As alumni of all ages returned to the University of Arizona for homecoming and reunion in November, each college had the opportunity to honor a graduate of their college. It is with distinct honor that the University of Arizona Alumni Association and the UA College of Medicine – Tucson presented the 2012 Alumnus of the Year Award to Gilbert Gonzales, MD, – a scholar, an innovator, but above all, a healer.
Known as an “incubator of great ideas,” Dr. Gonzales has dedicated his career to passionately promoting innovations in health care. He credits the University of Arizona—where he earned his bachelor’s degree in biology, his medical degree and where he completed his residency—for helping him to achieve his remarkable success.
“I graduated from the College of Medicine 35 years ago, but I also did my undergraduate work here,” Dr. Gonzales says, “The University of Arizona has been a big part of my education.”
Raised in rural Arizona, near Sells, Dr. Gonzales has made significant contributions to the medical profession throughout his 30-year career. Gifted with an entrepreneurial spirit, his innovative ideas have led him to found and co-found many globally recognized companies focused on health care.
“The invention and business side of my career didn’t come until there was a great deal of hands-on, practical experience. It was a process, as I ran emergency rooms, became a neurologist and spent time in public health service and private practice. Later I did a fellowship and then became an academician. From there, I left academics after 21-plus years and began developing ideas. I began to raise money for the ideas and worked to start companies. Essentially that’s what I do. I incubate companies,” he says.
Included among these are several Essex Woodlands portfolio companies, growth equity and venture capital firms, where he is now a partner, and Drug Enhancement Corporation of America, LLC. This award-winning medical professional has helped bring multiple pharmaceutical medications and devices to market.
“Inventions take a long time to develop and get approved,” he says. “Many of my ideas are coming to fruition now and it’s very exciting. The hard work, time and energy are paying off.”
An accomplished neurologist, Dr. Gonzales has given national and international presentations on neurology and pain management and has written more than 60 publications, including numerous patents. He has held academic positions at the University of Cincinnati and the Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale, and been an attending physician and researcher at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, one of the nation’s leading centers for biomedical research. While at Sloan-Kettering, Dr. Gonzales served as a voting member of the Food and Drug Administration’s Neurological and Neurosurgical Devices Section and as a consultant to the FDA Dental Devices Section.
The UA alumnus sits on boards of several companies devoted to developing new cardiovascular and oncology products and therapies. For this physician and entrepreneur, success is two-fold: “There is the business side,” he says, “but equally important is the chance to help others realize their potential.” Dr. Gonzales holds true to his philosophy. Since earning his medical degree in 1977, he has remained connected to the UA campus. A Wildcat through and through, he engages students in the Colleges of Engineering and Medicine in project development and discussions of novel ways to improve medical therapies and treatments.
Although he had been gone from Arizona for nearly 30 years, Dr. Gonzales moved back to Tucson in October. Coming full circle and returning home to Wildcat country, we are proud to honor him as the 2012 Alumnus of the Year. On behalf of the Office of Alumni Affairs, we congratulate Dr. Gonzales for all of his achievements and look forward to celebrating his future successes.