John Saxon III, M.D., had long wanted to do something to memorialize his father, John, a West Point graduate who taught for five years at the U.S. Air Force Academy and was a career Air Force pilot before passing away in 1996.
Saxon also had been planning to do something to benefit OMRF, where he’s been a board member since 2000. But then the idea struck him—why not combine the two?
“Some people may not think of basic science and the military as linked,” said Saxon. But for the Muskogee physician, OMRF’s research on anthrax and other infectious agents offered a unique chance to unite his philanthropic interests.
“Bioterrorism is a war that is going to be fought on all fronts,” said Saxon. “And I thought that I could use OMRF’s work in this field as an opportunity to stimulate some basic bench science interest with cadets at military academies.”
With a gift of $250,000 to OMRF, Saxon has established the John Saxon Scholars Program in honor of his father. Through this initiative, students from the U.S. military academies will come to OMRF’s Oklahoma City labs each summer to work side-by-side with senior scientists.
Edison Abeyta, a rising senior at the U.S. Air Force Academy, is currently spending the month at OMRF as the inaugural Saxon Scholar. He is working with OMRF researcher Luke Szweda, Ph.D., studying free radical biology.
“I’ve never been exposed to laboratory science outside a classroom,” Abeyta said. “The hands-on approach, the actual investigation—it’s pretty exciting. I’m learning a lot.”
Saxon hopes the exposure to laboratory science will enrich the students’ knowledge base and help strengthen our country’s ability to respond to threats like bioterrorism. “It will be a real benefit for them to have a documented understanding of biology, to grasp things like how vaccines work and the body responds,” he said. “They’ll be able to draw on this experience in their military careers, or maybe some will end up working for the National Institutes of Health or the Centers for Disease Control as part of our defense.”
For OMRF President Stephen Prescott, M.D., the program is the natural outgrowth of the elder Saxon’s twin passions. “What a wonderful way for a son to memorialize a father who was not only a career military officer but an educator as well,” he said. “Thanks to Dr. Saxon’s generosity, our scientists will have the chance to teach our country’s best and brightest young people lessons that they can carry with them throughout their years of service.”