An Interview with Whiting’s Nobel Prize Winner

Whiting and Robertsdale have produced doctors, lawyers, engineers, athletes, entertainers, and numerous other talented individuals. But it has produced just one Nobel Prize winner, so far. Ferid Murad, a 1954 graduate of Whiting High School, was awarded the Nobel Prize in the Physiology or Medicine category in 1998. A podcast interview with Dr. Murad was recently posted online at Interesting Indiana Podcast.     In that interview, he talks about the research that led to the Nobel Prize, but he also talks about how growing up in Whiting shaped his life.

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Dr. Murad’s work, along with that of two other scientists who received the award with him, found that nitric oxide can be used to relax blood vessels, which in turn causes blood to flow more freely. A president of the American Heart Association called the discovery “one of the most important in the history of cardiovascular medicine.”  His research has saved lives and improved many others. Nitric oxide has been used to save the lives of premature babies and patients with diabetes, to improve heart health, and has a variety of other health benefits. Because there is a link between heart health and erectile dysfunction, his discovery also opened the way for drugs to improve the sexual health of men.

The half-hour podcast discusses Dr. Murad’s research in its first fourteen minutes or so, before it gets into his life in Whiting. He was born in Whiting. His father was an immigrant of Albanian descent, who met his mother while she was working in her uncle’s restaurant in Whiting. She was from Alton, Illinois. Their son, Ferid, was born in a tiny apartment above a bakery, and from an early age through high school he worked in the family restaurant, washing dishes, waiting on tables, and operating the cash register.

In the podcast, Dr. Murad credits his work at the restaurant in the 1500-block of 119th Street, for playing an important role in his development. He said the customers in the restaurant were working people, teachers, lawyers and others who were talented people. Even though his own parents had little education they recognized the importance of it, and the customers in the restaurant exposed him to people in his own community who built a better life through education.

Dr. Murad also said his friends at Whiting High School had an impact on his life. He said he had four or five good friends who did well in school. They influenced each other to stay out of trouble and to do their best in the classroom.  

The other important influence in Whiting was the education system. “Education is precious,” he said. “It provides you with all sorts of opportunities and options.” He said he was very fortunate to be in an excellent school system. A good education, he said, “permits you to go to work and be happy and excited about the work you do.” Besides the Nobel Prize, he has won the Albert Lasker Award for Basic Medical Research, has been awarded numerous doctoral degrees, has traveled around the world, earned a fortune beyond his dreams as a boy working in a Whiting restaurant, and is still working eighty-plus hours a day, enjoying what he does.