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A New Department with a Long Legacy

The Department of Pharmacology & Systems Physiology was formed through the merger of prominent and celebrated basic science departments in the UC College of Medicine: the Physiology Department and the Pharmacology Department. The resulting single department recognizes the natural synergy between these two fundamental medical science disciplines and seeks to capitalize on the integration between basic and applied physiology/pharmacology.

History of Physiology

The University of Cincinnati College of Medicine has been providing medical education for almost 200 years. In 1910, Dr. Martin Fischer became the first professor of Physiology.

Dr Daniel Kline developed the first modern, research-based Physiology Department as Chair in 1966. Under his leadership, the department increased from four to fourteen faculty. The growth in faculty and the move into the new Medical Sciences Building was paired with growth in funding from the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Physiology rose to one of the top five departments at medical colleges.

In 1983, Dr Nicholas Sperelakis became Chair and further developed faculty research. Faculty obtained an NIH training grant, managed by Dr Richard Paul for 15 years and recently renewed by Drs Marshall Montrose and Yana Zavros.

In 1994, Dr David Millhorn became Chair of the Department. This strengthened the research and, importantly, renewed emphases on teaching in medical physiology and on the PhD program. The departmental Ph.D. program flourished and was recognized in the top ten of 162 similar medical schools by the Chronicle of Higher Education in 2006 and 2007. This PhD program has many distinguished alumni, including a recent President of the American Physiological Society, Dr David Pollock. Dr Montrose succeeded Dr Millhorn as Chair in 2004. The department’s MS program in Medical Physiology, initiated by Dr Robert Banks and Dr Montrose, has proved very successful, placing 90% of graduates in medical schools. This program provides a stabilizing funding stream in light of variable NIH support.

A new medical curriculum led by Drs Kline and Banks was highly regarded and continued by Dr Banks for the next 30 years, until the most recent change in 2011. The Medical Physiology syllabus was compiled in a successful Physiology textbook by Drs Banks and Sperelakis.

In recent times, departmental research focused on the development of techniques for studying the physiology of genetically engineered mice and in systems and computational biology. The department has been recognized for its excellence in using genetically altered mice to solve basic physiological questions and to advance the basic understanding of disease mechanisms.

History of Pharmacology

In 1917, Dr Dennis Jackson became the first chair of the Department of Pharmacology and the first designee to the endowed Edward Wendland Chair of Materia Medica and Therapeutics. Jackson was very productive during his 30 year tenure as chair and is the author of the classic text, Experimental Pharmacology. Dr Jackson's successor, Dr George Acheson, served as department chair from 1948-75, ushering in the modern area of Pharmacology.  Under Dr Acheson's leadership, the department not only continued its primary focus on medical education but also developed both basic science and clinical pharmacology divisions and initiated the institutions pharmacology PhD program.  In the early 1970's, the Department had approximately seven primary and seven affiliated faculty.  Notable faculty recruits to the department included Dr Shirley Bryant in 1954 and Dr Gunter Grupp in 1958, faculty members with outstanding accomplishments in the areas of neuro- and cardio-physiology, respectively.

Upon the recruitment of Dr. Arnold Schwartz, known for studies of the cardiac glycoside receptor, in 1977 from the Baylor College of Medicine to serve as Chair and Edward Wendland Professor, the department was revamped, enlarged and renamed, the Department of Pharmacology and Cell Biophysics. At that time based on the opening of new research and teaching space within the Medical Sciences Building, an initial significant investment by the College and the expectation of success in obtaining NIH-supported research grants approximately 16 new faculty were recruited, primarily with basic science research experience in order to focus on building research programs, expanding the PhD graduate degree program and training post-doctoral research fellows. The shift in focus away from clinical pharmacology resulted in the transfer of Clinical Pharmacology to the department of Internal Medicine.

The department, through aggressive national recruitment still grew significantly. During the mid- 80’s through the early 90’s, the Department with 26-30 primary appointment faculty was highly productive in terms of research publications and rated fourth in the nation in terms of NIH research grant funding to its peers in public universities. Research focused on such areas as the Ca2+-ATPase and Na+, K+-ATPase transporters, cardiac Ca2+ channels and muscle proteins, mitochondrial metabolism and drug discovery as related to cardiovascular diseases.

Subsequent to Dr Schwartz’s stepping down as Chair in 1994, and following an interim period Dr. John Maggio was recruited from Harvard University, as Department Chair in 1997. During his term, Dr. Maggio recruited five Assistant Professors.

Meanwhile on the academic front, a newly designed Master’s Degree program with an emphasis in Safety Pharmacology was inaugurated in 2012 and in 2014 a new undergraduate pharmacology course within a medical sciences degree program was undertaken within the COM.  A core faculty and numerous Affiliate appointments represent the strength of the Department. The Department continued to have strong research efforts studying experimental models of the mechanisms of heart disease development and drug addiction.  Research programs received sustained NIH funding to support basic science projects such as the development of a humanized anti-cocaine monoclonal antibody as a therapeutic agent and continuing studies of the sarcolasmic reticulum Ca+2 ATPase, phospholamban, cardiac microRNAs, heat shock protein 20, fibroblast growth factor 2, mechanisms of cardiac reperfusion injury and K+/Ca2+ channels.

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Department of
Pharmacology and Systems Physiology

College of Medicine
231 Albert Sabin Way
Cincinnati, OH 45267-0575

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