Serendipity, Devine Intervention, or Karma – In Memorium Dr. McLeod

March 20th, 2021 by Nick Jacobs Leave a reply »

In 1999 as the relatively new CEO of Windber Medial Center, I was invited to have dinner at the home of one of our physicians.

I was seated beside Congressman, John Murtha.  As I began to elaborate on my dreams  for the hospital, Mr. Murtha said, “Nick, why don’t you check to see if you can find someone who will work with Windber from Bethesda or Walter Reed? Then, maybe I can help.”

Although I knew he was a U.S. Representative, I had no idea he oversaw the Appropriations Subcommittee which funded the Department of Defense.

My board chair, Judge David Klementik and I visited the then Bethesda Naval Hospital where the liaison officer we met with diplomatically explained the Navy was not interested in working on research projects.

A few months later, I decided to cold-call the former Walter Reed Hospital. It’s important to interject that I was not a Veteran and had never been there  before.  Consequently, I had no knowledge about protocols, chain-of-command, or even who to contact.


Pre-9-11, things were still pretty informal for visitors at Walter Reed. So, I cautiously walked into the ground floor of the hospital. As I entered the building, the realities of military medicine hit me. The place was packed.

Almost immediately, I saw a white coat in front of me with the letters M.D. embroidered at the end of the name. It was one Colonel David G. McLeod, MD.


Considering how many doctors worked in that building and how many would not have acknowledged me, the next few moments positively changed not only my life but possibly the lives of thousands and maybe someday millions of people forever.

I said, “Hello, doctor, my name is Nick Jacobs, and I am the President of a hospital in South Central Pennsylvania. Our Congressman had recommended that I come to Walter Reed to see if there was anyone here who might be interested in working with us.” 

Dr. McLeod replied, “What’s your Congressman’s name?” I said, “Jack Murtha.” He looked at me and said, “Follow me.”

Little did I know that saying Mr. Murtha’s name would get that type of reaction from the first doctor I ran into at Walter Reed.

Of course, I also did not know this amazing Vietnam War Veteran, attorney, researcher, and physician had founded the Center for Prostate Disease Research at the Uniformed Services University. There was also no way for me to have known that he knew exactly what to do for both Windber and Congressman Murtha.

Most importantly, I didn’t realize he would go on to guide another young physician, Craig Shriver, to assist in forming the Clinical Breast Care Project, a Congressional initiative which would collect over 100,000 plus breast tissue samples used in part by the National Cancer Institute to map the Human Breast Cancer Genome.

It was about a year later when I first met Dr. Shriver. He came to formally ask me what I wanted to do with the grant that our hospital was about to receive for the study of breast cancer. 

Having been a candidate for the CEO position at a research hospital where I had seen my very first genetic analysis laboratory seven-years earlier, I looked at him and said, “I want Windber to partner with Walter Reed to become the genetic breast cancer research center for the Department of Defense.” 

He looked very thoughtfully at me and said, “As long as we’re researching genetics, there’s a new science called proteomics that we should study, too.”  My reply was, “Yes, we should. I don’t really know what either of them are, so you be the doctor, and I’ll be the administrator.”  

It was Dr. McLeod who then helped Dr Shriver operationalize the Clinical Breast Care Project. 

Thank you, Colonel McLeod. “You continue to make lives better every day.”


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