2007 Career Achievement Recipient: David Vesely

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Medical doctor, doctor of philosophy, professor of internal medicine, molecular pharmacology and physiology, and chief of endocrinology, diabetes and metabolism — Dr. David Vesely’s curriculum vitae reads like the directory of an entire hospital wing. For 25 years, Vesely has served his nation on the frontlines in the fight against some of humanity’s deadliest diseases. During that time, he has discovered three hormones made by the heart that have had tremendous beneficial effects in the treatment of congestive heart failure, kidney failure and cancer. Within a 24-hour timeframe, the hormones are capable of eliminating up to 97 percent of human pancreatic, prostate, breast, colon, and kidney adenocarcinomas. Many of the most common forms of cancer — breast, colon and prostate cancers — are adenocarcinomas, which are cancers that begin in cells that line certain internal organs and that have gland-like properties. Pancreatic adenocarcinoma is the most lethal of all cancers. Even with surgery and current cancer chemotherapy, people who have the disease are expected to live only four months after the cancer takes hold. Vesely’s work has shown that up to 80 percent of human pancreatic adenocarcinomas growing in laboratory mice can be cured. Even in human pancreatic cancers that are not cured, the volume decreases to less than 10 percent of the volume of the untreated human cancer. In this case, the mice do not succumb to cancer, but rather continue to live a normal lifespan. The death of Vesely’s wife, Clo, in 2002 from breast cancer spurred him to expand his cancer research. As a result, Vesely found that two of the cardiac hormones he discovered were capable of eliminating two out of every three human breast carcinomas growing in mice, with the third hormone eliminating 50 percent. Vesely’s path of discovery can be traced back to his home state of Nebraska, where he was a member of Creighton University’s class of 1967. Next, he pursued an M.D. and Ph.D. at the University of Arizona, completing the two degrees in three years. In 1969, he received a prestigious National Institute of Health scholarship, which at the time was awarded to only two people. Vesely now serves as chief of endocrinology, diabetes and metabolism at the James A. Haley Veterans’ Affairs Medical Center in Tampa, Florida. The center cares for more than 1.5 million patients each year, making it the nation’s busiest outpatient veterans’ medical center, and has earned national distinction as a Diabetes Center of Excellence, one of only two in the entire VA medical system. In addition to his work at the center, Vesely is a professor of medicine, molecular pharmacology and physiology at the University of South Florida’s College of Medicine. Throughout his career, he has been recognized as an outstanding supervisor and teacher. Vesely has been a mentor to the young endocrine faculty, endocrine fellows, residents and medical students on how to practice the highest quality, compassionate medical care. He also mentors two postdoctoral fellows, an M.D. and an M.D./Ph.D. He has also compiled an impressive portfolio of written work, with 296 peer-reviewed scientific publications and three books to his credit. He has received the Outstanding Teacher Award three times and has frequently been the featured speaker at major national and international scientific conferences. Vesely’s accomplishments are extremely important to the nation as congestive heart failure is becoming an epidemic and cancer, in addition to its devastating health effects, is a huge financial burden to individuals, families and the nation as a whole. If the human trials that he will conduct succeed, Vesely will have revolutionized cancer treatment.