Words from our Founding Chairman.

We are proud to share the late Dr. Tachi Yamada’s thoughts about the importance of physician-scientists below.

Tadataka Yamada (1945-2021), Founding Chairman

When you receive a stethoscope for your third birthday, chances are you’ll find yourself pursuing a career in medicine. That was exactly the case for Dr. Tachi Yamada, a highly-esteemed physician-scientist with extensive experience in the medical community. As the grandson of one of the first Japanese-born, American-educated medical professionals in the U.S., Dr. Yamada grew up believing that he’d follow in his grandfather’s footsteps. Although he was committed to this path as a youth, he took a brief detour majoring in history and minoring in philosophy at Stanford University.

However, the lure of medicine drew Dr. Yamada back in. Due to his undergraduate studies, Dr. Yamada found himself playing catchup to his peers regarding the understanding of scientific fundamentals. Ironically, he credits this lag to him to becoming a better physician, as he recognized a strong scientific foundation was the key to being successful in the clinic. With this learning in mind, he focused a good proportion of his studies on the basic sciences and pursued research electives when the opportunity arose.

In addition to providing him with his first experience in the lab, these electives helped Dr. Yamada secure a position at the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute upon graduation. He was tasked with studying infectious diseases, however, he had little guidance or supervision, and thus had to learn many techniques, approaches, and skills on the job. Not one to shy away from a challenge, Dr. Yamada conducted valuable research on the physiological effects of infections, such as septic shock, and produced several papers on his findings.

With this research to his name, Dr. Yamada was able to earn multiple grants and create more opportunities for himself in both research and academia. Finding continued success, Dr. Yamada expanded his career beyond academia, securing prestigious positions as the Physician-in-Chief at the University of Michigan Medical Center, Head of the Research & Development department at GlaxoSmithKline, Chief Medical & Scientific Officer at Takeda Pharmaceuticals and President of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Global Health Program.

Dr. Yamada hopes his experience and resume can inspire medical students to pursue a career as a physician-scientist by showing them there are additional career opportunities beyond academia. He wants aspiring physician-scientists to know they have the unique potential to uncover world-changing breakthroughs, create life-saving drugs, and impact and improve the lives of millions—if not billions—of people around the world.

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