Ansel, chairman of the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) Department of Dermatology, was named the inaugural holder of the G. Thomas Jansen, M.D., & Frances B. Jansen Chair in Dermatology at a Dec. 4 investiture. Ansel and others in turn credited Jansen for providing leadership in helping establish the dermatology program at UAMS in the 1950s.
“John Ansel is the finest physician-scientist we have in dermatology,” said Robert M. Lavker, Ph.D., professor of dermatology and director of dermatology research at Northwestern University. “There couldn’t be a better person to hold this chair and lead your department.”
Lavker added that Ansel’s “indefatigable optimism” was a constant and an attitude he was able to transmit to those around him.
William M. Chace, Ph.D., president emeritus of Emory University, called Ansel the most generous person he knew. Longtime research colleague Nigel W. Bunnett, Ph.D., a professor of surgery and physiology and director of the Center for Digestive Diseases at the University of California, San Francisco, noted that when his twin sons were hospitalized after being born prematurely, Ansel got on a plane in Denver and flew to California to be with the Bunnett family.
Ansel, who joined the UAMS College of Medicine faculty in July 2008, thanked his friends but noted that when he arrived in Arkansas, Jansen was someone he sought out quickly. He recounted a lunch with Jansen where they discussed the department, the field of dermatology and their shared Irish Catholic heritage.
“This chair is a tribute to everything he has done for Arkansas and nationally in the field of dermatology,” Ansel said. “I will try to build on the legacy of the work done by Dr. Jansen and his teammate Frances.”
Son Mark Jansen, M.D., a UAMS College of Medicine graduate, noted it was his father’s expertise in treating skin cancer that brought him to Arkansas. Skin cancer was rampant in the Scotch-Irish who had relocated to Arkansas because of geography similar to their native land, he said, but who were unprepared for the August Arkansas sun.
Mark Jansen joked that because of his father’s insistence on sunscreen, his family was the only one that could return from a weekend at Lake Ouachita paler than when they left.
“This is a special time for our family to see our parents honored in this way,” he said.
Seated on the stage for the event, Thomas Jansen then approached the microphone.
“I will say one thing. My Celtic mother always said that it’s nice to be remembered, especially if you’re still alive.”
The chair was endowed with gifts totaling more than $1 million from Jansen’s colleagues, friends and family.
Jansen was recruited by his predecessor as department chairman, Calvin Dillaha, M.D., to come to Arkansas in 1956 to establish a training program in dermatology. He assumed leadership of the then Division of Dermatology at UAMS in 1968 and held the position until 1982. During his tenure, the division became the Department of Dermatology, of which he is now professor emeritus.
In 1997, he received the Gold Medal from the American Academy of Dermatology, the organization’s highest honor. He was honored for his contributions to advancing the knowledge of skin cancer, melanoma and other dermatologic disorders. Since 1938, only 24 people have received this award.
Ansel is professor and chairman of the Department of Dermatology and professor in the Department of Ophthalmology in the UAMS College of Medicine. He previously served as tenured professor in the Department of Dermatology at the University of Colorado School of Medicine in Denver, with a joint appointment in the Department of Ophthalmology, and was on staff at the University of Colorado Hospital in Aurora, Colo., and the Veterans Administration Eastern Colorado Health Care System in Denver.
He is a nationally recognized leader in the field of dermatology, serving as a reviewer on multiple National Institutes of Health study sections and as an editorial board member for many scientific journals. He has published more than 150 scientific articles, reviews and book chapters.