Kelly Metcalf Pate, an assistant professor of veterinary medicine at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, will become the new director of MIT’s Division of Comparative Medicine (DCM) on March 1. Metcalf Pate will replace James Fox, who has been the director of DCM for more than four decades.
At Johns Hopkins, Metcalf Pate served as the associate director of academic training for the research training programs for veterinarians in the Department of Molecular and Comparative Pathology. She also launched and directed the Boehringer Ingelheim Veterinary Scholars Program, a summer research program for veterinary students. In her research lab, she studies how platelet cells interact with other immune cells during viral infections such as HIV and cytomegalovirus.
“My core passions lie in teaching and research,” says Metcalf Pate, who will also join the faculty of the Department of Biological Engineering. “I am looking forward to continuing to work with veterinarian trainees and veterinary students, and in continuing to do research that not only answers the unknown questions in platelet immunology but also helps us to figure out better ways to work with animal models.”
The DCM includes more than 175 researchers, animal care and veterinary technicians, veterinarians, and administrative staff, who oversee animal care at MIT. Its mission includes maintaining the health of the animals as well as performing biomedical research and training students in research and veterinary medicine.
“I am thrilled to welcome Kelly as our new DCM director. She brings a strong research program, enviable managerial skills, a collaborative nature, and a lot of ideas for how DCM can provide even more value to our researchers,” says Maria Zuber, MIT’s vice president for research.
Metcalf Pate says she was drawn to MIT by the collaborative spirit that she observed among the DCM personnel. “It was very inspiring to see how motivated by the research and scientific process everyone was, and how much everybody clearly worked together as a team,” she says.
Originally established in 1975 as the Division of Laboratory Animal Medicine, the division was renamed in 1980 to reflect growing involvement in research and teaching. Fox has directed the division since its inception, and under his leadership, the DCM has greatly expanded MIT’s medical research program and added new on-campus facilities for animal care and research.
“It has been a privilege and a never-ending set of opportunities to work with countless faculty, staff, and students over the years, with the common goal of conducting sound science, being ever mindful of the care and welfare of animals being used in fulfilling that stated mission, and fostering that important mandate for the students experiencing an MIT education,” Fox says.
Metcalf Pate, who will be the Dorothy W. Poitras Associate Professor of Biological Engineering at MIT, says she plans to maintain and build on the structure that Fox has established over the past 45 years.
“I am honored to be inheriting such an amazing legacy and team in DCM. Dr. Fox has built something at MIT that is unrivaled in providing excellent care for the animals while working collaboratively with the research teams. It also benefits from strong support from the leadership and the MIT community, for which I am thankful. I hope to preserve and build upon this during my own time as director,” she says.
She noted that researchers in DCM already have extensive collaborations in place with other departments around MIT, and she hopes to further expand these collaborations, as well as increasing DCM’s research and training partnerships with other institutions in the Boston area.
One of her longer-term goals is to explore the possibility of establishing a center to focus on “refinement research” — the practice of looking at how animal models are used to try to maximize both the quality of data and the welfare of the animals.
Joining the MIT community is something of a homecoming for Metcalf Pate, who grew up in Massachusetts and earned her bachelor’s degree from Boston University in 2003. She also holds a PhD from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and a DVM from Purdue University College of Veterinary Medicine.
“I am delighted that Kelly Pate will be assuming the position of director of DCM, with a tenured faculty appointment in BE,” Fox says. “Kelly embodies the tradition of veterinarians from Johns Hopkins, in being committed to conducting first-rate peer reviewed research, an enthusiastic mentor and teacher, and fulfilling the critical responsibility of directing an indispensable, centralized campus-wide animal resource program. She will undoubtedly foster, enhance, and continue the tradition of excellence that has become the trademark of DCM.”