On Thursday, Jeanne Fowler was selected to become a part of OMRF. Literally.
Fowler has worked as an accountant at OMRF since 1971. But in a special raffle held to commemorate the 60th anniversary of OMRF opening its doors to the public, Fowler was one of 28 employees randomly chosen to have a sequence of her DNA permanently displayed in OMRF’s new research tower.
“It felt like winning the lottery,” said Fowler, who let out a cry of delight when her name was chosen. “I was very excited.”
Fowler and 27 other OMRF staff members will have about 80 “letters” of their DNA, along with their names, inscribed in a 40-foot rail on the central pavilion that will welcome visitors to OMRF’s new research tower. The building will open in 2011, and it will add 186,000 square feet of research and clinical space to OMRF’s Oklahoma City campus.
At a reception for all staff, OMRF President Stephen Prescott, M.D., used a raffle drum to draw the names of 28 employees. Of those winners, four chose to give their spots to other OMRF employees.
“I was touched by the selflessness of those four employees,” said Prescott. “They gave up a chance to install themselves in OMRF history. What they did says a lot not just about them but also about what makes this institution strong.”
Following the drawing, the 28 employees participated in a simple, painless procedure—swishing and spitting mouthwash—to gather a DNA sample. A team of scientists is processing the samples and generating the DNA that will represent each employee.
“We chose a segment of DNA that has a high degree of variability, so each participant’s segment will look different,” said Linda Thompson, Ph.D., who is coordinating the sequencing process. The information will then be transferred to a plexiglass railing that will be installed in the Gaylord Pavilion in the OMRF tower.
Mary Flynn, who joined OMRF’s staff in 1998, was delighted when Prescott pulled her raffle ticket from the drum. “One day my grandchildren can look up, see my name and say, ‘That’s Grandma’s DNA!’”
“This display will symbolize the vital contributions our staff has made to OMRF and to advancing medical research,” said Prescott. “Twenty-eight employees will be memorialized in the new tower, but they will represent every OMRF employee of yesterday, today and tomorrow.”