UC Davis School of Medicine is honoring three alumni, a medical resident and a fellow in 2009 for their contributions to the field of medicine and service to the university and the communities it serves.
2009 Distinguished Alumni Award
Saul Schaefer, M.D.
Cardiologist Saul Schaefer, an inveterate self-described "tinkerer," has been named this year's recipient of the School of Medicine's Distinguished Alumni Award.
Since receiving his medical degree from the UC Davis School of Medicine in 1981, Schaefer has become an eminent authority on the relationships between cellular metabolism and mitochondrial calcium transport under conditions of myocardial ischemia.
These studies are intended to identify endogenous and pharmacologic mechanisms that protect the heart, in order to potentially limit injury during heart attacks and major surgery.
Schaefer also has conducted basic and clinical research in applications of contrast-enhanced magnetic resonance imaging and echocardiography in the diagnosis of cardiovascular disease, and is the author of a book, Cardiovascular Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy (Springer-Verlag, New York, 1992).
A board-certified internist and cardiologist, Schaefer is now working on novel techniques to reduce the adverse effects of niacin when used to treat dyslipidemias.
His clinical practice encompasses responsibilities as an attending physician at the UC Davis Medical Center and as chief of cardiology at the VA Northern California Health Care System. He has been named among the Best Doctors in America for each of the past eight years.
Teaching's the best part
In addition, Schaefer enjoys teaching clinical and basic science courses to medical, postdoctoral and physiology graduate students, residents and fellows. "Teaching is the best part of my job," says Schaefer, a professor of cardiovascular medicine.
He first entered the workforce in 1968 as an aviation navigation systems engineer and spent six years in the Los Angeles Unified School District as a high-school science and mathematics teacher before he entered medical school. "It's much nicer to teach medical students and graduate fellows because now I encounter far fewer spitballs," he jokes.
He seeks to stimulate his students' intellectual curiosity.
"I challenge students to think critically about information they receive from me and other sources, and to solve problems by going to original data, rather than taking for granted what people tell them.I tell them that during the course of their careers, they can expect to encounter a tremendous amount of information, only some of which will be valid," Schaefer says. "They must be able to judge which information to use, and which to ignore."
Since joining the UC Davis School of Medicine faculty in 1991, Schaefer has served in numerous capacities, including director of interventional cardiology; director of the Executive Physical Program; and associate chief of the Division of Cardiovascular Medicine. Schaefer has served on the editorial boards of numerous medical journals, received the School of Medicine's Faculty Research Award in 2002, and is chair of the Medical Student Research Fellowship Committee.
Schaefer remains modest about his meritorious accomplishments. Asked to identify a proud moment, he hesitates only briefly before musing, "Well, I built a really nice deck for my home."
He's not kidding. For relaxation, he enjoys home remodeling, cycling, riding dirt bikes, playing tennis, and vehicle maintenance and restoration. He and his wife, Sylvia – whom he met while in medical school – have two sons: Jonathan, 22, who is entering graduate school to study molecular biology; and Adam, 18, a freshman at UC Santa Barbara majoring in environmental studies.