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Sense and Sensitivity

Posted by on Thursday, September 21, 2017 in From the Dean, Summer 2017 .

Photo by Anne Rayner

The cover story for this issue of Vanderbilt Medicine, The Science of Our Senses, offers glimpses into the kaleidoscope of advances related to the five senses, taking place across our campus.

For example, Mark Wallace, Ph.D., dean of the Graduate School at Vanderbilt University and Louise B. McGavock Professor of Speech and Hearing Sciences, is internationally recognized for his research into the brain’s ability to bundle sight and sound into a single sensory event. His work illustrates how deficits in this amazing ability are manifest in autism.

While amazing programs like these are advancing our understanding of the physical senses, the Medical Center is also working to broaden awareness of what we as individuals, and as a community of more than 22,000, sense emotionally and culturally.

In this context, the tragic acts of violence and hatred in August in Charlottesville, Virginia, illustrate how far our nation still has to go regarding matters of race, religion and sexual orientation. Our Vanderbilt history is a source of both inspiration and strength as we confront issues of race facing us today.

This Vanderbilt Medicine contains the story of Harold Jordan, M.D., who in 1964 became our first African-American resident physician. We are grateful to Dr. Jordan for sharing his amazing story. The day after Dr. Jordan began his residency on July 1, President Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act. A pioneer whose distinguished career included chairing the Department of Psychiatry at Meharry Medical College, serving as its acting dean, and later as Commissioner of Mental Health and Mental Retardation for the State of Tennessee, his story compels us to learn from our past. To borrow a reference from the popular book and movie, he is one of our “Hidden Figures,” someone who shaped the Medical Center’s history and whose life and legacy merits our consideration.


Jeff Balser, M.D., Ph.D.
President and CEO, Vanderbilt University Medical Center
Dean of Vanderbilt University School of Medicine