(December 2017) On Dec. 20, 2016, the Department of Psychiatry suffered a great loss
when Randy Ross, MD, an accomplished and treasured member of the
department, passed away.
Ross graduated from the University of
California at Santa Barbara in 1983 and received his medical degree from
Yale University School of Medicine in 1987. He came to the University
of Colorado in 1993 as a young researcher, joining the Developmental
Psychobiology Research Group (DPRG) training program.
to learn the methodologies of schizophrenia research and apply it to
learning more about childhood onset schizophrenia. Though a rare
diagnosis, Ross found more cases than were expected, said Robert
Freedman, MD, retired chair of the Department of Psychiatry.
that the young researcher was finding diagnoses where he wanted to see
them, the head of child psychiatry at the National Institute of Mental
Health was invited to interview a few of the children that Ross had
evaluated and to everyone’s surprise, she confirmed Ross’ diagnoses.
to understand the roots of mental illness, Ross was particularly
interested in choline research, a lead that followed prior findings
about the neurobiology of schizophrenia and related mental illnesses.
He also invested time and energy in future researchers, eventually
becoming vice chair of the DPRG program that began his own career on
“He was extremely generous with his time,” said Linda
Greco-Sanders of the DPRG program. “He tried to toughen people up to
criticism because he said it is just part of the whole experience and
it’s nothing personal, one of the hardest but most important lessons for
young scientists starting out to learn. If that meant telling
his own stories of humiliating criticism from grant submissions, he
shared it. The important thing to him was to impart knowledge.”
gained the reputation of being harsh but fair. Camille Hoffman, MD, who
worked with Ross for over eight years as a mentee and a partner in his
research, called this “getting Randied.” This was a blessing in
disguise. Anyone who received his feedback was bound to be challenged,
but always grew from these interactions.
Ross’ life was also dedicated to his family.
back of his car was covered in bumper stickers indicating where his
three kids had gone to college,” said Stephanie Vetter, grant manager in
the Department of Psychiatry.
While keeping focused on work,
there were moments of lightheartedness that gave us a glimpse into his
life’s story. He grew up in Santa Barbara, Calif., and had a Farrah
Fawcett haircut at one time. He liked to listen to ’70s rock in his
office in the mornings and always had one shoe untied. He was a direct
descendent of Jesse James. He also loved to travel – he even
hitchhiked across the country when he was 18.
Though I did not
get the time to know him well, I did get a bit of the ‘Randy Experience’
myself. I began working in his lab less than six months before his
passing. He was very generous with his time and spoke with me about
graduate programs one afternoon. I anticipated speaking
for 10 minutes, but I was surprised that after an hour he was still
taking the time to answer my questions. I was very appreciative of his
time and reflect often on that conversation.
Although we have to
say goodbye to Randy, his work lives on. And I’m sure he would be happy
to see that we will all be getting back to work.
Rahwa Netsanet is a Professional Research Assistant at the CU School of Medicine.