About GPPA Medical Scholars Program

Meet the Director

Ideas are more important than facts; understanding is not achieved through memorization; and whenever possible read and rely on original literature not textbooks.—Dr. Chambers’ message to incoming students. 

Dr. Donald A. Chambers is Professor of Physiology and Biophysics, Professor of Medical Education, and Director of the GPPA Program for the University of Illinois College of Medicine. He was Head of the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at the University of Illinois College of Medicine for almost twenty years and was also the Founding Director of UIC’s Center for Molecular Biology of Oral Diseases for which he served for twenty-five years.

Dr. Chambers is a Visiting Fellow of Green-Templeton College, University of Oxford (since 1988) and a member of the Green-Templeton Advisory Committee. He is also a Senior Research Associate of the Wellcome Unit of the History of Medicine at Oxford, and North American Secretary of the Oxford Medical Alumni Society. He has advised the Dean of the Oxford Medical School and the Director of the Medical Research Council of the UK.

A graduate of Columbia University for both his undergraduate and graduate training, Dr. Chambers went on to serve as Research Fellow at the Harvard Medical School. Prior to coming to the University of Illinois at Chicago, he served on the medical faculties of the University of California, San Francisco and the University of Michigan. Dr. Chambers has served on governmental advisory committees for the NIH, as well as, other professional organizations including the Wellcome Trust. He is a member of numerous professional organizations and societies including the American Society of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, the American Society for Cell Biology, the Royal Society of Medicine, the International Association for Dental Research, and the Athenaeum Club of London.

Dr. Chambers’ research focuses on molecular medicine and dentistry; in particular, the nature of interactions between the nervous system and the immune system, molecular mechanisms involved in wound healing, tissue homeostasis, cancer and periodontal disease, and molecular diagnostics. An avid author to over 250 contributions to the scientific literature, he has ongoing research programs at the University of Illinois at Chicago and the University of Oxford, UK. A recipient of UIC’s Inventor of the Year Award, Dr. Chambers’ devised and patented an enzymatic diagnostic assay for active periodontal diseases. His contribution were the first dental molecular diagnostic licensed by the FDA.

In addition to his research, Dr. Chambers is also interested in the intellectual development of the biomedical sciences. In 1993, he conceived, organized and chaired a ‘landmark meeting’ for the New York Academy of Sciences in conjunction with Oxford and UIC, celebrating the fortieth anniversary of the elucidation of the double helical structure of DNA, the proceedings of which were published in 1995 by the New York Academy of Sciences Press: DNA, the Double Helix, Perspective and Prospective at Forty Years, edited by D.A. Chambers. In response to a request from the Illinois Legislature, he was a member of a group that produced an analysis of the issues of human cloning (The Challenges of Human Cloning for Public Policy in Illinois, University of Illinois Institute of Government and Public Affairs, 2001).

Currently, he is an editor of the journal, Perspectives of Biology and Medicine (published by Johns Hopkins University Press) and is volume editor of the Winter 2011 issue, Flexner at 100. He is also writing and editing a textbook, Molecular Medicine: The Basis of Translational Science (Garland Science Press). Dr. Chambers designed and teaches the core curriculum of the Baccalaureate/MD GPPA Premedical Program of the College of Medicine. He was elected UIC’s first Honors College Fellow of the Year and his students have received a number of national and international fellowships including Fulbright, Goldwater, Gates Cambridge, and Clarendon Oxford fellowships. Dr. Chambers inaugurated and presides over the Green College-UIC Collaborative Program (Does this program still exist?) in which UIC GPPA students participate and may receive Oxford degrees before going on to medical school. In terms of university governance, Dr. Chambers is Vice-Chair of the UIC Senate and its Executive Committee, Chair of the UIC Senate Budget and Planning Committee and Chair of the University Senates Conference.