Oddone Tribute

Friday, February 10, 2017

Dr. Eugene Oddone has been an amazing leader and role model in his over 31-year career at Duke! Here is what some of his colleagues, both previous and current, had to say about him (including a video) below!

Kelli Allen, PhD
Gene has been a mentor since day 1 of my research career at the VA, and it's really not possible to adequately capture everything I've learned from him.  His leadership at the Durham VA HSR&D Center has set a tone that makes it a rewarding, supportive and collaborative place to work.  In my own career journey, Gene played an instrumental role in helping me learn the fundamentals of doing clinical research, and over 15 years has provided wise counsel on all manner of scientific and career decisions.  Gene has many qualities I admire and greatly appreciate as one of his mentees and faculty:  sound judgment, an ability to see both the "forest and the trees," fairness, an encouraging demeanor, and enjoyment of work and co-workers.   Perhaps the thing I have appreciated most about Gene's leadership is his value of family & support for faculty in managing the challenges of both work and family roles.  Not to be left out among Gene's great qualities are his appreciation for good food and his willingness to lead a large research effort in a scientific area well outside his comfort zone.   It is truly a great privilege to have Gene as a mentor and collaborator.  He has not yet given me bad advice, at least that I have recognized at this point; if I eventually figure out that a piece of his advice was not such a great idea, I reserve the right to amend this statement.  But I doubt that will be necessary.

Hayden Bosworth, PhD
Gene, I still remember when you first hired me over 18 years ago. You told us about a house down the block from you and even lent me your lawnmower that you used to mow lawns when you were a kid – unfortunately, I added too much oil and it smoked out the whole neighborhood and there you were of course sprinting up the hill coincidentally and stopping to make sure I did not burn down our house. I tell this story because it is one of a thousand examples of how you lead by action – you always made sure that faculty were supported and while you sometimes would wiggle and not be able to sit still, you have always listened.  There has always been something calming about your presence and nature. There are numerous lessons I learned from you that helped me be a better researcher, collaborator, friend, and dad/husband. I personally look forward to collaborating with you in any way I can, because I learn so much from you in so many ways.

Ebony Boulware, MD
Gene- You have led our division to national and international prominence under your leadership. We cannot thank you enough for all of your contributions over the years. Your impact extends well beyond just the years of service, dedication, and mentoring though; You've been a wonderful sounding board, leader and role-model for so many of us!

Jack Feussner, MD
I remember when I first met Gene--he an intern and me an attending.  We could not have been more different in so many ways.  I comported more with the traditional “Duke marine” demeanor back-in-the-day—impatient, high intensity, move or get out to the way, driven and hard charging.  Gene was always smiling, happy-go-lucky, optimistic, even a bit “laid-back”. However, over time I discovered that Gene was every bit as intense and aggressive, he just worked at it in a fundamentally different way—the words humble, considerate, patient, and compassionate come to mind.  He never needed to embarrass anyone to show how bright and competent he was.  He was always doing, doing, and then doing some more.  All this is just one of many reasons that he was so well respected and so well liked.

Gene excelled in every way. I was most pleased when Gene finally joined the Division after his chief residency was complete.  He became an assistant professor the following year, and his subsequent outstanding career trajectory; his many academic successes as a clinical investigator, Division Chief, Research Center Director and full professor are clear markers for his superb intellectual and leadership abilities.

Matthew Maciejewski, PhD
The stability and quality of our Center investigators is a testament to Gene's supportiveness as a Center Director and the culture of the place that he has helped to create.  He strongly supports work/life balance, which is a rare value promoted by academic leadership.  Because of these things, our COIN has felt like an island of relative peace and stability in a very challenging environment.  Gene has personally been very encouraging of me and my work, and I'm grateful that he was supportive of me coming here from Seattle.

​Maren Olsen, PhD
Simply put – Gene is awesome!  He has so many positive qualities. He hired me in January, 2000, just as I was completing my PhD.  The day after I defended my dissertation, I received an email from him with congratulations stating that he was sure it was a “slam dunk”.  I was pretty impressed that he remembered the date of my defense.  This was my first exposure to both Gene’s caring nature and his common use of analogies. Gene is an incredibly supportive supervisor – especially when it comes to the balance between work and family.  He is an optimist and has a great sense of humor, even in stressful situations. Gene conducts research with the highest level of integrity.  He is a great critical thinker and also listens to others. He is a one-of-a-kind leader and a friend.

David Simel, MD
Gene- We have shared careers and friendship, and though your responsibility is changing, nothing is changing about our friendship. What does one say about 30 years? It is hard to grasp the ebbs and flows of time. There are highs, there are lows, there is excitement, there is despair, but what has been consistent is that I've always felt we've had each others' "backs". The same holds true for Grace and Joanne, in so many ways. You have had a huge positive impact on so many people from both a personal and professional viewpoint, that it is impossible to quantify.

James Tulsky, MD
Congratulations as you step down from this important leadership position! I don’t know how long you’ve been doing this (at least fifteen, almost twenty years?), but during this time your name has become synonymous with the Durham HSR&D Center of Excellence. The record speaks for itself – during this time the Center has overseen too numerous to count investigators, grants, publications and trainees. More importantly, your leadership has made a real difference in the lives of veterans with chronic illness. So many patient interventions have sprouted from the Center during this time and become incorporated into the fabric of VA care. You have so much to be proud of and your break is so well deserved. The Center has been incredibly lucky to have you at its helm all of these years, and I wish you all the best as you enter your next chapter.

Courtney Van Houtven, PhD
Gene has been my mentor since I arrived at VA HSR&D 13 years ago.  I recognize how much I benefited from knowing Gene was firmly in my corner.  Gene has inspired me scientifically of course, it goes without saying. Gene is also incredibly humble and doesn’t take himself too seriously.  When he won the 2006 VA Undersecretary’s Award for Life-time Achievement in Health Services Research, his speech was focused on all of his collaborators rather than himself. He values his colleagues and we treasure him!  He has been a tireless advocate for our center at Duke and in the National VA research scene and we have benefited from his advocacy. He also inspires me because of his priorities.  Gene works like a beast.  But he also plays like a beast and has been a great inspiration for work-life balance. I have been incredibly inspired by how much he thrives on time with Grace and his family and his community-mindedness. I am so grateful that he will remain a senior researcher in our center.  Work would be a lot less fun without him, we have been so lucky!

Corrine Voils, PhD
Gene is among the most ethical colleagues that I have ever met. He has provided sound, unbiased advice in situations dealing with authorship and intellectual property. Gene is also remarkable because he puts the needs of individuals first. There have been situations in which he could have advocated for a position that would favor the institution more than the individual. He always asked the question of what would be best for the individual’s career. Such mentorship and advocacy is rare.

Will Yancy, MD
Gene was my first official boss and mentor, and has left a lasting positive impression of those roles that I have strived to emulate as I have progressed through my career. He possesses so many qualities that are important to being a good leader and only unique individuals possess. He leads by example, and by that I mean he is quick to volunteer for and complete responsibilities that are necessary for our organization to progress and work in harmony. His work capacity is enviable and yet he also is an outstanding role model for work-life balance. I still cannot fathom how he ran our unit, led clinical trials, and edited our manuscripts plus carpooled his three girls to dance classes, cooked their dinners and ran marathons! He has a way of motivating you to work a little bit out of your comfort zone without pushing you beyond your limits. I truly admire this skill. He is calm and mild mannered even when you are anticipating or recounting a stressful event that is fueling anxiety; this always helped me to capture the resilience I needed to forge ahead. Most importantly, Gene always manages to maintain perspective with a complete understanding of the grand scheme of life. I think it is this attribute that has attracted faculty and staff to our organization, helping it to grow astronomically under his guidance and making it one of the most desirable places to work at Duke and the VA alike.

If you would like to add a comment about Gene, please contact GIM Communications Strategist, Clare Il'Giovine.