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  • Cathy O’Connor

Honoring legacy of Dr. Stephen Prescott

When I met Dr. Stephen Prescott in 2006, it was obvious he was a visionary. He was a rare leader who had the ability to pull together teams and take action to turn vision into action. When he accepted the leadership position at the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation, he built a culture of engagement within the organization that fostered tremendous growth.

He immediately set out to assemble some of the most accomplished scientists in the world, recruiting 30 new principal scientists and researchers. But first, he had to create the space for that research. He successfully completed a $100 million fundraising campaign to expand OMRF with a research tower, the largest campus expansion in the foundation’s history, and he created the OMRF Multiple Sclerosis Center of Excellence.

Under his leadership the foundation earned international recognition, with more than 300 scientific staff members, including some of the world’s foremost immunologists and cardiovascular biologists. OMRF researchers publish papers and participate with teams of scientists across the U.S. and in countries around the globe on topics that range from studies of rare children’s diseases to Alzheimer’s.

In 2019, the National Institutes of Health once again named OMRF one of only 10 Autoimmunity Centers of Excellence in the U.S. The designation came with a five-year grant of up to $36 million to further research and treatment for conditions such as lupus.

Dr. Prescott’s focus on engagement extended far beyond the walls of OMRF. I had the privilege of working with him many times over the years on projects to enhance our city. One that stands out in my mind is our work to imagine and create the Innovation District. He instinctively knew that higher collaboration and engagement among research institutions, startups and technology firms would result in a culture that supports ideas and innovation and would be a magnet for individuals and companies seeking that environment.

We participated in small groups that traveled to other cities to learn from what they were doing with research and innovation centers. I remember talking with him about what the area around the health sciences campus could become – what it could look like in the future and how it would benefit Oklahoma City. He was a champion for bringing together scientists, researchers and technology professionals. OMRF and our city as a whole will be a testament to his vision and leadership.


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