College of

MD Magazine letter to the editor

January 23, 2012

Geri Kelley, Managing Editor
MD Magazine
A217 East Fee Hall
Michigan State University 

Dear Geri: 

I want to congratulate you and your staff for highlighting my colleague, Dr. Chia Cheng Chang, Ph.D., on his retirement from the Department of Pediatrics & Human Development- CHM  [ MD Magazine, vol. 12, 2012].  As the senior, and still, active member of the College of Human Medicine (since 1966), I was very pleased that you honored  Dr. Chang (CC as everyone knew him) because he was so humble and self-deprecating. Those of us that knew him best knew he was incredibly talented and creative as a basic scientist, totally committed to the search for the truth, with the upmost degree of integrity, and absolutely committed to teaching and helping all of our undergraduate, graduate students, medical students from all three medical schools (CHM, COM, CVM), postdoctoral fellows , Visiting Scholars and our medical faculty.

Both C.C. and I trained under the same mentor at Oak Ridge National Laboratories. With that experience, I got to know that C.C. had incredible abilities, so when I was hired by the late Dr. Andrew Hunt, CHM’s  founding Dean, and his first appointment, Dr. William Weil, CHM’s  first chairman of the Department of Pediatrics/Human Development ( it was called Department of Human Development back then),  I decided to bring him to Michigan State as my Research associate. Because of his abilities and hard work, I was able to get him on the tenure track in a clinical Department. In no time at all, with spectacular scientific contributions, he was granted a NIEHS Young Investigator Award and rapidly rose through the academic ranks. 

You did note his academic contributions. What, of course, was not mentioned was all of his other noteworthy  contributions.  First, unlike many foreign faculty, talented in their respective language, cultural traditions and academic knowledge, C.C. became a student of Western philosophy, to the point that he was extremely knowledgeable about comparative Eastern and Western philosophy, especially in the area of “Global Bioethics”. As I was the first student of the late Dr. Van R. Potter, the man who coined the terms, “ Bioethics”; “Global Bioethics” and “Deep Global Biothics”, I introduced  C.C. to Dr. Potter before he died.  C.C. was very impressed, such that he started to examine the comparative elements of Western and Eastern moral traditions, as it related to “bioethics”.  It was a shame that part of his unique background was not featured. 

Because C.C. is so humble, he probably did not highlight one of his great talents, his role modeling as a basic medical scientist.  “Tooting his horn” for him, because of this shinning talent of his as a passionate scientist, we have had many of our former students become great scientists throughout the world. Dr. Steven Warren, (Chairman of Dept. of Human Genetics at Emery University, (Member of the National Academy of Sciences-US and discoverer of the Fragile X gene in mental retardation); Dr. Thomas Glover, Professor of Human Genetics/ Pediatrics , University of Michigan School of Medicine, (He worked with Dr. Francis Collins- Director of NIH on the Hutchinson Gilforford –Progeria syndrome; Dr. Philip Liu, Mass General Hospital, Discoverer of an in vivo brain dye to study brain trauma; Dr. Roger Schultz worked on the Human Genome Project at Southwest Medical Center; Dr. Kyung-Sun Kang, Seoul National University (Leading human adult stem cell scientist in South Korea); Dr. Rita Locke Caruso, Environmental Toxicologist, School of Public Health, University of Michigan, and Dr. Giuseppe Caruba, Director of Breast & Prostate Cancer at the ARNAS-Civico Regional Cancer Center, Palermo, Sicily. There are so many more students that could be mentioned, who are leading scientists throughout the USA, Japan, Korea, Taiwan, China, Germany, The Netherlands, Argentina, Sweden, Ukraine, Nepal, etc.

What is often overlooked is the implication of how any medical school governs its role of doing research, teaching and practical application of its disciplinary knowledge. All medical schools are chartered to meet these goals. However, most Medical schools do not put Ph.D.’s, such as Dr. Chang, on the tenure track in their clinical departments. The fact that Dr. William Weil and subsequent Peds/Human Development chairpersons had the wisdom to provide him with the academic environment to develop his talents, not only has MSU-CHM benefitted, but all of the field of medicine benefitted.

Therefore, I end by “patting all of you on the back” for letting our MSU community know about this remarkable person. 

Most sincerely,

James E. Trosko, Ph.D.
MSU Teacher School and MSU Distinguished Professor
Seoul National University “World Class University Professor
Department of Pediatrics/Human Development
Center for Integrative Toxicology