Our History

The Foundation

The Department of Immunology at Duke University Medical Center was established in 1992, but its foundations were laid 30 years earlier. In 1962, Barnes Woodhall, the new Dean of the School of Medicine, “Connie” Gardner, Acting Chair of the Department of Surgery, and Phillip Handler, Chair of Biochemistry and later President of the National Academy of Science, recruited D. Bernard Amos, a tumor immunogeneticist, to Duke from Roswell Park Memorial Institute.  They wished to establish an immunogenetics research program that would enhance research in the Department of Surgery and provide the immunology support needed for a new kidney transplantation program.

Dr. Amos was appointed Professor of Immunology and Professor of Experimental Surgery; and the following year a Division of Immunology, with Amos as Chief, was formed within the Department of Microbiology and Immunology. Amos’ recruits, Richard Metzgar, Eugene Day, Chester Zmijewski, William Boyle, Frances Ward, David Scott, Jeffrey Dawson, and Peter Cresswell, complemented the immunology research programs already established within clinical departments at Duke, including those of Rebecca Buckley, Hilliard F. Seigler, Barton Haynes, and Ralph Synderman.

Dr. Amos and his colleagues laid a solid immunogenetic basis for organ transplantation and with the support of David C. Sabiston, Chair of the Department of Surgery, built an internationally recognized transplantation research center at Duke. The Division’s strong research and training programs in Transplantation and Tumor Immunology attracted large numbers of graduate students, postdoctoral fellows, and visiting faculty, with the consequence that many senior faculty at institutions across the country are alumni of Duke Immunology.  

The Department is Formed

With Dr. Amos’ retirement as Chief of the Division in 1990, Peter Cresswell served briefly in that capacity until he accepted a position at Yale University in 1991. Jeffrey Dawson became Interim Chief, and then Interim Chairman, once the University established a Department of Immunology in 1992. The next year, Thomas F. Tedder joined the Department as its inaugural Chair, with the goal of expanding the size of the program and recruiting the best and most promising new faculty, graduate students, and postdoctoral fellows. He stepped down from that position fifteen years later, passing leadership to Michael S. Krangel in 2009, initially on an interim basis. Dr. Krangel was appointed Chair in 2010. Faculty recruitment by Drs. Tedder and Krangel has expanded research coverage of the Department to address a broad range of topics in contemporary immunology. 

Remembering D. Bernard Amos

The annual D. Bernard Amos Research Lecture was established by the Department of Immunology to honor his memory and recognize his many contributions to medical research, education and service.

Bernard was born April 16, 1923 in Bromley, Kent, England. He completed his medical training at Guy’s Hospital in London and began his research career there as a fellow in 1952. In 1962, he was recruited to Duke University as Professor of Immunology and Professor of Experimental Surgery to establish the Division of Immunology. As Chief of the Division of Immunology (1962-1993), he built one of the premier clinical and research transplantation centers in the world. After a long and successful career, Bernard retired as James B. Duke Professor of Immunology and Experimental Surgery in 1993.

Bernard made seminal and enduring scientific contributions to the areas of immunogenetics, tumor immunity and transplantation immunology. His efforts to move laboratory findings to the bedside are some of the best examples of translational science culminating directly in the improved treatment of human disease.

Dr. Amos - A Department Legacy

Bernard’s success as an educator and leader can be attributed to his personal character and highly effective interpersonal skills. Always humble, he conveyed tremendous enthusiasm for science and life, readily sharing his own ideas and always being excited by the new ideas and perspectives of others. His modest and unassuming manner and commitment to thoughtful experimentation and collaborative efforts brought people together and brought out the best in their efforts.

A loving wife, Kay, and family survive Bernard. Bernard’s legacy is a lifetime of achievement, an international community of colleagues, collaborators, trainees, friends and admirers.