The Wisconsin Medical Alumni Association’s (WMAA) new president, Daniel Jackson, MD ’03 (PG ’10), is a dedicated Badger who knew, at a young age, that he wanted to attend the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health.
Having observed the careers of his mom and dad—a nurse manager and high school science teacher, respectively, “I grew up in health care and science,” explains Jackson, an associate professor in the Department of Pediatrics with an affiliate appointment in the Department of Medicine.
During high school in Beaver Dam, Wisconsin, Jackson enrolled in the School of Medicine and Public Health Medical Scholars Program. That opportunity, which has evolved into different student offerings, provided conditional admission to the medical school for highly qualified high school seniors. It encouraged participants to become part of the medical school community as undergraduates at UW-Madison, where Jackson earned a biochemistry degree.
His early years on campus coincided with the Badger football team’s Rose Bowl winning streak in the 1990s, cementing Jackson’s “U-Rah-Rah” for life.
And his second year of medical school brought another life-defining change: He met a medical student, Amanda (Tucker) Jackson, MD ’04, from Mequon, Wisconsin, who later joined him in marriage. After he earned his medical degree, Daniel Jackson spent a year conducting research while Amanda Jackson completed her final year at the School of Medicine and Public Health.
Next, they matched together into residencies—pediatrics for him and emergency medicine for her—at the University of California-Davis.
While they enjoyed living for three years in the Golden State, where Amanda Jackson had earned a bachelor’s degree, they returned to Wisconsin for Daniel Jackson to complete an allergy, immunology and rheumatology fellowship at UW Health.
In 2010, he joined the School of Medicine and Public Health faculty. His wife also established her career in Madison, and they have two children, ages 6 and 11.
Daniel Jackson notes, “I chose my specialty in part because I had worked with incredible physician-researchers during medical school, many of whom are now my colleagues.”
Among this group are Robert Lemanske, Jr., MD ’75 (PG ’80), professor of medicine and pediatrics, who was Daniel Jackson’s primary mentor during medical school and his fellowship; William Busse, MD ’66, and Nizar Jarjour, MD, professors of medicine; James Gern, MD, professor of medicine and pediatrics; and Mark Moss, MD (PG ’00), associate professor of medicine.
“Our work has been an example of ‘team science,’ starting well before that concept was popular,” says Daniel Jackson. “We’ve done substantial work—including large cohort studies and clinical trials—related to mechanisms underlying asthma inception, disease exacerbations and personalized care for children with asthma, with a long-term focus on asthma prevention.”
As a co-principal investigator for the Childhood Origins of Asthma study, his lab identified the synergy between early-life allergic sensitization and respiratory pathogens in asthma inception. He also has designed and conducted trials funded by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and other federal agencies.
Daniel Jackson publishes widely and is proud to have earned the Klosterfrau International Award for Research of Airway Diseases in Childhood in 2013.
“I enjoy all three aspects of my job: conducting research; taking care of patients at the American Family Children’s Hospital; and teaching and mentoring medical students, residents and fellows,” he notes.
With a strong devotion to his medical school alma mater, he joined the WMAA Board of Directors in 2009, at the end of his fellowship. But his connections with the association began many years earlier.
“While I attended the School of Medicine and Public Health, I participated in medical student government and extracurricular activities—such as MEDiC, Doctors Ought to Care and specialty interest groups,” he recalls. “The WMAA’s support of those types of organizations and events offered memorable opportunities to interact with classmates and alumni, which I found particularly valuable.”
He continues, “It’s common for physicians to wait until later in their careers—perhaps when their children are grown—to join the WMAA. But I know how much the alumni association does to help students, and I wanted to be part of that right away.”
Daniel Jackson’s goals in joining the association’s board and becoming its president relate to encouraging more early-career graduates to get involved in ways that work for them. He also embraces another important WMAA mission: reducing medical student indebtedness.
“Tuition was rising steeply when I was in medical school, and my classmates and I worked with the WMAA to look at that issue. Since then, the association has focused on encouraging donors to create scholarships to reduce that burden for students,” he says.
As outlined in its strategic plan, which Daniel Jackson helped create, the WMAA is building a culture of philanthropy among medical students, including having each new student donate a dollar to the class fund at the WMAA stethoscope distribution event.
“As the president, I plan to continue to support these missions, while also reaching out to recent graduates and alumni with whom we have lost touch,” he says, adding that the ultimate goal is to help the School of Medicine and Public Health fulfill its important missions.
Beyond their workplaces, Daniel and Amanda Jackson give back to the community in many ways.
“With two kids who are involved in various activities, plus our dual careers, schedules can be challenging,” he admits, adding that despite periodic time crunches, their family loves to travel, boat on Lake Mendota and play golf together.
Above all, Daniel Jackson exclaims, “Badger game days are a highlight for our whole family. We love to attend football games at Camp Randall together!”
By Kris Whitman
This article appears in Quarterly magazine.