DECADES OF DEDICATION: Richard and Lily Weinshilboum have shared their enthusiasm for medicine with generations of students. The couple met in the KU Medical Center anatomy lab and donated to its renovation more than 50 years later.
 

Finding Love in the Lab

When Richard Weinshilboum entered the KU School of Medicine anatomy lab more than 50 years ago, he expected to advance his education. He did not expect to meet his lifelong love and future wife, Lily. At the time, Richard was a medical student, and Lily was the graduate teaching assistant for the class.

“I waited until after the anatomy class was over before asking Lily out on a date,” Richard Weinshilboum said. “Even then, she didn’t make it easy on me.”

All kidding aside, the Weinshilboums are grateful to the University of Kansas for helping them launch their careers, and the anatomy lab holds a special place in their hearts. The couple was excited to support the lab’s recent renovation. 

“Who else can say they met their future spouse in an anatomy lab?” Richard said. “No other people in the world have a greater interest in KU’s anatomy lab — with the story to prove it — than us.”

Richard was born in Augusta, Kan., where his dad owned the local hardware store. He graduated from KU with a bachelor’s in chemistry in 1962. He spent a year abroad in Germany and earned his KU medical degree in 1967. 

Lily was born in Guangzhou, China. She came to the U.S. after World War II to pursue an education. Lily earned her bachelor’s degree in biology from Ottawa University and her master’s in anatomy from KU in 1962.

 

“We’ve been extremely fortunate,” Richard said. “The education we received at KU was pivotal in giving us unprecedented opportunities — me training at Harvard and working in the NIH lab of Nobel Prize winner Julius Axelrod, and both of us teaching, working and researching at the Mayo Clinic all these years.”

Lily has always been passionate about anatomy. She worked in neuro-anatomy research and taught anatomy for 30 years before retirement. She is an artist and helped found the Minnesota Ming Chiao Chapter of the Sumi-e Society of America, which celebrates Asian brush painting.

Richard has held many positions at the Mayo Clinic and served on the Foundation Board of Trustees for 19 years. He currently is interim director of the Mayo Center for Individualized Medicine and a professor of medicine and pharmacology. He specializes in the understanding of genetics and how individuals respond to medications. His recent focus includes why some people become very ill from COVID-19 and others don’t. 

What he enjoys most, however, is working in the lab with young researchers. The couple’s advice for students today is to take advantage of all the possibilities ahead of them. 

“We are thrilled to be part of helping improve the anatomy lab for future KU Medical Center students,” Richard said.

VALERIE GIELER