Service, Leadership, Innovation
J. Claude Bennett, M.D.
The tradition of leadership, scholarship, and service that J. Claude Bennett, M.D., established at UAB will live on through the J. Claude Bennett Endowed Professorship in Immunology and Rheumatology. “The Bennett professorship will allow us to recruit a top-notch physician-scientist to study the rheumatic diseases by providing a source of stable funding for research,” says S. Louis Bridges Jr., M.D., Ph.D., professor of medicine and acting division director for the Division of Clinical Immunology and Rheumatology. “This will allow the holder of the professorship to explore new research ideas that can lead to extramural funding and ultimately help to discover new ways to treat, cure, or prevent the rheumatic diseases.”
After earning his M.D. degree from Harvard Medical School in 1958, Dr. Bennett completed training in Birmingham and fellowships at the Massachusetts General Hospital for rheumatology, the National Institutes of Health for molecular biology, and California Institute of Technology for molecular genetics. From 1977 to 1982, he was professor and chair of UAB’s Department of Microbiology and director of the Division of Clinical Immunology and Rheumatology. In 1982, he was named professor and chair of the Department of Medicine and in 1992 was honored with the William and Evalina Spencer Chair in Medical Science Leadership.
Bennett has served as president of the American College of Rheumatology, the Association of Professors of Medicine, and the Association of American Physicians. He also served as chair of the Health Sciences Policy Board of the Institute of Medicine as well as a term as president of UAB from 1993 to 1996. He was designated as distinguished university professor emeritus and became president and chief operating officer of BioCryst Pharmaceuticals in 1996.
Although he retired this year, Bennett played a major role in bringing BioCryst to its current status as a highly regarded and extremely advanced biotechnology venture. He encouraged the close collaboration between UAB and BioCryst that led to the successful initial public offering for BioCryst in 1994. His leadership in medicine and basic biomedical sciences has been instrumental in attracting leading scientists and collaborators to BioCryst and in helping the company raise more than $150 million to support ongoing research and development projects.
Bridges adds, “Prior to serving as president of the university, Dr. Bennett was the chair of the Department of Medicine and was the second director of the Division of Clinical Immunology and Rheumatology. His leadership, and in particular his emphasis on collaboration across disciplines, is still very much in evidence here at UAB, and we look forward to honoring that legacy with this endowed professorship in his name.”