A Farewell Interview with Jack Longley, MD

B. Jack Longley, MD

After a career of nearly 40 years, Dr. Longley retired at the end of 2021. A Wisconsinite who earned his MD at UW, he directed dermatopathology labs and training programs at both Yale and Columbia before, then chair, Dr. Gary Wood recruited him home in 2001. Dr. Longley was a founding member of our department, and we have been lucky to have him here for the last 20 years. Read an interview with Jack to hear him reflect on his career and his time here in the UW Department of Dermatology.


What was the department like when you joined? I joined the division. We didn’t have a department yet. It was a much smaller operation and more focused on clinical work. I don’t know if intimate is the right word, but people had a lot more contact with each other. It was fun.

Share your best memory of your time here. I have so many good memories. Before COVID, we used to have leaders in the field coming in to talk about their research, and then we’d all go out to dinner and get to know people.

What are the greatest accomplishments of your career? Before I came to UW, I was working on growth factors for melanocytes (melanin-producing cells) and developed a “humanized” mouse line that allowed us to manipulate skin color. These mice are now used for studies of melanocyte biology all over the world. I’ve also fundamentally changed the understanding of mastocytosis (a rare condition causing skin lesions). It was thought to be a reactive disease, but I showed it is actually caused by a neoplastic process, meaning the cells grow, divide, and/or persist abnormally. Currently, I’m working on melanoma-associated antigens and have showed unequivocally that they are transcription factors that affect how the disease spreads.

However, teaching and clinical dermatopathology have taken a greater percentage of my effort over the years, and I also view them as great accomplishments. I established the dermatopathology lab here and have been its main teacher for 15 years. The lab has been foundational to other research aspects in the department, and it’s made a significant impact on student training and patient health.

What are your plans for retirement? To focus more on family and community and see things turn out. There are so many things to do. I’m going to take time to find out what I like best.

Anything you would like to share with or say to the department? I’m delighted to have helped build the groundwork for the scientific and clinical expertise for this department. We have become recognized leaders in clinical care and research, and I expect we will maintain that upward trajectory. This has always been a strong department, and we keep getting better.


Comments from Colleagues

Beth Drolet, MD. Jack is the consummate physician scientist, he is an innovator and has often led the adaption of new clinical and scientific tools to study skin disease. His work has inspired a generation of UW scientists and significantly advanced the field of dermatology.

Gary Wood, MD. Jack Longley’s retirement truly marks the end of an era in our department. Jack is world-renowned for his research on KIT tyrosine kinase, KIT ligand, and his humanized K14-KIT transgenic mouse model. He was the first tenure track recruitment I made. In addition to being a wonderful friend and colleague, Jack has played a pivotal role in UW dermatology’s development. His presence helped provide the gravitas and forward momentum that won us departmental status in July 2002.

As Director of Dermatopathology, he initiated an outstanding service and helped us secure diagnostic lab facilities at West Clinic as well as the Mohs Surgery lab there. In turn, Dermatopathology and Mohs Surgery fueled our ability to build much of our departmental endowment. Jack advocated with me when we met with the Biological Sciences Divisional Committee in 2006 and succeeded in getting Steve Snow tenure after 20 years as a CHS Professor (a rare achievement). Lastly, Jack played a pivotal role in securing NIH funding for our Skin Diseases Research Center in 2014 and in serving the UW research community thereafter.

We all owe him a tremendous debt of gratitude for his hard work, his numerous contributions to the field of dermatology, and our collective departmental success.

Molly Hinshaw, MD. Dr Longley was remarkably the very first and founding dermatopathologist at UW Health. His impact on the department was great and long lasting. I wish him the very best for a wonderful, rewarding retirement!

Dan Bennett, MD, FAAD. Jack is the primary reason I came to the UW over a decade ago. Dr. Nicole Fett was a medical dermatologist at the University of Pennsylvania where I was a dermatopathology fellow, and she more-or-less told me: “Go to Wisconsin and work with Jack. You will be glad that you did.” She was right.

I cannot overstate Jack’s impact on my career. He taught me how to be a dermatopathologist. He supported every opportunity I was given to teach, support research, or lead, even when it meant that he would have to cover very busy days without me. He’s not a self-promotor, so many of our colleagues and residents have no idea how respected he is at the national level, and he helped me connect with academic dermatopathologists around the country.

Finally, Jack is kind. His door was always open, and he consistently showed an interest in my personal well-being. From the first day I arrived, he and his family welcomed me and my family to Madison. They model a sincere commitment to the community as well as to our chosen profession, and theirs is a model I strive to follow.

Nihal Ahmad, PhD. Jack’s contribution is enormous for our department. I truly appreciate his willingness and efforts towards collaborating on our research projects. He has made an everlasting impact to our department, and I would like to thank him for being an excellent coworker.

Anne Rosin, MD. Not only is Dr. Longley one of the best and most productive dermatopathologists, he is also just a regular guy. Always pleasant and interested in what’s going on with the other person, generous with his time, thoughtful in his approach. His presence as one of our faculty has been transformational to the Department of Dermatology. Enjoy your retirement, Jack!