If the ovary didn’t work correctly, none of us would be here,” says Dr. Anthony Zeleznik, a principal investigator and professor with Magee-Womens Research Institute (MWRI) and the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. “Studying how the ovary works is such a fascinating line of inquiry – understanding how the body can operate with so much precision under the right circumstances. It’s a critical area of research, and one that is endlessly interesting.”
Dr. Zeleznik has dedicated the majority of his research career at MWRI to studying control of the ovary. When he isn’t overseeing his laboratory, he has taught medical students at the University of Pittsburgh and mentors MWRI’s junior researchers and clinical faculty. And it’s his commitment to both research and mentorship that led him to create the MWRI Faculty Fellowship, a fellowship to be funded by MWRI faculty that is designed to foster young researchers at the beginning of their careers.
“Starting this fellowship is my way of giving something back to an organization that has given so much to me,” Dr. Zeleznik said. “In my career, the only limitation I ever had was myself. There are very few jobs you can say that about. I became involved in a great area of research that allowed me to continuously tackle new areas of inquiry, and I want to help to provide that opportunity to younger generations.”
Since 1978, Dr. Zeleznik has taught thousands of students and mentored many researchers. When asked what the most important quality a student can possess is, Dr. Zeleznik says “a willingness to learn, every day. You need to not be afraid, and understand there are different ways to learn. And you need to be willing to be the first to try something.”
Dr. Zeleznik has lived his own advice. He moved from the National Institutes of Health to Pittsburgh before MWRI existed in order to work at UPMC Magee-Womens Hospital as the first basic researcher in a clinical department. “The idea was to have someone begin to foster an atmosphere of basic research in a clinical setting. I was in the right place at the right time.” He spent significant time teaching for the University of Pittsburgh’s medical school, and was the first Director of the In Vitro Fertilization Laboratory, a position he held for 15 years. This latter position allowed him to apply his knowledge of reproductive biology to the clinical arena and, together with his clinical associates, resulted in the first successful birth of an in vitro conceived baby in the Pittsburgh area and over 500 more during his tenure as Director.
Dr. Zeleznik is scaling back his time at MWRI to spend more time with his grandchildren, and to travel, ski, fish and play golf. He will still be overseeing research and helping students, and the fellowship is his way of continuing a legacy of mentorship and student training. Dr. Zeleznik notes “that without fellowship support during my education and early training, there would be no way that I would be where I am today.”