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Medal Winners

Medal Winners
How the Vietnam War Launched Nobel Careers

Examining an uplifting and unexpected outcome of a dark period in American history, this book shows how the Vietnam War made the National Institutes of Health an unparalleled training ground for trailblazing scientists.

Series: The University of Texas Health Press

February 2020
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440 pages | 6 x 9 | 23 b&w photos |

As the ground war in Vietnam escalated in the late 1960s, the US government leveraged the so-called doctor draft to secure adequate numbers of medical personnel in the armed forces. Among newly minted physicians’ few alternatives to military service was the Clinical Associate Training Program at the National Institutes of Health. Though only a small percentage of applicants were accepted, the elite program launched an unprecedented number of remarkable scientific careers that would revolutionize medicine at the end of the twentieth century.

Medal Winners recounts this overlooked chapter and unforeseen byproduct of the Vietnam War through the lives of four former NIH clinical associates who would go on to become Nobel laureates. Raymond S. Greenberg traces their stories from their pre-NIH years and apprenticeships through their subsequent Nobel Prize–winning work, which transformed treatment of heart disease, cancer, and other diseases. Greenberg shows how the Vietnam draft unintentionally ushered in a golden era of research by bringing talented young physicians under the tutelage of leading scientists and offers a lesson in what it may take to replicate such a towering center of scientific innovation as the NIH in the 1960s and 1970s.

  • Acknowledgments
  • Prologue
  • Part I. Soldiers for Science
    • 1. Annus Horribilis: 1968 and America’s Conflict on Two Fronts
    • 2. Best in Class: Goldstein, Varmus, Brown, Lefkowitz
    • 3. “My Son, the Doctor”: Higher Education in the Era of Quotas
    • 4. Yellow Berets: The Vietnam “Doctor Draft” and NIH’s Clinical Associate Training Program
    • 5. Campus Life: Learning Science and Serving the Nation
  • Part II. Mentors and Apprentices
    • 6. NIH’s Finest Hour: Nirenberg Cracks the Genetic Code
    • 7. Beginning at Termination: Marshall Nirenberg and Joseph Goldstein
    • 8. Following the Right Path: Earl Stadtman
    • 9. In Earl’s Court: Earl Stadtman and Michael Brown
    • 10. Harmony in Hormones: Ira Pastan and Jesse Roth
    • 11. Priest and Prophet: Jesse Roth, Ira Pastan, and Robert Lefkowitz
    • 12. Overcoming Repression: Ira Pastan and Harold Varmus
  • Part III. Four Laureates
    • 13. The Texas Two-Step: Goldstein and Brown
    • 14. Adrenaline Rush: Lefkowitz and the Serpentine Journey
    • 15. Infectious Enthusiasm: Varmus and Bishop Learn Fowl Lessons
  • Epilogue
  • Notes
  • Bibliography
  • Index

Raymond S. Greenberg
Sarasota, Florida, and Belfast, Maine

A nationally recognized cancer researcher and leader in academic medicine, Dr. Raymond S. Greenberg has served as president of the Medical University of South Carolina and most recently as executive vice chancellor for health affairs at the University of Texas System. Greenberg’s research on cancer epidemiology was particularly focused on the role of race and ethnicity in cancer risk and prognosis. He is the author of more than 150 scientific publications and editor of Medical Epidemiology: Population Health and Effective Health Care.


"[An] excellent work…Highly recommended."


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This book may also be available on the following library platforms; check with your local library:
3M Cloud Library/bibliotheca