A career is built on many experiences and opportunities.
When Stephen Naber, M.D., Ph.D. (Ph.D. ’74, Biology), reflects on how he got where he is today, one person stands out – Robert Hazelwood, his mentor at the University of Houston.
Naber, the chief of anatomic pathology at Tufts Medical Center in Boston and associate professor of pathology at Tufts University School of Medicine, practices diagnostic surgical pathology and his research focuses on studying the mechanisms of breast cancer development and metastasis. “I see a real continuum from what I started at UH to where I am today,” he said.
In 1970, he came to UH after completing bachelor’s and master’s degrees at University of South Dakota. A professor at South Dakota recommended Hazelwood as a mentor. “He thought Hazelwood would be a good fit for me both professionally and personally; he was correct on both counts,” Naber said.
Naber remembers that while Hazelwood gave his students free rein to explore, he also provided the structure and limits to keep them focused on the goals of their work.
“That training and Dr. Hazelwood’s mentoring made it possible for me to obtain postdoctoral fellowships in medical research which focused my interests toward the translation of basic science to the study of disease,” Naber said.
Recently, Naber and his wife, Janis, decided to establish a graduate fellowship in honor of Hazelwood. It will support a UH student in the biologic sciences who is focusing on the mechanisms of disease relevant to cancer or metabolic disorders.
“A research university cultivates the enthusiasm of future generations of scientists and leaders who will advance knowledge and solve problems in novel ways,” Naber said. “We want this fellowship to help promising students achieve their goals.”
When he was deciding to apply to UH, Naber was struck by a Hugh Roy Cullen quote about the endowment of UH and its role as a “college for working men and women and their sons and daughters.”
That quote resonated with Naber. “Coming from an area in the west where people are self-reliant and build things themselves, it seemed like a really good fit for me. I knew within 24 hours of arriving in Houston that I had made the right decision,” he said.
Forty-five years ago, Naber came to a university with exceptional programs. He remains impressed with UH’s continued growth and visits campus one or two times a year and participates in the Department of Biology and Biochemistry’s Alumni Lecture Initiative.
“At UH, I’ve seen the acceleration in the quality and the commitment to excellence,” he said. “The progress is visible. The vitality and energy is not only at the university; it reflects what is going on in Houston.”
Looking back, Naber is appreciative of all that Hazelwood and the University of Houston did for him. “All-in-all, we want to give back to UH because our contribution is going to be put to good use.”
Kathy Major, College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics