Hall of Fame Member Biographies

Jerry B. Vannatta

The practice of healing calls for more than a scientific approach to physical problems. It also demands an approach that recognizes humanistic values in the treatment of people. This has been a dominant theme in the career of Dr. Jerry B. Vannatta of the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center. His vision of using literature as a means of understanding the relation between physician and patient has been a dominant theme of his life's work, one that has earned national recognition. Dr. Vannatta, born in Texas, earned a B.A. in Physics from Oklahoma City University in 1970, his M.D. from the OU College of Medicine in 1975; he became board certified in internal medicine in 1980 (recertified in 1993). He commenced his career teaching at the OU College of Medicine and Presbyterian Hospital. He became an Associate Professor of Medicine at the OU College of Medicine in 1984 and professor in 1993.

From 1995 to 2002 he was Associate Provost for the OU Health Sciences Center and Executive Dean of the College of Medicine. Currently he holds the position of David Ross Boyd Professor of Medicine. In his career he has produced or co-authored 32 journal articles and seven abstracts. He has been the invited speaker at 12 conferences. As Executive Dean he assisted in obtaining nearly $40 million for the College of Medicine. Among his signal contributions has been pairing the practice of medicine with an appreciation of the humanities, especially literature. He developed curricula on the subject for the Honors College at OU in 1996 and by 2005 produced a DVD multimedia program, Medicine and Humanistic Understanding: The Significance of Literature in Medical Practices (University of Pennsylvania Press) and later the (2013) book The Chief Concern of Medicine: Integrating the Humanities into Medical Education. Many of his invited speeches have been on this topic. As an administrator, Dr. Vannatta helped transform the OU Health Sciences Center into the academic and economic engine of healthcare academics, research, and service that it is today. He has served on numerous committees assisting area hospitals, and he has chaired the Oklahoma Health Care Authority, the state's chief provider of medical care for impoverished citizens. His teaching career has become a legend. The number of awards, and their quality, speak for themselves. In 1979, 1985, 1987, 1988, 1989, 1990, and 2005 he won the Aesculapian Award for Excellence in Teaching the Clinical Sciences, while being nominated for the award nine other times. The student body at the OU College of Medicine presented him the Stanton L. Young Master Teacher Award in 1987, an award for which he had been nominated two other times. He was the nominee for the Humanism in Medicine Award by the Society of American Medical Colleges five times, won the Edward Young M.D. Lifetime Achievement Award from the OU College of Medicine, and in 2011 obtained the Tow Humanism Award. Two other positions of merit that Dr. Vannatta holds are the Professor Emeritus of Medical Humanities (OU College of Medicine, 2003) and the David Ross Boyd Professor Emeritus of Medicine (2005). He was awarded the Dean's award for Distinguished Medical Service by the OU College of Medicine in 2016 and an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters by Oklahoma City University in 2016. He currently teaches in the Medical Humanities program at the OU College of Medicine and serves as Medical Director of a new Physician's Assistant program at Oklahoma City University, where he holds the title of Clinical Professor of Medical Humanities. He also serves as a trustee for OCU and this is merely a partial list of the honors he has accumulated. The Oklahoma Higher Education Heritage Society will add one more to this impressive list: a member of the 2016 Oklahoma Higher Education Hall of Fame.