Virginia V. Weldon, MD, dreamed of having a challenging, dynamic career. Through the years, she became a leader in medical education and biomedical research, a mentor and role model for junior colleagues, and an advisor on a number of national science committees. Dr. Weldon received an honorary doctor of science degree from the university on May 19, 2017.
Dr. Weldon’s career provides example after example of her dedication to improving health care through innovative medical education, cutting-edge patient care and medical research.
“What makes me happy about my life is the variety of experiences I have had and the different challenges that I have faced,” said Dr. Weldon, who was born in Toronto, Canada, and is a U.S. citizen.
A 1957 cum laude graduate of Smith College, Dr. Weldon was one of three women in her class at the University of Buffalo School of Medicine.
After earning her medical degree in 1962, she completed an internship and residency in pediatrics at The Johns Hopkins Hospital, and remained for a three-year fellowship in pediatric endocrinology at The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.
She joined the Washington University School of Medicine faculty as an instructor of pediatrics in 1968 and quickly rose through the ranks to become a professor of pediatrics and serve in a number of leadership positions.
Dr. Weldon treated many children with diabetes, and she received national recognition for her research on a growth hormone deficiency in children that results in extreme short stature. Her research included investigating whether animal growth hormones were as effective as human growth hormones.
She took on significant administrative duties at the School of Medicine, including serving as assistant to the vice chancellor for medical affairs from 1977 to 1981 and associate vice chancellor for medical affairs from 1981 to 1983.
She served six years as deputy vice chancellor for medical affairs from 1983 to 1989 and was vice president of the Washington University Medical Center from 1980 to 1989.
Dr. Weldon left Washington University in 1989 to become vice president of scientific affairs at the Monsanto Company, where she addressed public policy issues affecting the company and its products. She retired from Monsanto in 1998 as senior vice president for public policy.
She returned to the university in 1998 to serve for one year as director of the Center for the Study of American Business, now called the Weidenbaum Center on the Economy, Government, and Public Policy.
Nationally recognized for her leadership on medical education and biomedical research issues, Dr. Weldon held many national advisory positions, including on the President’s Committee of Advisors on Science and Technology under Bill Clinton.
She was also appointed by the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture in 1999 to the National Advisory Committee on Agricultural Biotechnology.
In addition, she played a role in establishing the Supporters of Agricultural Research Foundation, a national organization that addresses issues of world hunger.
In 1985, Dr. Weldon became the first woman to chair the Association of American Medical Colleges.
Among her many honors, she was elected to the National Academy of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences and named a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and of the American Academy of Pediatrics.
She is among a handful of prominent female physicians from the School of Medicine featured in an online exhibit sponsored by the National Library of Medicine.
Titled “Changing the Face of Medicine: Celebrating America’s Women Physicians,” the exhibit, which traveled the United States from 2003 to 2012, honors the lives and achievements of women who have influenced the practice of medicine.
Dr. Weldon, who plays the piano and loves classical music, has served on the St. Louis Symphony Board of Trustees since 1992. She was chair of the board from 2000 to 2005 during one of the symphony’s worst financial challenges.
She also served on the boards of the Saint Louis Science Center and the Saint Louis Zoo. She is a life trustee of the California Institute of Technology.
Dr. Weldon and her husband, Francis Austin, live in St. Louis. She has two daughters, Ann Weldon Doyle and Susan Weldon Erlinger, two granddaughters and a grandson.