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Information About

Alumni Interview

L. Jackson Roberts, M.D.



Noted for his landmark discovery of isoprostanes and his subsequent pioneering work applied to understand both the basic mechanism of oxidant stress and the role isoprostanes in human disease, Dr. Roberts is a professor of pharmacology and medicine at Vanderbilt University.

Jack Roberts didn’t have to think twice in naming the endowed chair created for him at Vanderbilt University. He chose to name it for T. Edwin Rogers, his undergraduate physiology instructor at Cornell College in Mount Vernon, Iowa.

“The reason I wound up in science is because of ‘Doc’ Rogers,” Roberts said. “I wouldn’t be where I am today if it weren’t for him.”

Where Roberts is today is among scientific elite whose work has opened new fields of study and influenced hundreds of other investigators. Roberts’ best-known achievement is the discovery of isoprostanes, compounds formed through free radical reactions that serve as biomarkers of oxidative stress in the body. The ability to measure isoprostanes in vivo has allowed scientists to trace the role of free radicals in the pathogenesis of a wide variety of illnesses.

Roberts’ other scientific contributions have led to the widely accepted use of low-dose aspirin to prevent myocardial infarction and niacin-induced vasodilation in patients being treated for hypercholesterolemia, and of antihistamines to treat gastric carcinoid syndrome and strombroid fish poisoning. His more than 300 published papers have had substantial influence in the biomedical scientific community. His discoveries and scholarship have earned Roberts numerous national awards and, most recently, Vanderbilt University’s prestigious Earl Sutherland Prize.

Yet for Roberts, the value of fundamental research lies in its potential to improve patient care. “My MD degree shows through my science all the time,” he said, adding that he doesn’t pursue questions that don’t have potential clinical relevance. He has patented a number of methods to apply his discoveries to clinical problems and he is a founding member of the Association for Patient-Oriented Research.

In addition to receiving the College’s distinguished alumni award in Iowa City, Roberts said he’s looking forward to the opportunity to drop in on his old teacher, Doc Rogers.

The Distinguished Alumni Award is the highest honor that the UI Carver College of Medicine bestows upon its outstanding graduates. Established in 1998, this awards program recognizes our former students and colleagues who have transcended their fundamental roles as health care providers, scientists and educators to become influential participants in the advancement of the art and science of medicine. Excellence in these areas brings pride and distinction to The University of Iowa and our Carver College of Medicine.


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