Salk Institute
President's Office
President's Office

Dr. William R. Brody

Dr. William R. Brody, President of the Salk Institute, is an acclaimed physician-scientist entrepreneur and university leader. He joined the Salk Institute on March 2, 2009 after 12 years as president of The Johns Hopkins University. He is a national figure in efforts to encourage innovation and strengthen the U.S. economy through investments in basic research and education. Most recently, he has written and spoken extensively around the country to promote a fuller discussion of health care reform.

Renowned for his achievements in biomedical engineering, Dr. Brody has over 100 publications and two U.S. patents in the field of medical imaging, and has made contributions in medical acoustics, computed tomography, digital radiography, and magnetic resonance imaging. These contributions have led to his recognition by numerous national and international organizations.

Dr. Brody is a member of the Institute of Medicine and the National Academy of Engineering. He is a fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers, the American College of Radiology, the American College of Cardiology, the American Heart Association, the International Society of Magnetic Resonance in Medicine, the American Institute of Biomedical Engineering, and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. In 2010, he was awarded the Gold Medal of the Radiological Society of North America for his contributions to medical imaging science.

Dr. Brody received his B.S. and M.S. degrees in electrical engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and his M.D. and Ph.D., also in electrical engineering, from Stanford University. Following post-graduate training in cardiovascular surgery and radiology at Stanford, the National Institutes of Health, and the University of California, San Francisco, Dr. Brody was associate professor and then professor of radiology and electrical engineering at Stanford University (1977-1986). He has been a co-founder of three medical device companies: Digirad (acquired by Agfa); Resonex (acquired by General Electric); and Biopsys Medical (acquired by Johnson and Johnson). He served as the president and chief executive officer of Resonex Inc. from 1984 to 1987.

Dr. Brody serves on the board of directors of IBM, Biomed Realty Trust, and T. Rowe Price Mutual Funds, and is a member of the board of the W.M. Keck Foundation. He formerly served on the President's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board, the Science Board of the Food and Drug Administration, the Scientific Management Review Board of the National Institutes of Health, the Corporation of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and the board of trustees of Stanford University.

August, 2014

One hundred years ago, on October 28, a child was born in New York City. Bright and precocious, he rose from humble origins to enter college at age 15, and then enrolled in medical school. But along the way, he decided he’d rather help humankind more broadly and opted to become a medical researcher instead of a physician. By 1955, he had achieved his goal, discovering the polio vaccine and changing the course of history. Jonas Salk–for of course that’s who I’m talking about–had defeated a disease that had struck dread into the hearts of people worldwide for over a century.

At that point, Salk could easily have rested on his laurels. But upon receiving the Congressional Medal for Distinguished Civilian Achievement in 1956, he said, “I feel that the greatest reward for doing is the opportunity to do more.” And do more he did: in 1960, he established the research institute that bears his name.

The current issue of Inside Salk celebrates the centenary of Jonas Salk’s birth and his extraordinary legacy as a scientist and a visionary. Although he died nearly two decades ago, his spirit remains vibrant here at the Salk Institute, where his commitment to breaking down barriers of all kinds is deeply embedded in our culture. The feature article is as much a reflection of Salk and his values as they are of the remarkable men and women whose careers and discoveries have been fostered at the “temple of science” he founded.

In addition to our cover story on Salk’s legacy at the Institute, the August 2014 issue introduces one of our newest faculty members, Nicola Allen, as well as a rising young star, postdoctoral researcher Amy Firth. We mark some milestones for our faculty, including the 65th birthdays of two accomplished scientists, plus promotions, awards and special events. Jonas Salk was deeply committed to nurturing future generations of scientists, which makes it especially apt that we are highlighting two brand new initiatives of our Education Outreach program. And our Discovery Roundup section features several recent findings by our faculty that have generated new insights in fields ranging from circadian rhythms to schizophrenia, from lung disease to memory storage, and from cancer to motor circuitry.

I hope you’ll enjoy reading our retrospective on Salk and the latest news issuing from his creation. It is both an honor and a responsibility to steward his vision–a role that all of us at the Salk Institute enthusiastically embrace. As a friend and supporter of the Institute, you too share in Jonas Salk’s vision and the scientific successes that vision has made possible. We are all most grateful.

  • "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure." - Around the time Franklin wrote these words, a deadly smallpox epidemic was sweeping across the United States and the rest of the world. The smallpox inoculation technique of the time had originated in Africa. An African servant of the clergyman Cotton Mather in Boston explained to Mather the use of smallpox inoculation in West Africa. Mather noted this down and convinced a local doctor, Zabdiel Boylston, to try this method during the Boston smallpox outbreak of 1721.
  • The War on Cancer - In 1971, President Nixon signed the National Cancer Act, a milestone considered the beginning of the "war on cancer" in the United States. One side effect of his declaration of war was making the National Cancer Institute, already well established as one of the institutes in the National Institutes of Health, more independent and providing a burst of funding to accelerate the scientific search for new treatments and cures.
  • The "compression of illness" hypothesis - Years ago, Stanford physician Dr. James Fries proposed an idea which has been deemed the “compression of illness” hypothesis. According to Fries, the best strategy both for healthy living and lowering medical costs is to delay the time of onset of chronic disease: in other words, slow down the appearance and progression of chronic illness.
  • Faster cures come from faster discoveries - The first decade of the 21st century witnessed a dramatic drop in the number of new drugs approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, a decline that some attribute to more stringent requirements imposed by the FDA. While this observation may be partly correct, the fact is that the beginning of the millennium was a watershed for drug development. This was in large part thanks to rapid advances taking place in basic science laboratories, such as those at the Salk Institute.
  • The big elephant in the room - With all the emphasis on cost control by the Congress, the big elephant in the room that has not yet been tamed is the rapid rise of costs for the care of Medicare recipients. Recently I spoke to the vice dean for clinical investigation at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, and he echoed the sentiment that Medicare patients with five or more chronic ailments are consuming a large fraction of Medicare costs and sapping the energy of the healthcare delivery system.
  • Philanthropy comes from the heart - I have been asked on many occasions to name the most significant gift I received as the head of a large research university where philanthropic gifts totaled in the hundreds of millions of dollars annually. Without question, one of the most moving and significant donations came from a ten-year-old boy, Conor Griffin Goetz.
  • About thinking...fast and slow - If you haven't had a chance to read Daniel Kahneman's new book, Thinking Fast and Slow, I highly recommend it to you. Dr. Kahneman is one of only two people to win the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economics who is not an economist; rather, he is a behavioral psychologist. Many of his landmark studies have pointed out the irrationality in our decision making that violates the well-accepted "laws" of economics—like supply and demand.
  • "The Times They Are A-Changin'" - In these "changing times," the support of our loyal benefactors becomes more and more important to offset the loss of support from the government.
  • Serendipity and science - The "secret sauce" of Salk scientific discovery is the unique character of our institute. There are no departments or divisions and the architectural design of the Salk facilitates interaction among scientists in the laboratory. Facilitating interaction among the best minds in seemingly unrelated fields is one important aspect of scientific (or should I say "serendipitous") discovery.
  • Sutton's law and chronic illness - Sutton's law of healthcare says if you want to reduce healthcare costs, you have to find ways of reducing the economic impact of chronic illness, ideally by preventing or significantly delaying when affliction occurs, or finding better and more cost-effective ways of treating the illness.

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Brody Brody
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