. After returning to the University of Texas Southwestern to become a full tenured professor, he was awarded a Guggenheim fellowship in 1975 to carry out further work at Cambridge for a year.

He made significant contributions to the study of cardiac arrhythmias throughout his career and was the author of 130 scientific papers. His most memorable achievement to the field was for discovering a new way to treat paroxysmal atrial tachycardia. He hypothesized that physicians could take advantage of the "diving reflex" that slows hearts down when animals are submerged in water. By completely covering a patient's face in cold water, he found that he could often restore a normal sinus rhythm to the heart.

At 38, Dr. Wildernthal became the youngest person to be appointed to be the Dean of any medical school and would later be promoted to President of the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center six years subsequently. As President, the university underwent a major expansion into the institution of excellence that it is known as today.

Dr. Wildernthal brought significant resources to the medical institution. He attracted 17 members of the National Academy of Sciences and four separate winners of the Nobel Prize in Medicine to be on staff. He also was able to raise a significant amount of money for the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center with the size of its endowment increasing to over $1.3 billion from a much humbler $40 million when he first arrived as President. Spending on academic research ballooned from $56 million per year to $398 million per year under his watchful eye.

After leaving his position with the university, he served as CEO of the Southwestern Medical Foundation for four years. He still consults for that organization as well as several biotech companies including Science Seed and the Gladstone Research Institute. He serves on the board of directors of several organizations including the Hobitzelle Foundation, Kronos Worldwide, the Southwest Medial Foundation, and the Moncrief Cancer Institute. Dr. Wilderthal has also been honored by being inducted into the Texas Business Hall of Fame.

Dr. Kern Wilderthal has made a significant contribution to the practice of medicine both in his scientific research and in building an impressive institution of higher learning where medical students can learn their craft and new research frontiers can be explored. His life has left a wonderful mark on the city of Dallas, Texas where he and his family remain active members of the community to this day.


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