Thomas L. Ortel
The information listed below is current as of the date the transcript was finalized.
Abstract of Interview
Thomas L. Ortel grew up in on a farm in Indiana, the oldest of three children. His extended family lived in the corners of the farm. He and his siblings and cousins had farm chores to do, but then they were able to range all over the farm. Ortel attended a Lutheran two-room school with four grades in each room, ten children in his class. He always liked school, and he did well, except for penmanship. Religion was important through these years, but he made the transition from a Lutheran private school to a public secondary school, ten students in his class to about 150, pretty easily. Weekly allergy shots and chicken butchering on the farm provided scope for an early interest in science, especially biology. Ortel attended Indiana University (IU), finishing with a double major in microbiology and chemistry. Never interested in other schools, he enrolled in the MD/PhD program at IU, where he entered the Frank W. Putnam lab to study protein chemistry. He describes his first years of medical school at Bloomington, Indiana, and his clinical rotations. Ortel chose to study hematology/oncology at Duke University Medical Center; he liked the support and camaraderie there, as well as the fact that people seemed to connect basic science research to clinical practice (and, of course, the climate). During his three years as intern and resident he performed an eye-opening rotation in infectious disease in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. Having become interested in coagulation, he decided to stay at Duke for a fellowship and from that point joined the Duke faculty. He discusses his lab's funding and funding in general; how he writes grants and journal articles; his teaching and administrative responsibilities; the ethnicand gender makeup of his lab and the faculty at Duke University Medical Center; and his lab management. He describes a typical workday, including some of his leisure activities. Ortel continues with details about his current research on Factor VIII and interactions between immune systems and clotting mechanisms, and he explains the genesis of his ideas. He believes his medical practice has a very important influence on his basic research; conversely, he is mindful of searching for practical applications of his research. He answers the interview questions about current issues in science: patents; competition; ethics and the enforcement of laboratory ethics; genetic engineering; and the appropriate overseers of science. He loves the science he does and is accepting of the fact that there is always more to do, that one cannot ever catch up to his aspirations. He wishes he had more leisure time, but concedes that it is a matter of balance. If he could not be a scientist Ortel would stay in academics, in astrophysics or archaeology or anthropology. Future research and professional goals include settling his lab members in their own labs; developing more of a network of medical practitioners who recognize the importance and use of clotting; and finding a better balance in his own life. He feels that the Pew Scholars inclusion of MD/PhD scholars is an excellent acknowledgement of the importance of connecting the clinical and research aspects of medicine. Ortel concludes his interview with a graceful nod to how important and engaging the Pew Scholars oral history interview process is.
|1979||Indiana University Bloomington||BS||Microbiology|
|1983||Indiana University Bloomington||PhD||Biochemistry|
|1985||Indiana University Bloomington||MD|
Duke University Medical Center
Phi Beta Kappa
|1981 to 1982||
Indiana University Combined Degree Fellowship
Pew Scholar in the Biomedical Sciences
Table of Contents
Family background. Early schooling. Childhood leisure activities. Father's farm. School. Religion. Transitioning from a Lutheran private school to a public secondary school. Interests in high school. Interest in medicine. Parental expectations. Influential teachers. Indiana University. Enrolling in the MD/PhDprogram. Classwork in the MD/PhD program. Work in the Frank W. Putnam lab studying protein chemistry. Medical school at Bloomington, Indiana. Clinical rotations. Interpreting evidence accurately in clinical work. Studies hematology/oncologyat Duke University Medical Center. Internship and residency. Rotation in Muhimbili, Tanzania. Interest in travel. Visits Olduvai Gorge.
Interest in coagulation and hemophilia mutations. Funding. Writing grants and journal articles. Benefits and drawbacks to different types of funding. Allocation of time. Teaching responsibilities. Faculty at Duke University Medical Center. Lab management. Administrative responsibilities. Travel. Leisure activities.
Current research on Factor VIII, interactions between immune systems, and clotting mechanisms. Genesis of his ideas. Role of serendipity in science. Value of medical practice on basic research. Practical applications of his research. Patents. Competition. Genetic engineering. Being a PI. Future research andprofessional goals. Pew Scholars Program in the Biomedical Sciences