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Donald Seldin, MD: What I gained as a fellow

I applied to UT Southwestern for my nephrology fellowship in 1965, after hearing everyone speak favorably about the school. However, I received a letter back informing me that one needed to apply 2 years in advance for the Dallas-based program. After visiting other schools, I returned home to find a second letter from Southwestern awaiting me that I had been accepted to the Dallas program after all when a vacancy occurred. Not being astute regarding the “fellowship game,” I called up Southwestern and boldly asked to speak with Seldin. When I explained that I would like to come down to evaluate the program, there was a long pause. Finally, Seldin said, “Fine. When can you come?” I still had Georgetown and Boston as options, but flew down from my home in Denver to Southwestern on Sept. 22.

The first thing I noticed was that the fellows in Seldin’s program, unlike those I met in Boston, were all happy. I talked with faculty members Norman Carter, MD, and Floyd Rector, MD, and finally, I had some time with Seldin. He told me about the fellowship, and I was sold. I shook his hand and got on the plane back to Denver to explain my decision to my wife, Shirley. When I told her what I had done, she said, “But that is where they shot President Kennedy!”

Alan R. Hull

I promised her that we would return to Winnipeg, Canada in 2 years. That promise was not kept. Toward the last half of my second year, I met Seldin in the washroom across from his office and in passing, asked if I could use his name as a reference. He said, “Yes Alan, but I don’t know many nephrologists in Canada.” I replied that I had a green card and planned to apply in the United States as well as in Canada. I noticed that he left rather quickly and when I came out, Rector was waiting for me in front of his office. He said, “Don” had found out I had a green card and they had a job waiting for me running a new project that Norman Carter had obtained funding for from the Public Health Service. The program was to see if home dialysis would work.

Once on staff, I was sure I would lose my job, but within 6 months, I came to realize that if I did not “screw up” I would be fine. What a relief! Shortly after that, Seldin met me in the hall and said that Louis Welt, his former colleague from Yale was having a meeting on proteinuria. I asked if he was going or Rector was going. Seldin said, “No, you are to represent the department.” I went and was amazingly well received and later reported back at a research conference in Dallas.

Donald Seldin

Several months later, Rector had returned from a vacation where he learned how to ski. I suggested we have a nephrology meeting at a ski resort. Floyd said I should go to Dr. Seldin and mention the idea. I know he was certain Dr. Seldin would turn it down. I went into his office and made the pitch. “That is the dumbest idea I have ever heard,” he told me. He then walked over to his calendar and asked, “What are the dates?” I told him what I was thinking. He said, “Fine. I’m free.” That became our first Winter Nephrology meeting at Snowmass, Colorado.

I met Seldin at the Denver airport, and as we walked to the car he said that Welt had died the day before. I said, “Are you not going to the funeral?” I will never forget his words. He said, “I thought you needed me more here than Louis would at his funeral.”

He was my greatest mentor.

I applied to UT Southwestern for my nephrology fellowship in 1965, after hearing everyone speak favorably about the school. However, I received a letter back informing me that one needed to apply 2 years in advance for the Dallas-based program. After visiting other schools, I returned home to find a second letter from Southwestern awaiting me that I had been accepted to the Dallas program after all when a vacancy occurred. Not being astute regarding the “fellowship game,” I called up Southwestern and boldly asked to speak with Seldin. When I explained that I would like to come down to evaluate the program, there was a long pause. Finally, Seldin said, “Fine. When can you come?” I still had Georgetown and Boston as options, but flew down from my home in Denver to Southwestern on Sept. 22.

The first thing I noticed was that the fellows in Seldin’s program, unlike those I met in Boston, were all happy. I talked with faculty members Norman Carter, MD, and Floyd Rector, MD, and finally, I had some time with Seldin. He told me about the fellowship, and I was sold. I shook his hand and got on the plane back to Denver to explain my decision to my wife, Shirley. When I told her what I had done, she said, “But that is where they shot President Kennedy!”

Alan R. Hull

I promised her that we would return to Winnipeg, Canada in 2 years. That promise was not kept. Toward the last half of my second year, I met Seldin in the washroom across from his office and in passing, asked if I could use his name as a reference. He said, “Yes Alan, but I don’t know many nephrologists in Canada.” I replied that I had a green card and planned to apply in the United States as well as in Canada. I noticed that he left rather quickly and when I came out, Rector was waiting for me in front of his office. He said, “Don” had found out I had a green card and they had a job waiting for me running a new project that Norman Carter had obtained funding for from the Public Health Service. The program was to see if home dialysis would work.

Once on staff, I was sure I would lose my job, but within 6 months, I came to realize that if I did not “screw up” I would be fine. What a relief! Shortly after that, Seldin met me in the hall and said that Louis Welt, his former colleague from Yale was having a meeting on proteinuria. I asked if he was going or Rector was going. Seldin said, “No, you are to represent the department.” I went and was amazingly well received and later reported back at a research conference in Dallas.

Donald Seldin

Several months later, Rector had returned from a vacation where he learned how to ski. I suggested we have a nephrology meeting at a ski resort. Floyd said I should go to Dr. Seldin and mention the idea. I know he was certain Dr. Seldin would turn it down. I went into his office and made the pitch. “That is the dumbest idea I have ever heard,” he told me. He then walked over to his calendar and asked, “What are the dates?” I told him what I was thinking. He said, “Fine. I’m free.” That became our first Winter Nephrology meeting at Snowmass, Colorado.

I met Seldin at the Denver airport, and as we walked to the car he said that Welt had died the day before. I said, “Are you not going to the funeral?” I will never forget his words. He said, “I thought you needed me more here than Louis would at his funeral.”

He was my greatest mentor.