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In memoriam: Ed Jackson, PhD

Photo of GSBS alumus and former faculty member Ed Jackson, PhD

Edward Jackson, PhD, a Graduate School alumnus, and former GSBS faculty member and professor in the Department of Imaging Physics at MD Anderson, died June 2. His former colleagues remember him as a caring, compassionate man with a passion for education and service. He was 58.

Jackson came to MD Anderson in 1985 as a Medical Physics doctoral student. He joined UTHealth after graduating from the GSBS in 1990 with a PhD in Biophysics. That same year he became a GSBS faculty member and soon returned to MD Anderson as an assistant professor in Diagnostic Radiology. He rose through the ranks to associate professor of Imaging Physics in 1999 and professor in 2004, all the while serving in faculty and leadership roles at the graduate school as well.

“As we set out to develop our Imaging Physics program at MD Anderson, Ed was tireless and relentless in making it the best,” says John Hazle, PhD, chair, Imaging Physics. “He made sure we achieved every goal we set to perfection, and he did this with the highest standards of collegiality and humanity. He never asked anyone to do more than he was willing to shoulder and he was always there to lend a hand.”

His kindness will be sorely missed by those who knew him. Colleagues remember how he truly cared about the faculty and his students and worked to consistently improve things.

“Ed treated everyone like family, with compassion, humility and respect,” says Hazle. “He was an exceptional human being in every way.”

One of his major accomplishments was his contributions to the BrainSuite project, which placed an MR scanner for neurosurgery. His commitment to excellence ensured patient safety, and his vision for greatness was assisted by his commitment to collaborative work.

 “He was a phenomenal person to know and work with,” adds Raymond Sawaya, MD, professor, Neurosurgery. “Every interaction with him was the same level of excellence every time – he remained true to himself and his work, and he truly cared about others.”

An alumnus of our graduate school himself, Jackson’s true passion was graduate education. He served as deputy director of the GSBS Medical Physics program from 1999-2004, and then as director until 2013. In addition to his work establishing a rigorous curriculum for the program, he served as a mentor and advisor to many students and helped fight for our faculty to receive more credit for their work in our education mission area.

“Ed was an exemplary educator, so dedicated to his students as well as the Medical Physics program and GSBS, one of the many reasons we sought his expertise as we formed the inaugural graduate education committee” says Stephanie Watowich, PhD, professor, Immunology. “I have many great memories of our conversations, work together, and the overall fun we had moving things along through the graduate school.”

Many of his coworkers recall his thoughtful dedication to service. He was a member of numerous institutional committees, including serving as the chair of the Faculty Senate. He helped to charter the graduate education committee alongside others who wanted to elevate graduate education within the institution.

“We used to joke about who was on more committees, he or I,” says Michelle Barton, PhD, GSBS dean. “His deep seated belief in service meant he was on every committee at the graduate school as well as others across the institution, and he had the highest standards when it came to upholding education as an important part of our mission.”

Jackson’s way of approaching projects with a clear sense of the long-term goal and with respect for input from many people meant he was sought-after for institutional groups. He had a penchant for problem-solving and collaboration that helped get things done.

“Ed could look across silos and put things into perspective,” recalls Marshall Hicks, MD, division head, Diagnostic Imaging. “He was a voice of reason who was passionate about finding solutions, making things better, and you always knew that if he was involved, you’d have a great outcome.”

In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to:
The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center
Dr. Edward Jackson Endowment Fund
P.O. Box 4486, Houston, TX 77210-4486 or at

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