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"Founding Father" Played Key Role in Medical Education

Media Contact: Mary Colliver 

LEXINGTON, Ky. (June 17, 2010) −When Robert Straus came to the University of Kentucky in 1956 to help plan and establish the University of Kentucky Albert B. Chandler Medical Center, he also participated in the birth of the UK College of Medicine.

"The UK College of Medicine was one of the first of a new generation of medical schools," Straus said. "It was planned with special attention to the needs of its students, its patients and the people of Kentucky, as well as to meeting the standards of academic and scientific excellence."

Straus came to UK as part of a five-person team headed by Dr. William R. Willard, the founding dean of the College of Medicine and vice president of the UK Chandler Medical Center. In 1959, Straus founded the Department of Behavioral Science – the first such department at any medical school in the country – which he chaired for 28 years.

"Dr. Straus has been an invaluable component of the UK College of Medicine since he arrived on the planning staff in 1956," said Dr. Emery A. Wilson, interim dean and director of the Office of Health Research and Development, UK College of Medicine. "In addition to starting the first Department of Behavioral Science in the nation, he became internationally recognized for his research on alcoholism, and was elected to membership in the Institutes of Medicine of the National Academies. As we celebrate the College's 50th anniversary this year, the important role he played in the development and growth of the college becomes especially apparent. Thanks to the solid foundation laid by him and the other founding fathers, the college continues to thrive and remain at the forefront of innovative medical education."

Although no longer an active investigator, Straus maintains association with the department. In 2007, the Robert Straus Behavioral Science Research Building was dedicated in his honor. The facility houses laboratory space for investigators and their research teams.

Prior to his arrival at UK, in the late 1940s, Straus joined a handful of investigators at Yale University in developing the multidisciplinary field of alcohol studies. In 1953, he moved into medical education at the State University of New York in Syracuse.

Straus authored seven books or monographs and about 100 papers or chapters concerned with alcohol and other forms of dependency behavior, and with social and other behavioral factors in health and disease. He remains a strong advocate for research that challenges the barriers between the biological and the behavioral sciences.  He has been a member of the Institute of Medicine since 1975.

"Robert Straus is a renaissance behavioral researcher whose science is recognized by his membership in the Institute of Medicine," said Carl Leukefeld, current chair of the Department of Behavioral Science. "His research recognition began with a college epidemiological study which was a first in the United States and continued with his ground breaking qualitative work on institutional dependency. Bob is a national treasure. He not only answered basic behavioral medicine questions but he also refined methodological approaches to answer those questions."

Straus also is a charter member of the Kentucky Institute of Medicine, established in 2005. When Straus' book, "A Medical School is Born: A history of the conception, gestation, and the infancy of the University of Kentucky College of Medicine by one who assisted in the delivery," was published in 1996, it received much acclaim. In the book, he says: "Kentucky has played a key role in medical education in the United States in several ways."

Likewise, in many ways, Straus has played a key role in medical education in Kentucky.

Page last updated: 11/20/2013 11:39:35 AM