journal, William Danforth solicited nominations from medical school deans, the presidents of 50 colleges, and IOM members.4

Despite the closely held nature of the process, the search yielded more than 140 nominations. The search committee interviewed eight candidates and submitted a final list of four to the IOM Council. By the end of 1979, the search committee and the Council had put Frederick Robbins at the top of the list. "Fred Robbins is clearly our first choice," William Danforth told NAS President Philip Handler, "we recommend that all efforts be made to secure his services."5

Robbins's career path resembled that of other IOM presidents. After receiving his undergraduate degree at the University of Missouri, he went first to the University of Missouri Medical School and then to Harvard, where he completed his M.D. During the war, Robbins did important laboratory work for the army, identifying the agent that caused a certain form of pneumonia. After the war, Robbins returned to Harvard and continued his work as a pediatrician with a strong research interest in infectious diseases, joining John F. Enders' laboratory and participating in the studies of viruses that caused mumps and polio. The work that Enders, Thomas Weller (who was a charter member of the Institute of Medicine), and Robbins did in cultivating the polio virus earned them the Nobel Prize in medicine in 1954. By this time, Robbins had already left Harvard to become director of pediatrics and contagious diseases at Cleveland's City Hospital and professor of pediatrics at Case Western Reserve University. News of Robbins's Nobel Prize caused quite a stir in Cleveland, although Robbins's wife Alice claimed to be unimpressed, because her father, as it turned out, had also won a Nobel Prize.6

Robbins spent the bulk of his career at Case Western. In 1966, he became dean of the Medical School and succeeded in making this school one of the most exciting places to study medicine in the nation. As dean, Robbins fostered the creation of new departments of Community Health and Family Medicine, and he made sure that students received a solid grounding in primary care. Presiding over turbulent times in a calm and unflappable manner, he was, according to his Case Western colleagues, a capable leader, willing to compromise, rather than a firebrand or an innovator. "I'm not going to revolutionize things," he told a reporter at the time of his appointment as IOM president. He sought at first simply to continue the program that David Hamburg had begun.7

Robbins was already an IOM insider. Like David Hamburg and Donald Fredrickson at the time of their selection as IOM president, he had served on the IOM Council. Unlike these two, Robbins had

The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement