The Robert E. McGehee Jr., Ph.D. Distinguished Lectureship in Biomedical Research and Education was created in 2011 as an enduring gift to benefit UAMS and the state by making it possible to invite leading biomedical researchers to share their knowledge and work with students and faculty. The lecture was made possible by a very generous endowment gift from Carl D. and Jeannette Purnell of Pine Bluff, Arkansas, in appreciation of McGehee’s support and influence as a mentor. In 2005, Carl and Jeannette were inducted into the Society of the Double Helix in recognition of their long standing support of UAMS. Previous gifts from the Purnell’s included support for endowed chairs honoring the late former Chancellor Harry P. Ward, M.D., and the late Carl Nelson, M.D., former professor and chair of Orthopedic Surgery, as well the Winthrop P Rockefeller Cancer Institute.

Due to Covid-19 restrictions, SRD 2021 is cancelled.

2020 McGehee Lectureship Keynote

Dr. Jonathan ClarkJonathan B. Clark, M.D., is a Senior Research Scientist at IHMC and an Associate Professor of Neurology and Space Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine (BCM) who teaches operational space medicine at BCM’s Center for Space Medicine (CSM). Clark is also the Space Medicine Advisor for the National Space Biomedical Research Institute (NSBRI). Clark is a Clinical Assistant Professor at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston where he teaches at the Aerospace Medicine Residency. He received a B.S. from Texas A&M University, an M.D. from the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, and is board certified in Neurology and Aerospace Medicine. His professional interests focus on the neurologic effects of extreme environments and crew survival in space.

The 2020 McGehee Distinguished Lecture is titled, “Touch the Future: Research, Medicine, and Space Exploration” and will be held at 12:30 p.m. in the I. Dodd Wilson auditorium, room #126 (overflow #226).

Past  McGehee Distinguished Lectureship Speakers

Harold Varmus, M.D.

The 2019 speaker was Harold Varmus, M.D.  Dr. Varmus has an active lab and currently serves as the Lewis Thomas University Professor & Senior Advisor to the Dean & Provost in NYC at the Cornell Weill Medical Center.

Dr. Varmus received and shared the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine with J. Michael Bishop in 1989 for their discovery of the cellular origins of retroviral oncogenes. In 1993, he was appointed Director of NIH by President Bill Clinton, a position he held for 6 years. He then spent 10 years as President and CEO of Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, before being appointed the Director of the NIH National Cancer Institute in 2010. After five years at the helm of NCI, he stepped down to assume his current role at Cornell Weill. He is the only individual to have ever served as both the NIH Director and an Institute Director.

Alberto Quiñones-Hinojosa, M.D.

Alberto Quiñones-Hinojosa, M.D., was the 2018 McGehee Distinguished Lectureship speaker. The title of his talk was “Becoming Dr. Q: An American Dream Like No Other/Making the Case for Careers in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math.” A neuroscientist and neurosurgeon at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland for over a decade, “Dr. Q” became the William J. and Charles H. Mayo Professor and Chair of Neurologic Surgery in the Brain Tumor Stem Cell Research Laboratory at the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Florida in 2016. There, Dr. Q and his team are dedicated to finding a cure for brain cancer.

Dr. Cato Laurencin, M.D., Ph.D. 

Cato Laurencin, M.D., Ph.D., was the McGehee Distinguished Lectureship speaker for 2017 with a talk entitled, “Regenerative Engineering: Convergence to Address Grand Challenges.” University of Connecticut University Professor, Dr. Laurencin is the Albert and Wilda Van Dusen Distinguished Endowed Chair Professor of Orthopaedic Surgery in the School of Medicine. He is also a tenured faculty member in the School of Engineering and Professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, Professor of Materials Engineering and Professor of Biomedical Engineering at UConn.

Dr. Laurencin serves as Chief Executive Officer of the Connecticut Institute for Clinical and Translational Science, UConn’s cross-university translational science institute. In addition, he is the Founding Director of the Institute for Regenerative Engineering and the Founding Director of the Raymond and Beverly Sackler Center for Biomedical, Biological, Physical and Engineering Sciences at UConn Health.


Arturo Casadevall, M.D., Ph.D. Arturo Casadevall, M.D., Ph.D. was the McGehee Distinguished Lectureship speaker in 2016. The title of his seminar was “Science at a Crossroads: Time for Reform.”  Dr. Casadevall is the Alfred and Jill Sommer Professor and Chair of the W. Harry Feinstone Dept. of Molecular Microbiology and Immunology at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in the Baltimore, Maryland. A major focus of his laboratory is the fungus Cryptococcus neoformans, a ubiquitous environmental microbe that is a frequent cause of disease in immunocompromised individuals. In recent years, the lab has also worked with other microorganisms including Bacillus anthracis, a bacterium that causes anthrax and is a major agent of biological warfare.


Maureen Smith, M.D., M.P.H., Ph.D.

In 2015, the McGehee Distinguished Lectureship speaker was Maureen Smith, M.D., M.P.H., Ph.D. Dr. Smith is a Professor in the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Medicine and Public Health, Departments of Population Health Sciences, Family Medicine, and Surgery. The title of her seminar was”The Journey to a Learning Health System at an Academic Medical Center.”

Dr. Smith’s research examines the effectiveness of our health care system for aging and chronically ill persons. She is currently examining guideline adherence and short/long-term health outcomes in patients with diabetes (R01 HS018368), the effect of paying for virtual colonoscopy on colorectal cancer screening (R01 CA144835), and improving diabetes quality reports for persons with multiple chronic conditions (R21 HS021899). She has over 85 peer-reviewed publications in journals including JAMA, Annals of Internal Medicine, Medical Care, Health Services Research, and Quality and Safety in Healthcare.

Tom Caskey, M.D., FACP

In 2014, the McGehee Distinguished Lectureship hosted, Tom Caskey, M.D., FACP as the Student Research Day keynote speaker. Dr. Caskey presented, “Genome Sequencing Utility in Disease, Gene Discovery and Patient Care.”

Dr. Caskey, Professor of Molecular and Human Genetics at Baylor College of Medicine, has over 35 years of experience in molecular genetics and is the director of the Brown Foundation Institute of Molecular Medicine at the University of Texas Health Science Center, Houston, TX. Dr. Caskey is Board Certified in Internal Medicine, Medical Genetics, and Molecular Genetics with 25 years of patient care experience in these specialties. He is also a member of the National Academy of Sciences, Institute of Medicine, Royal Society of Canada, member & Chair of the Board on Health Sciences Policy – Institute of Medicine as well as the editor of the Annual Reviews of Medicine.


Carole Cramer, Ph.D.

In 2013, the McGehee Distinguished Lectureship hosted Carole Cramer, Ph.D., Professor, Arkansas State University with a joint appointment in Agriculture and Biology, and the Arkansas Biosciences Institute.

Carole Cramer, Ph.D., is internationally renowned for her work in plant transgenics and biopharmaceutical production. During the keynote lecture she explained the benefits of bioengineered plants for manufacturing human therapeutic proteins. She and her research team are known for the discovery that the normal gene for a human enzyme responsible for Gaucher’s disease could be transformed into plants to produce an enzyme replacement therapy. Today, her therapy is FDA approved and is being marketed for use in humans.