Gazing up at the stars while a student at Enid High School led to a lifelong love of science for Gregory Schultz, and literally a life-saving career affecting patients beyond number as he became one of America’s foremost medical researchers.
“Professor Schultz is quite possibly the greatest scientist who ever graduated from Oklahoma State University’s department of biochemistry and molecular biology,” said John Gustafson, department head. “Greg represents in every way, shape and form what every serious science faculty member wants [his or her] students to become.”
Schultz was recently honored by OSU’s Division of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources as a 2018 CASNR Distinguished Alumnus Award recipient in honor of his significant and far-reaching lifetime achievements. The division is comprised of the College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources and two state agencies: The Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service and the statewide Oklahoma Agricultural Experiment Station system.
Hailed as an “Innovation Leader” by TIME magazine in 2006, the Enid native majored in biochemistry as an undergraduate at OSU, graduating with honors in 1971. He earned his Ph.D. in biochemistry at OSU in 1976, and then completed three years of post-doctoral research at the Yale School of Medicine.
“While at Yale, Greg established a professional collaboration with cell biologist Richard Galardy, with whom he would go on to be a co-inventor on four U.S. patents in the area of clinical applications of matrix metalloproteinase inhibitors,” Gustafson said.
After completing his post-doctoral training in 1979, Schultz joined the University of Louisville’s School of Medicine, focusing his research on exploring the role of protein growth factors and their receptors in breast cancer. In 1989, Schultz moved his research group to the University of Florida’s College of Medicine where he established the multidisciplinary Institute for Wound Research. A major objective of the institute has been the translation of research discoveries into novel clinical therapies.
“Greg’s research has definitely impacted the lives of numerous people suffering from cancer and infectious disease,” Gustafson said.
Another notable scientific discovery made by Schultz’s group is the establishment that most chronic skin wounds develop bacterial “biofilms,” which are what prevent really horrible wounds from healing.
“Greg’s contributions to the detection of biofilms in wounds and the development of antimicrobial bandages that can prevent bacterial growth in wounds has greatly impacted these serious issues,” Gustafson said.
As a healthcare scientist, Schultz has consulted with or served on advisory boards of more than 50 healthcare-related companies. He is the co-inventor on 30 U.S. and world patents. Along the way, Schultz also co-founded two successful biotech companies.
As for the stargazing, that was an idea of Enid High School science teacher Jim Smeltzer in the early 1960s, who was instrumental in the construction of an astronomical observatory dome atop the roof of the school building.
“I really got turned onto science and research at an early age, in large part due to the [fantastic learning] environment at Enid High School,” Schultz said. “We did all sorts of amazing astronomy and physics-based studies.”
Evidence of that continued passion is not only the research advancements Schultz and his team of scientists have developed over the decades, but the sharing of that knowledge and making those advances available to the world. Schultz has published more than 400 scientific articles and book chapters, which have been cited nearly 23,000 times, placing him in the top 1 percent of researchers in the health sciences field.
“The training and education I received at OSU were phenomenal, giving me the basic biochemistry to succeed in these other areas because I could understand disease processes at the molecular level,” Schultz said.
His time at OSU gave him something more, and just as long-lasting: He met his future wife Ruth on a camping trip at Lake Tenkiller. The couple recently established the Dr. Gregory Schultz and Ruth Schultz Graduate Student Fellowship Endowed Fund, which provides research resources and financial support to graduate students in OSU’s department of biochemistry and molecular biology.
By Donald Stotts and Sean Hubbard