With one generous gesture, John Saxon III, M.D., combined two of his passions: medical research and the military.
With gifts totaling $350,000 since 2009, Saxon followed through on his long-standing plan to benefit the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation. In doing so, he also found a way to memorialize his father.
Saxon, an OMRF board member and Muskogee physician, established the John H. Saxon Service Academy Summer Research Program to honor his late father, who was a graduate of West Point and an Air Force pilot.
The program is designed to provide military academy students with an opportunity to work side-by-side with OMRF’s senior scientists. The students are selected by science faculty at each academy.
This summer, OMRF welcomed two standouts from the United State Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md., and one from the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo.
Tirzah Prince, a Provo, Utah, native and cadet first class in the Air Force, worked in the lab with Courtney Griffin, Ph.D., studying genes that regulate blood vessel development. Prince, a biology major, has a goal of serving her community as a physician.
“I have been so blessed to have this opportunity,” said Prince. “This experience has given me a deep appreciation for the work and development that goes into medical treatments and research. I have been surprised by the teamwork atmosphere and collaboration that goes on. It’s impressive that these scientists are coming together to solve some of the biggest questions in medical research.”
Dani Given is a brigade sergeant major at the Naval Academy and a Raleigh, N.C., native majoring in chemistry. In the lab with OMRF’s Lorin Olson, Ph.D., Given has observed the activity of two specific genes activated in wound healing.
“The best part of my summer experience has been getting the hands-on laboratory experience,” said Given, who aspires to a career in the medical field. “Not many midshipmen get to work in a lab as well-equipped as OMRF’s. I’ve already learned a great deal more than I could have from reading a textbook about the same material.”
Fellow midshipmen and third-year naval academy cadet Paige Stateler, who intends to go to medical school, seconded the benefits of getting to work directly with top-level scientists in a lab setting. Stateler, a St. Libory, Ill., native and chemistry major, studied a specific type of cell death called necroptosis, which is believed to occur in many cells throughout the body. Her research was conducted with OMRF scientist Florea Lupu, Ph.D.
“I wanted to be challenged here and learn to think in ways that I never have before while being pushed out of my comfort zone,” said Stateler. “That has definitely happened in the short time I’ve been here along with so much more I never could have expected.”