Gomez sees blend of knowledge
He brings people together, realizing there
are only artificial lines between disciplines
by Fariss Samarrai
By Fariss Samarrai
Ariel Gomez was a child growing up in Buenos Aires, his mother
suggested that he become a doctor.
said it was a most honorable profession, he said.
accepted the idea and knew that if he were to become a physician
he would have to find the resources through his intellect.
mother is very creative and never afraid of taking a challenge,
he said. She infused me with the same beliefs.
Gomez is a physician, leading kidney researcher, and U.Va.s
vice president for research
and graduate studies.
when Gomez entered the Instituto Lomas de Zamora as
an undergraduate, he quickly discovered a world of knowledge that
presented a great dilemma when it came to determining a career
discovered many wonderful things, he said. Literature,
physics, mathematics. I liked it all.
ultimately decided on medicine because it is an art that applies
science to the solution of specific problems, a blending, in effect,
of disciplines, including its intrinsic humanistic grounding.
That blending of knowledge is a theme of Gomezs mission
to make the University great in science and technology.
can be the place where diabetes is cured, where cancer is cured.
This will be a place where big problems are solved by good people
working together across the disciplines, he said.
first steps down the path toward medicine were at the University
of Buenos Aires School of Medicine. He eventually became the chief
resident in pediatrics at the Hospital for Sick Children, and
later a pediatrician who did home visits, an opportunity to work
with the whole family in its own environment.
he had been taught in medical school that knowledge always had
to be upgraded. Gomez decided he wanted to be on the cutting edge.
He wanted to do research, to create the new knowledge that would
improve medicine and the treatment of patients.
he took a fellowship to do childrens kidney research at
the University of Iowa. I wanted to learn how others think,
he said. I realized there were many sources of knowledge,
and science is also an international activity.
was a young man and barely spoke or wrote English, but he learned
to read scientific journals in English by continually consulting
his Spanish-English dictionary. He worked long hours, became competent
in English, and ultimately published several papers in American
had a very demanding boss, he said. But he taught
me how to get things done.
Gomez got plenty done and moved on to a fellowship at the University
of California at San Francisco and continued his research, became
fluent in English and published more papers. Then he came to Charlottesville
and fell in love with the small city and the University.
The late Michael Peach, a renowned pharmacologist and researcher
who mentored many investigators, adopted Gomez like a son,
becoming his unofficial but most effective adviser.
taught me how to focus on the fundamental ideas and many concepts
of experimental design and critical thinking, Gomez said.
Peachs insistence, Gomez soon began collaborating with a
young investigator who arrived at the University around the same
time Kevin Lynch, now an internationally known professor
of pharmacology who taught Gomez many aspects of molecular biology.
They made several important contributions to the understanding
of how the kidney produces a hormone that regulates its own development.
learned from each other, and were able to make advances that would
not have been possible without this multidisciplinary collaboration,
the lab grew, other researchers were drawn to the exciting molecular
physiology being conducted there.
grants came in, particularly from the National Institutes of Health,
and the lab was expanded, eventually leading to the creation of
the Childrens Health Research Center. Gomez directed the
center until recently, and still conducts research there.
success of this enterprise led Gomez to administration. He already
knew how to win grants, to organize people and resources, to get
things done. And he knew how to collaborate, to bring people together
for a common cause. It all led back to his love of knowledge,
and a realization that there are only artificial lines between
the disciplines, that the body of knowledge is a blending of all
that is known and all that will be discovered.
came to serve on the Universitys 2020 Commission for Science
and Technology and met Vice President and Provost Gene Block,
who at the time was vice president for research.
has had a tremendously positive influence on me, Gomez said.
He is an outstanding scientist and superb leader.
was impressed with Gomezs ability to develop collaborations,
and took him as an adviser. Gomez played a large role in helping
to establish the new multidisciplinary Morphogenesis and Regenerative
Medicine Institute, which followed a recommendation of the 2020
Commission. Barry M. Gumbiner, a prominent cell biologist, was
hired last year to head the center.
when Block was promoted to vice president and provost, Gomez was
selected to lead the Universitys research office.
were impressed with Ariels vision for moving the University
forward in science and technology, Block said. It
is very important and valuable to have the insight and leadership
of a successful and respected active researcher in this office.
said he is working hard to sustain and nurture the people who
are already here, and to attract the best faculty and graduate
students possible from diverse backgrounds.
are building a supportive and creative research environment,
he said. Concepts change the world, and excellence is our
goal at the University of Virginia.