Rewarding Research

Ware devoted to improving length, quality of life through drug research

Dr. Tony Ware

From The Ichabod - Fall 2017

A doctor can save a patient’s life in a heartbeat, or devote hours to pharmaceutical research in hopes of finding a drug that can save thousands of lives.

Dr. Tony Ware, bs ’74, has done both, and now he manages a team of researchers at Eli Lilly and Company. In every stage of his career since leaving Washburn – medical school, patient care, directing hospital staffs and research – he’s looked back to Washburn professors who made science come alive once he started on that path.

“I was working on a survey crew to pay tuition the summer after my first year at Washburn,” he said. “I had a sudden revelation that I wanted to be a physician and this would be a good way for me to contribute. The more I thought about it, the more it made sense.”

He had considered medicine while in junior high, but gravitated away from math and science courses and toward social studies courses in high school. He had to completely revamp his curriculum so he could graduate from Washburn in three years.

“I started studying math and science in earnest,” Ware said. “There was a lot of material to master, but the teachers were so good it came alive.”

One such teacher was Shel Cohen, Ware’s first chemistry professor at Washburn. Cohen, who passed away in July, wasn’t sure about Ware when he first saw him.

“He was just sort of casual. That would be the very polite way of saying it,” Cohen said before he passed. “But that did not go over into his classwork. He was disciplined academically. He took the difficult classes in biology and chemistry and was always prepared.”

“I walked past Dr. Cohen once,” Ware said. “And he turned to another faculty member and said, ‘you wouldn’t believe it, but this Bohemian here is one of my best students.’ I wasn’t sure what a Bohemian was. I had to look it up.”

If not for professors like Cohen, Ware may not have had the success he’s had in medicine. He earned his doctor of medicine from the University of Kansas in 1977. From 1986-97, Ware was on the faculty of Harvard Medical School and directed the coronary care and vascular biology units at Beth Israel Hospital. He was chief of cardiology at Albert Einstein College of Medicine and Montefiore Medical Center from 1997-2001.

He joined Eli Lilly in 2001 and became senior vice president of clinical product development in 2009. He manages several hundred physicians, project managers and others responsible for late-stage clinical testing and approval of medicines for conditions like diabetes, heart attacks, migraines and rheumatoid arthritis.

“I always had an intellectual curiosity about research and investigations,” Ware said. “If you make a major discovery – it’s part of why I got into the pharmaceutical industry – you can help thousands of people. We’re a team working together to advance new therapies in care and improve the length or quality of someone’s life.”

Ware worked hard to take the science classes necessary to graduate in time. However, he and Cohen agreed STEM education on all levels – from kindergarten to college – could be improved. The next great physicians need inspiring STEM educators early on.

“Young kids are interested in nature and why things work,” Cohen said. “By the time they get to junior high, if they haven’t been nurtured or instilled with interest, they start to lose it.”

“It doesn’t have to be that way,” Ware said. “I think educators are making a better effort about getting people involved. We’re making big strides.”

Ware remembers Cohen's engaging style

Shel and Virginia Cohen

Former Washburn faculty members Shel and Virginia Cohen both died after a car accident on July 11, 2017. Shel joined the Washburn faculty in 1960.

"I was shocked and deeply saddened by the news of the untimely deaths of Sheldon and Virginia Cohen,” Ware said. “Both were such vibrant and vital people, still intellectually curious and so warm and encouraging. I will miss them personally, and I know that the Washburn community will feel their loss in the years to come. I feel very fortunate to have had Shel Cohen as a professor while at Washburn, and I was particularly delighted to be able to interact with him in the years following my graduation upon my return visits to campus."


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