Home / Testimonies / Michael W. Draper

Beginning in my teens, I was quite certain that scientific (medical) research would be my chosen profession. Schoolteachers and parents were very supportive, and I studied chemistry at Brigham Young University, from which I received a BS in 1968. As an undergraduate, I had my first real research experience, a project that eventually resulted in my first scientific publication, and this further fortified my desire to pursue this path to the fullest. I was fortunate to study at the Rockefeller University in New York City, where, in 1974, I obtained my PhD in biochemistry under the guidance of subsequent Nobel Prize laureate R. Bruce Merrifield. I obtained my MD from Cornell University Medical College in 1976, and then completed a three-year residency in Internal Medicine at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center in California.

My ultimate interest in research was stronger than ever, and was now focused in the medical specialty of endocrinology. At the University of California, San Francisco, School of Medicine, I took on faculty duties as an assistant professor of medicine. Although I continued seeing patients and teaching during my entire career, my research focus occupied the vast majority of my time, throughout my career. I spent a few more years in laboratory research early on, but I subsequently developed (perhaps partly attributable to the exposure of my medical training) a strong interest in clinical research, and spent most of my mature career in this discipline. The most important and significant pursuit of my career was a fifteen-plus-year project, completed at Lilly Research Labs in Indiana, during which I developed a chemical entity known as raloxifene hydrochloride into a human preventative medicine targeted at the prevention of osteoporosis and the prevention of breast cancer in postmenopausal women. Eli Lilly and Co. has marketed this entity under the trade name Evista for the past fifteen years, and to date, more than 70,000,000 women worldwide have been treated with Evista. My development studies on the safety and efficacy of raloxifene hydrochloride involved more than 10,000 study subjects, many treated for five years or more, and resulted in numerous scientific publications.

Throughout this time I also developed a great love for and a deep interest in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I have served in my church, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, in numerous positions, including missionary, teacher, elder and bishop, and some of the most glorious times of my life have been with my family as we have been involved in all aspects of this religious service.

I remember hearing quite frequently about the “great debate” or the “conflict” between science and religion, but I never understood it. For me, the more I learned in my scientific studies, the more I appreciated my religious beliefs. The deeper I became immersed in my religion, the more I appreciated the wonders of science and their true perspective in life. I became convinced that the “conflict” arose either because the person involved in the conflict did not properly understand science or because he/she did not truly understand the glorious truths of religion as I understood them—or, most frequently, had both problems. Throughout my subsequent career, I have never found conflict between my scientific knowledge and my religious beliefs. My experience has fortified my conviction that the principles of my religious beliefs, and the proper understanding of our current scientific knowledge, are all a part of the great body of truth with which we live here on earth, and which continually governs our lives.

There were two specific episodes during my education that significantly affected my feelings on these issues. While I was an undergraduate at Brigham Young University, I joined and eventually became president of the campus Chemistry Club. On a couple of occasions, we traveled as a group to Salt Lake City and met with Henry Eyring, Sr., then professor emeritus of chemistry at the University of Utah. Professor Eyring, a member of the National Academy of Sciences and one of the most distinguished Americans in science, was most gracious to host us and to sit and chat about science and other topics. I came away from my interactions with him convinced that the strongest knowledge of Truth I would ever gain would be my knowledge of my Savior and His gifts to me. As a scientist, it would additionally be an honor to catch small glimpses into other parts of that great Truth, via my scientific pursuits.

While I was a graduate student at Rockefeller University, I attended an unforgettable symposium held on the University campus. The University had invited distinguished Professor Gerald Holton, Professor of the History of Science at Harvard, to preview a soon-to-be-published manuscript on the history of early-twentieth-century physics. This was, of course, the age of Einstein, Bohr, Planck, Heisenberg, and other notables in the world of theoretical physics. Professor Holton stood at a podium on one side of the stage to read his manuscript. On the other side of the stage, seated informally in comfortable armchairs, were three senior Rockefeller faculty in physics and mathematics, all of whom had known one or more of the “greats” during their lifetimes and had had significant interactions with them on the major discourses in modern physics. For over three hours, Professor Holton read his manuscript and the others would break in spontaneously with comments like “Ah yes, I remember sitting with Einstein on a train headed to Copenhagen, and we discussed that very point . . .,” or “Niels Bohr and I had several conversations about that topic between lectures at the ———- meeting in Paris.” This was one of the most interesting scientific evenings I have ever spent. I came away with a deep and humbling understanding of the tenuous nature of scientific theory and “truth.” Theoretical physics underwent a convulsive upheaval about every ten years in the early twentieth century, and what was “truth” at one point was rejected or modified a few years later. Only appropriate humility permits the true scientist to appreciate the wonders of scientific progress while at the same time realizing how fragile our theories always remain.

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Michael W. Draper (Ph.D., Rockefeller University; M.D., Cornell University), now retired from the Indiana University School of Medicine, has also been associated with Harbor-UCLA Medical Center, the Veterans Administration Hospital of San Francisco, the University of California at San Francisco, and, for many years, as a researcher, advisor, and director in endocrinology and internal medicine, with the Lilly Research Laboratories of Eli Lilly and Company.

He is the author or co-author of scores of scientific papers and abstracts, and the holder of a dozen patents, and he and his wife Margie are the parents of five children.

Posted April 2012