Name: Dixon B. Kaufman, MD, PhD
Institution: University of Wisconsin -Madison
Brief biosketch: I am a native Midwesterner. I was born, raised and educated in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The University of Minnesota was where I obtained my undergraduate (1979) and medical school (1983) degrees. I received my General Surgery (GS) and Transplant Surgery Fellowship training there, as well. During general surgery training, I was fortunate to have successfully competed for an NIH National Service Research Award (NRSA) that funded my 3-year research endeavor (1987-90) with Dr. David Sutherland. That led to my PhD degree in Surgery (only 2 post-graduate programs in the country had it at that time – Univ of Minn. and Duke Univ.). Next, the last 2 months of my Chief year in GS training overlapped with the 16-month Tx Surgery Fellowship program at Minn. I finished September 1992 and started my faculty position, Assistant Professor of Surgery at Northwestern University, under the tutelage of Dr. Frank P. Stuart (Tx Surg Division Chief), and Dr. David L. Nahrwald (Surg Chair). I initiated the pancreas and islet transplant programs at Northwestern, helped build the clinical enterprise, and continued my basic and clinical research pursuits during my 19 -year tenure. In 2011, I was recruited to lead the transplant program at the University of Wisconsin as the Ray D. Owen Professor or Surgery and Chair of the Division of Transplantation. Forward . . .
Who was your earliest professional influence?
There were many. I had the good fortune of training during a highlight period in transplant surgery at the University of Minnesota. The attendings included John Najarian, Richard Simmons, David Sutherland, Nancy Ascher, William Payne, and Arthur Matas. My strongest connection was with Dave Sutherland. I studied in his islet transplant laboratory as a medical student (1982-3), and again during my NRSA award (1987-90). He is an amazing clinician-scientist who pioneered breakthroughs in islet (allo- and auto) and pancreas transplantation. During the time in his lab, he trained individuals around the world and pushed these fields forward as much as or more than anyone else.
What are you most proud of personally/professionally?
I grew up in a happy family and am proud to continue the happy family tradition, and it’s mostly because of my wonderful wife, Katina. All three of my children are college-aged and wonderful young adults—I am very proud of them. Professionally, I can’t imagine being in a more gratifying field and contributing to the art and science of transplant surgery. Someone said, “The noblest art is that of making people happy.” To me, that may be the essence of our art.
What is your favorite pastime/hobby?
I enjoy being active. Currently, I am biking quite a bit. My best sport is tennis. Growing up in the baby boom era it was all about neighborhood baseball, football, basketball and hockey (especially in Minn), so I played ‘em all. Skiing and golf (mediocre) are others.I also enjoy following collegiate (Big 10) and professional (Twins and Vikes, still) sports. I enjoy music. My current favorites are Mark Knopfler and Coldplay, and long-time favorites are Bob (my 5th cousin), and Frank Sinatra (unrelated).
If not transplant surgery, then what?
Role models play a critical part in an individual’s inclination to pursue a particular medical specialty. It’s enlightening to ask individuals in our profession, especially the senior members, about this. In my case, it was a neurosurgeon at the University of Minnesota. I was allowed to shadow him in clinic, on rounds, in the OR, and work his lab (before I attended medical school). So, that was my initial inclination and it reinforced my interest in surgery. My experience as a medical student in 1982 in Dave Sutherland’s islet transplant laboratory clinched it for wanting to pursue transplant surgery. If I had not pursued medicine, I may have gone a completely different route like filmmaking. Fortunately, differentiating the vocation from the avocation occurred.
What was the best piece of advice you have received?
I did not grow up or train in an era when purposeful mentoring and advice were received with much frequency. However, I have kept my reading glasses on and ears open to take in indirect advice. Truth be told, I keep a list of influential adages that make up my “Dixon’s Rules.” One of them goes something like this, “Take what you do seriously (and those around you), but don’t take yourself seriously.”
What’s your favorite drink?
It’s important to stay well hydrated – with water. In regard to the spiritual persuasion, I’d not turn down an offer of bourbon (Blanton’s or George T. Stagg, for example) – neat.
What’s your favorite movie(s)?
The most recent movie I have watched repeatedly is, “Darkest Hour.” For mind menders, “The Usual Suspects” and “The Prestige.” That’s also a common security question—the answer is, “Cool Hand Luke.”