By David Woods (

On January 1st 2006, Dr Dennis Gross retired from Merck after 28 years; the following day, he took up his present position as Associate Dean, Masters Programs, in the College of Graduate Studies at Thomas Jefferson University.

At Merck, he had started out as a senior research pharmacologist working on the project team that discovered the angiotensin converting enzyme inhibitors Vasotec and Prinivil. Dr Gross went on to fill senior management positions in the company, directing research operations, and serving as director of programme resources and logistics. In that capacity, he was responsible for operations and financial oversight of Merck research labs in the UK, Japan, Canada, and Italy. He reckons that, all told, he flew a million and a half miles for Merck.

During that time, he fused a business career with an academic one… serving as an adjunct professor at Jefferson from 1977. No wonder Gross is a strong proponent of bringing ‘real world’ experience to the benefit of the 350 students in his masters programme in biomedical sciences. “It adds richness and diversity to the student experience,” he says, and helps to prepare those students for what he believes will be a very different future in pharmaceuticals.

Many of the professors in the department lecture on what they actually do for a living, he says, and he himself grafts onto his administrative duties a teaching schedule in pharmacology and toxicology. “I really enjoy interacting with the students,” he says, “and it really is a way of giving back some of what I learned in industry.” And those students themselves are pretty diverse – some just out of undergraduate studies; others with perhaps 10 years in the business world.

Off campus, Dennis Gross enjoys music and photography… and is a voracious reader who’s been collecting books – especially on the Middle East – for 40 years, prompted perhaps by the fact that his grandfather fought in Palestine in World War One and met the fabled Lawrence of Arabia.

Of HOC, he says: “The newsletter serves the useful purpose of exposing people in a succinct way to the issues of the day that affect them professionally.”