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A [Dinner] Meeting of the Minds

From left to Right: John Bloch, Sarah Bloch, Cindy Goodman, Steve Goodman, Aaron Ciechanover, Steve Schwab, Carol Schwab, Steve Youngentob, Lisa Youngentob

On the evening of January 14, 2017, Tsunami Owner and Chef Ben Smith and his assistant are busily prepping dinner for an intimate dinner party. The smell of sweet chili sauce and lamb fills the home of Dr. and Mrs. Steven R. Goodman. The dinner is being hosted in honor of Israeli Biochemist and Nobel Laureate Dr. Aaron Ciechanover as part of the UTHSC Vice Chancellor for Research’s Distinguished Lecture Series.

Created by UTHSC Vice Chancellor for Research Steven R. Goodman, PhD, the speaker series aims to bring prestigious leaders in the field of biomedical research to the institution so they can share their knowledge and expertise with the university. Invited speakers typically spend two to three days on UTHSC’s campus interacting with faculty and administration, and delivering a scientific lecture.

Aaron Ciechanover was born in Haifa, a port city in the northern part of Israel, in October 1947, one month before Israel was recognized by the United Nations as an independent state. Dr. Ciechanover majored in biology at school, and went on to receive his MSc in 1970 and his MD in 1974 from the Hadassah Medical School of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. After three years military service as a combat physician in the Israel Defense Forces, he joined Avram Hershko’s, MD, PhD, laboratory in the Faculty of Medicine at the Technion (Israel Institute of Technology) in Haifa in 1976, where he received his DSc in 1981.

In 2004, Dr. Ciechanover became one of Israel’s first Nobel Prize winners in Chemistry for the “discovery of ubiquitin-mediated protein degradation.” Together with Dr. Hershko and American biologist Irwin Rose, PhD, the trio was awarded for characterizing the process in our cells which allows for the degradation and recycling of proteins using ubiquitin. Their discoveries have opened up opportunities in drug discovery, and in the diagnostics and treatment for a range of disorders, from cancer to neurodegeneration.

“Since 2016, I have had the honor of welcoming over a dozen prominent investigators ranging in expertise from Sickle Cell Disease to translational genomics and cancer,” Dr. Goodman said. “Dr. Ciechanover is a world leader in the field of biochemistry and a personal friend, and I wanted UTHSC’s researchers to have the ability to learn from and interact with him.”

It took over eight months of planning by a committee of 20 plus leaders from various areas across UTHSC’s campus, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, the University of Memphis and the Memphis community at large to plan Dr. Ciechanover’s four-day visit.

“When I asked Dr. Ciechanover to visit,” Dr. Goodman said, “I understood that it would take a team to make his visit a success. I am immensely proud of all the people that dedicated their time and re- sources to make Dr. Ciechanover’s visit happen.”

The face of research at UTHSC is changing. While we take pride in being the leading State institution for research on the causes, treatment, and prevention of diseases, we strive to do better and aim to be competitive at the highest levels. Therefore, Dr. Goodman has taken on the audacious task of doubling the research portfolio at UTHSC within the next 10 years. The VCR Distinguished Lecture Series demonstrates just one way Dr. Goodman shows his commitment to creating a more robust research environment for UTHSC statewide as outlined in the Operational Strategic Plan for Research. UTHSC was honored to host and learn from one of the world’s leading experts in the field of biochemistry.