PART 1: David Adair personifies definition of the “Renaissance Man”

(EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the first article in a two-part series spotlighting a Chattanooga-based physician with a strong entrepreneurial DNA.)

By Tom Ballard, Chief Alliance Officer, PYA

No doubt you’ve heard the term “Renaissance Man” and perhaps you even have a candidate that fits the Merriam-Webster definition: “a person who has wide interests and is an expert in several areas.”

We’ve met a few during our nearly five-decade career, and the description certainly is appropriate for a Chattanooga resident named David Adair. By training, he’s a physician who leads a high-risk obstetrics practice with offices in 12 cities. Yet, while everything he touches ties back to his healthcare roots, he’s involved in more activities than most individuals could juggle.

Adair is a long-time angel investor, Chair and Chief Science Officer for Glenveigh Medical, Founder and General Manager of Solas BioVentures LLC, Professor and Vice Chair of Obstetrics and Gynecology for the Chattanooga Unit of the University of Tennessee (UT) Health Science, the author of more than 70 articles and numerous book chapters, and also a student working on his MBA in healthcare at UT Chattanooga.

By any measure, those activities qualify him to be described as a “Renaissance Man.”

We met the engaging, animated West Virginia native a number of years ago and reconnected more recently when we both agreed to serve on the Tennessee Tech University Research Foundation Board of Directors.

“I was born in a holler in West Virginia,” Adair told us during a recent interview is his office located on the second floor of the McCallie Avenue location for Regional Obstetrics Consultants where he serves as Chief Executive Officer.

“Dad had a variety of businesses including coal mines,” the plain-spoken physician, entrepreneur and investor told us. “I was always enchanted observing him. He could see things that others couldn’t.”

Adair’s father insisted his son go to college. After earning a B.S. in Biological Sciences at Morehead State University, Adair enrolled at Marshall University where he earned his M.D. and subsequently completed an internship and several residencies in Florida.

It was during his residency in 1992 that he became interested in something called preeclampsia that has driven his medical practice for more than two decades. Preeclampsia is a pregnancy complication characterized by high blood pressure and signs of damage to another organ system, most often the liver and kidneys. Left untreated, the condition can lead to serious – even fatal – complications for both the mother and her baby.

 

“I first thought about it while walking on the beach in Jacksonville,” Adair said. His break came a couple of years later during a Fellowship at the Bowman Gray School of Medicine at Wake Forest University. It was there that Adair was befriended by Vardaman Buckalew, MD, a world famous nephrologist who had a similar interest in preeclampsia and became his mentor.

“Doctors had treated Digoxin overdosing with Digifab (but) my interest was to use it in preeclampsia but was allowed only used it after mothers had delivered the baby,” Adair explained. “The FDA (U.S. Food and Drug Administration) would not let them use the drug before delivery.”

He was convinced that earlier use of the drug was warranted and began a long journey to secure approval, spurred at least in part by a case with a patient in Louisiana in 1996 who refused to terminate her pregnancy.

“I slept beside the mother for five to seven days before delivery,” Adair said. The baby weighed 408 grams at birth. That’s less than a pound, 14.39 ounces to be exact.  “She sought us out to explore using the biological product to save her child.”

“The little girl is alive and well, and our team communicates with her regularly,” Adair says with a smile on his face.

That experience fueled his passion for high-risk pregnancies and ways to improve the health of the mother and the baby, something that has occupied a good portion of his time for more than two decades. Those activities have involved securing FDA approval for new drugs, something we’ll cover in the next article in this series.

NEXT: Like any successful entrepreneurs, Adair has always been “all-in.”

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