Dr. Patterson, Veterinary Medicine

Dr. Donald F. Patterson, professor emeritus of medicine and medical genetics in the School of Veterinary Medicine and professor emeritus of human genetics in the School of Medicine, passed away June 8, 2013, at age 82.

Dr. Patterson was widely credited with shaping the field of animal genetics. His research particularly included genetics and canine heart disease.

Born to American parents in Venezuela when his father was working for Shell Oil in the early 1930s, Dr. Patterson spent the rest of his formative years in Oklahoma and Texas. He earned both his undergraduate and doctorate degrees from Oklahoma State University in 1950 and 1954, respectively. He also earned a doctor of science degree in comparative medical sciences from Penn in 1967.

After interning at Angell Memorial Animal Hospital in Boston and teaching briefly at his alma mater, Dr. Patterson completed a tour of duty in the Air Force. As a veterinary researcher, he was in charge of obtaining young chimps from West Africa and training them as research subjects. One of these charges, named Ham, was the first chimp to complete a suborbital space flight in 1961. He then came to the Vet School's newly created section of cardiology, which is considered the "birthplace" of veterinary cardiology, as an instructor in 1958. He was appointed associate professor of medicine and medical genetics in the department of clinical studies in 1967 and promoted to professor in 1968. Five years later, he was named the first Charlotte Newton Sheppard Professor of Medicine and Medical Genetics. From 1974 to 1999, he held a secondary appointment in the department of genetics at the School of Medicine as professor of human genetics. He became emeritus in 1996.

Dr. Patterson also held many administrative positions. In 1965, he was named co-director of the Comparative Cardiovascular Studies Unit. That same year, he became the first chief of the section of clinical cardiology. In 1971 he became the founder and chief of the first academic subdivision devoted to medical genetics in a school of veterinary medicine. From 1985 to 2000, Dr. Patterson was principal investigator and director of the NIH National Referral Center for Animal Models of Human Genetic Disease (formally designated the Walter Flato Goodman Center for Comparative Medical Genetics in 1994), one of the first such NIH-supported centers at a veterinary school.

After retiring in 2000, Dr. Patterson continued to conduct research, specifically working on a book and computerized database on the genetic diseases of dogs. He became ill before completing the project.

Dr. Patterson was a member of the American Veterinary Medical Association, the American Society of Human Genetics and the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine.

A recipient of numerous awards, Dr. Patterson received the American Veterinary Medical Association Lifetime Excellence in Research Award in 2011. He also was the recipient of the National Institutes of Health Merit Award and the Oklahoma State University Outstanding Alumnus Leadership Legacy Award amongst many others. In 2007, the Donald F. Patterson Conference Room in Penn's Ryan Veterinary Hospital was dedicated in his honor.

Dr. Patterson is survived by his wife, Nancy; sons, Russ and Wade; and four grandchildren.

Donations may be made to the Alzheimer's Association, http://www.alz.org/; University of Pennsylvania Veterinary School, www.vet.upenn.edu; the American Veterinary Medical Association, www.avma.org; or the Seeing Eye Foundation, www.seeingeye.org.