Dr. Ellen Vitetta

Dr. Ellen Vitetta, Texas Women’s Hall of Fame Inductee 2006

2006 Inductee
Health/Health Research

Dr. Ellen Vitetta is an internationally acclaimed scientist, educator and academic leader. To say her achievements in science and medicine are impressive is a severe understatement; to her colleagues, her students and the public at-large, Dr. Vitetta and her accomplishments are nothing less than awe-inspiring.

Based at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical School in Dallas, Dr. Vitetta is a professor of microbiology, director of the Cancer Immunology Center, and holder of the Scheryle Simmons Patigian Distinguished Chair in Cancer Immunology.

She was the first female biomedical scientist from Texas ever elected to the most prestigious American honorific society for research excellence, the National Academy of Sciences.

A world-renowned immunologist, Dr. Vitetta pioneered the development of immunotoxins for the treatment of disease - especially lymphoma, breast cancer and AIDS. Immunotoxins act like a "smart bomb" among diseased cells, finding and destroying them without damaging the surrounding cells or tissue. Dr. Vitetta is also developing vaccines to protect against agents of biological warfare.

The author of more than 475 scientific articles, Dr. Vitetta is also one of the top ten female scientists in any scientific field in terms of how often other scientists refer to her publications. She has been honored by a long list of awards, including repeatedly receiving the Outstanding Faculty Teaching Award at Southwestern Medical School.

Dr. Vitetta is an extraordinary teacher and a dedicated advocate for advancing the careers of women in science and medicine. She has served as a thesis mentor for 25 Ph.D. or M.D./Ph.D. students and 58 postdoctoral fellows, about half of whom have been young women. One of her former graduate students, Dr. Linda Buck, won the 2004 Nobel Prize in Medicine or Physiology. Another student, Dr. Francis Ligler, was elected to the National Academy of Engineering as one of its very few female members.

Additionally, Dr. Vitetta chaired the school's Women in Science and Medicine Advisory Committee (WISMAC) for ten years. WISMAC was instrumental in creating an on-site childcare center and an endowed annual visiting professorship by a distinguished female scientist/physician, improving campus safety, and achieving salary equity for men and women. She has also participated in programs to encourage young women in high school and college to pursue careers in science, medicine and engineering.

Dr. Vitetta earned her Bachelor of Arts degree at Connecticut College, and her advanced degrees from New York University Medical and Graduate Schools. She is an active member of many organizations, including American Women in Science, the American Association of Cancer Research and the American Association of Immunologists, where she served as elected president of its 6,000 members in 1994. Her distinguished career in science and medicine not only helps strengthen the health and well-being of us all, but also helps inspire and motivate young women to follow in her remarkable footsteps.

Page last updated 4:14 PM, September 7, 2022