Claim to Fame

There was a time in Dr. Joel Leininger’s life that when asked what his “claim to fame” was, he wasn’t hesitant with his answer.

“I would say I was Johnny Carson’s parents’ paper boy back in Columbus, Nebraska,” he said. “They lived two blocks from our house and my mother was friends with Carson’s mom.”

That “claim to fame” has been pushed away to make room for a different accomplishment., the Stange Award.

When Leininger (’72) joined the National Toxicology Program (NTP) in North Carolina, a division of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, he made his mark in toxicologic pathology and in particular the pathology of the rat and mouse.

Leininger made substantial contributions to the classic textbook “Pathology of the Fischer Rat” and also was associate editor of the 2nd edition titled “Pathology of the Rat.”

“My work on these books was the highlight of my professional life,” he said.

Leininger can now add another item to his long his of achievements. He was a 2021 recipient of the College of Veterinary Medicine’s Stange Award for Meritorious Service, the highest alumni award given by the college.

He was selected for the honor based on his national and international reputation as an expert in laboratory animal and toxicologic pathology.

But it is the previous mentioned books that Leininger is proudest of.  His contributions to scientific literature include over 60 published manuscripts and book chapters.

“Working on these books let me do what I enjoyed doing the most, which is writing and editing,” he said.

Dr. Gary Boorman, the senior editor of “Pathology of the Fischer Rat,” says Leininger’s contribution to that publication was a godsend.

“I first met Joel when he joined the NTP,” he wrote. “We were struggling to complete the book. We were exhausted and behind schedule. Joel took over two chapters and helped edit the rest of the chapters and after it was published it became a standard reference for safety assessments studies and toxicologic pathology.”

Leininger’s career was much more than those books. Not only did he complete a pathology residency at the University of California-Davis but a PhD in veterinary pathology from the University of Georgia. He is a diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Pathologists.

Before joining the NTP he worked at the University of Iowa and the University of Minnesota. Later in his career he held several positions as a senior pathologist at contract laboratories where he supported pharmaceutical, chemical and biotechnology companies in their drug discovery and development programs.

His last years of employment, however, were as the head toxicologic pathologist for the small biotechnology firm, MedImmune, in Maryland. After a year on the job, MedImmune was purchased by AstraZeneca, a large pharmaceutical firm based in England and Sweden.

Leininger helped get pharmaceutical product development data prepared for presentation to various government agencies including the FDA in the U.S.

“I brought an experienced pathologist’s component to the studies I worked on which was important because pathology data is very important in these areas,” he said.

November 2021