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2014 Distinguished Scientists

Gerald W. Dorn, II, MD, FAHA

Philip and Sima K. Needleman Professor of Medicine
Associate Chair for Translational Research
Director, Center for Pharmacogenomics
Washington University School of Medicine
St. Louis, Mo.

Gerald W. Dorn, II, received his medical school, Internal Medicine, and interventional Cardiology training at the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston, SC. After a brief stint on the faculty at the University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio, Dr. Dorn moved to the University of Cincinnati where he rose through the ranks to become Chief of the Division of Cardiology and Associate Dean for Cardiovascular Services. During this period, Dorn’s interest in G-protein coupled neurohormonal signaling pathways that mediate cardiac hypertrophy and its progression to heart failure bore early fruit as a series of genetic mouse models in which cardiac-specific manipulation of Gαq or its downstream effectors activated intrinsic genetic programs for cardiomyocyte growth and/or programmed death.

Dorn’s background as a cardiologist has informed much of this research. He was involved in the development and early application of sophisticated physiological clinical diagnostics to interrogate complex cardiovascular phenotypes in mice (and more recently Drosophila), which he describes as “bringing the hospital into the lab”. As Principal Investigator of NHLBI P50 SCOR and SCCOR programs at the University of Cincinnati, Dorn and his co-investigators began studying human genetic variants linked to heart disease, modeling the human polymorphisms and mutations in experimental systems for mechanistic investigations.

Dorn moved to Washington University in St. Louis in 2008 to become the inaugural Philip and Sima K. Needleman Professor and the Associate Chair (Internal Medicine) for Translational Research. The Dorn laboratory investigates multiple aspects of genetic reprogramming in heart failure, with research efforts in cardiac signaling, non-coding RNAs, and most recently mitochondrial mechanisms of heart disease. Dr. Dorn and his wife of 24 years, Dr. Deborah A. Hauger (also a cardiologist) have one daughter, Lisa, who is an undergraduate student double majoring in Biology and Classics at Washington University in St. Louis.

2013 Distinguished Scientists

Director, Experimental Pathology and Professor
Pathology and Biomedical Sciences
Cedars-Sinai Medical Center
Los Angeles, Calif.

Dr. Kenneth E. Bernstein received an M.D. degree from New York University in 1978.  After a residency in pathology and a research fellowship at NIH, Dr. Bernstein worked at Emory University and then Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.  Dr. Bernstein has studied the physiology and biochemistry of the renin-angiotensin system since 1987.  His research concerns two important areas: the angiotensin II AT1 receptor and angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE).  Dr. Bernstein’s cloning of cDNA encoding the AT1 receptor in 1991 was a major discovery in understanding the RAS.  Bernstein followed with a series of important papers showing that the seven transmembrane AT1 receptor signaled, in part, using several intracellular kinase pathways, including the Jak-STAT pathway.  His work helped overturn dogma concerning intracellular signaling by seven transmembrane receptors and provides insight into why angiotensin II has many physiologic effects in addition to blood pressure control.

In 1988 and 1989, Dr. Bernstein’s laboratory was one of two to first clone and characterize the structure of ACE.  Bernstein was also the first to discover that the ACE gene contains two distinct promoter regions, a promoter used by endothelium to make somatic ACE, and an intragenic testis-specific promoter used by developing sperm to make a smaller version of the ACE protein.  The catalytic activity of this testis ACE is necessary for normal male fertility.  In 1999, Dr. Bernstein collaborated with Dr. Mario Capecchi to produce an important technical advance that simplified how one can use Cre-lox vectors for targeted homologous recombination in stem cells.  In recent years, Dr. Bernstein’s lab created a series of mice with unique mutations in the ACE gene, focusing on the physiologic role of ACE in individual tissue types, such as the heart and the kidney.  These animal models addressed the role of local vs systemic angiotensin II generation, as well as the physiologic role of ACE apart from blood pressure control.  They identified a novel role of angiotensin II in erythropoiesis.  They suggested that the ACE substrate Ac-SDKP may help protect the lung against fibrosis following chemotherapy.  They indicated a role of ACE in the processing of immune peptides that signal self vs. foreign to the immune system.  And they provided the first observation that mice over-expressing ACE in macrophages have a markedly enhanced immune response to tumors and bacterial infections.  Finally, Bernstein’s lab has identified important functional differences between the two catalytic domains of ACE.  This has clinical implications in that other labs have developed prototypic ACE inhibitors specific for each ACE catalytic domain.

Dr. Bernstein was an AHA Established Investigator from 1988-1993.  In 2005, he shared the AHA’s Novartis Prize for Hypertension Research with Dr. Barry Brenner.  In 2007, Dr. Bernstein received the AHA’s Basic Research Prize.  Dr. Bernstein has lived for over 31 years with the ACE of his heart, his wife Ellen.

2012 Distinguished Scientists

Distinguished Professor and Chair
Department of Pharmacology
University of California, Davis
Davis, Calif.

Dr. Donald M. Bers is the Joseph Silva Endowed Chair for Cardiovascular Research, Distinguished Professor and Chair of the Department of Pharmacology at University of California, Davis. Dr. Bers holds a Ph.D. in Physiology from the University of California, Los Angeles. Dr. Bers has held two endowed chairs and began his faculty career at the University of California, Riverside where he rose from Assistant Professor to Professor and Interim Associate Dean of Biomedical Sciences (1982-1992). He was recruited to Loyola University Chicago as Chair of Physiology (1992-2008) invigorated the faculty and developed a new Cell and Molecular Physiology Graduate Program. Since 2008 he has been a Distinguished Professor and Chair of the Department of Pharmacology where he has developed strong research and teaching programs.  He has always led an active research group and participated extensively in teaching in multiple programs.  He has mentored many Ph.D. students, postdoctoral fellows and junior faculty, and has served on many Dissertation Committees and Qualifying/Comprehensive Exam Committees at UC Riverside, Loyola and UC Davis.
Dr. Bers is a world-renowned expert on the cellular and molecular factors that regulate heart excitation and contraction. His research has advanced the scientific understanding of cardiac myocyte dynamics with innovative experimental techniques, an emphasis on quantitative measurements, and a unique ability to synthesize experimental results from many levels of biology into an integrated picture of heart function. He has written the remarkable single authored monograph Excitation-Contraction Coupling and Cardiac Contractile Force, which was originally published in 1991 and in a completely revised 2nd Edition in 2001. This eminently readable monograph remains an indispensable reference for students and working scientists alike.

Dr. Bers’ innovative and highly active research has resulted in his authorship of more than 350 scientific papers, book chapters and review articles. Most of these appear in top-flight journals. His enthusiasm and high standard of scholarship remain undiminished after more than thirty years of groundbreaking research. He is highly sought after as a speaker at conferences and symposiums nationally and internationally--a reflection of his stature in diverse fields of study.

Dr. Bers has an impressive record of service to both academic and scientific communities and has gained numerous awards and recognitions. He has held leadership positions for the International Society for Heart Research, Biophysical Society, American Heart Association, Heart Failure Society of America, American Physiology Society, Association of Chairs of Departments of Physiology. He has also served on numerous editorial boards, as an associate editor, and grant review panels, and has organized numerous scientific meetings.

2011 Distinguished Scientists

robert-MahleySenior Investigator and President Emeritus, Gladstone Institutes
Professor, Pathology and Medicine
University of California
San Francisco, Calif. 

Dr. Robert W. Mahley is a senior investigator at both the Gladstone Institute of Cardiovascular Disease and the Gladstone Institute of Neurological Disease and president-emeritus of the Gladstone Institutes. Dr. Mahley is also a professor of pathology and medicine at the University of California, San Francisco. As president, Dr. Mahley oversaw Gladstone’s establishment and its growth to include three institutes. He recently developed the Gladstone Center for Translational Research to facilitate the movement of some aspects of Gladstone’s basic research into developmental targets. In 2010, after 30 years as president, he stepped down to more actively pursue his research.

Dr. Mahley is an internationally known expert on heart disease, cholesterol metabolism and, more recently, Alzheimer’s disease. He studies plasma lipoproteins and particularly apolipoprotein (apo) E, the major genetic risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease. His seminal research has defined apoE’s critical role in cholesterol homeostasis and atherosclerosis. His Turkish Heart Study shed light on the genetics of low HDL-C. He has also made fundamental contributions to understanding the role of apoE in the nervous system, specifically in nerve injury and regeneration and in the remodeling of neurites on neuronal cells. These findings laid the groundwork for the explosion of research linking apoE4, a variant of apoE, to the pathogenesis of Alzheimer’s disease and neurodegeneration.

In 1971, Dr. Mahley joined the staff of the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute at the National Institutes of Health, and in 1975 became head of the Comparative Atherosclerosis and Arterial Metabolism Section. Four years later, he was recruited to create the Gladstone Institutes. Dr. Mahley is a member of many scientific and professional societies, including the American Heart Association, the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, the American Society for Clinical Investigation, the Association of American Physicians, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and the Society for Neuroscience. In addition, he serves on the editorial boards of several scientific journals.

Dr. Mahley is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, the Institute of Medicine, and the American Academy of Arts & Sciences. He recently received the Builders of Science Award from Research!America for his leadership as Gladstone’s founding director and president, guiding its growth to become one of the world’s foremost independent research institutes.

After earning a bachelor’s degree from Maryville College, Maryville, Tennessee, in 1963, Dr. Mahley completed both an MD and a PhD at Vanderbilt University in 1970. The following year he did a pathology internship at Vanderbilt.

2010 Distinguished Scientists

cohnJay N. Cohn, M.D., is a professor of medicine in the Cardiovascular Division, Department of Medicine, at the University of Minnesota Medical School in Minneapolis.

Dr. Cohn received his M.D. from Cornell University Medical School in 1956 and completed his internship and residency at Beth Israel Hospital in Boston. He served as a fellow in cardiovascular research and as a clinical investigator at the Veterans Affairs Hospital and Georgetown University in 1960-65, chief of hypertension and clinical hemodynamics at the Veterans Affairs Hospital as well as professor of medicine at Georgetown University in 1965-74. Dr. Cohn was head of the Cardiovascular Division at the University of Minnesota 1974-96 and is currently director of the Rasmussen Center for Cardiovascular Disease Prevention.

Dr. Cohn is internationally recognized for his contributions to our understanding of cardiovascular disease and for his leadership in designing and carrying out clinical trials to document efficacy of new interventions for heart failure. He has pioneered an assessment of cardiovascular function in patients with hypertension, shock, acute myocardial infarction and heart failure. He was the first to advocate vasodilator therapy for heart failure, including nitroprusside, nitrates with hydralazine and converting enzyme inhibitors. He organized and chaired the first long-term trials in heart failure, the Veterans Affairs Cooperative Study Program on vasodilator therapy of heart failure (V-HeFT). He was among the first to advocate bedside hemodynamic monitoring in acutely ill individuals and was the first to identify the syndrome of right ventricular infarction. He was among the first to identify neurohormonal activation as a key contributor to the progression of heart failure and to set the stage for neurohormonal inhibiting therapy. His animal and clinical studies have established the importance of structural remodeling of the left ventricle as the basis for the progression of heart failure and for the therapeutic response to drugs that prolong life and reduce long-term morbidity. In recent years he has focused on early identification of cardiovascular disease in order to initiate therapy before organ system disease develops. His innovative efforts at early detection have included screening to diagnose stiffening of the small arteries, utilizing a methodology he developed at the University of Minnesota which is now FDA-approved and marketed worldwide.

Dr. Cohn is the founder of the Heart Failure Society of America and served as its first president. It is now the premier organization in the world of health professionals dedicated to the diagnosis and treatment of heart failure. He also founded and served as editor-in-chief of the first journal dedicated to heart failure, the Journal of Cardiac Failure, which is now one of the most frequently cited cardiovascular journals. He is the author of more than 700 scientific publications and has written extensively on circulatory physiology, hypertension, congestive heart failure and its treatment, nervous system control mechanisms in heart failure, and vascular compliance. He holds a number of patents, including those related to pulsewave analysis for the measurement of arterial elasticity and use of hydralazine and isosorbide dinitrate for the treatment of heart failure. He serves on the editorial boards of many of the major journals in the field and is co-editor of the cardiology text, "Cardiovascular Medicine," and editor of the textbook, "Drug Treatment of Heart Failure."

Dr. Cohn is a master of the American College of Physicians, a fellow of the American Heart Association, American College of Cardiology and the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and is a member of the Association of American Physicians and the American Society for Clinical Investigation as well as many other professional societies. He is a past president of the Heart Failure Society of America, the International Society of Hypertension and the American Society of Hypertension and has served as an officer of the American Heart Association and the American Federation for Clinical Research. He is currently president of the International Society of Cardiovascular Pharmacotherapy. He served as chairman of the Cardiorenal Advisory Committee of the Food and Drug Administration and has served on a number of government boards and committees.

Dr. Cohn has been the recipient of numerous awards, including the Arthur S. Flemming Award, the James B. Herrick Award of the American Heart Association (AHA), the Distinguished Service Award (AHA), the AHA Scientific Councils' Distinguished Achievement Award, the Distinguished Scientist Award of the American College of Cardiology, the Novartis Award of the Council for High Blood Pressure Research, the Lifetime Achievement Award of the Heart Failure Society of America, the William S. Harvey Award, the Sir Thomas Lauder Brunton Award, the Arrigo Recordati International Prize for Scientific Research: Lifetime Achievement in Heart Failure, the Henry Ford Heart & Vascular Institute’s Lifetime Research Achievement Award, and the Cornell Weill Medical College Alumni Association Award of Distinction. He is a member of the Academic Health Center’s Academy for Excellence in Health Research at the University of Minnesota and received the Clinical Scholar Award for 2006 of the University of Minnesota Medical Center. He has presented numerous honorary lectures around the world and has served as visiting professor at many universities in the United States and abroad.

2009 Distinguished Scientists

Chalfie, Martin3

Martin Chalfie is the William R. Kenan, Jr. Professor of Biological Sciences and past chair of the Department of Biological Sciences at Columbia University.  In 2008 he shared the Nobel Prize in Chemistry with Osamu Shimomura and Roger Y. Tsien for his introduction of Green Fluorescent Protein (GFP) as a biological marker.

Dr. Chalfie was born in Chicago, Ill.  He obtained both his A.B. and Ph.D. from Harvard University and then did postdoctoral research with Sydney Brenner at the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge, England. He joined the faculty of Columbia University as an assistant professor in 1982 and has been there since.

He uses the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans to investigate nerve cell development and function, concentrating primarily on genes used in mechanosensory neurons.   His research has been directed toward answering two different biological questions: How do different types of nerve cells acquire and maintain their unique characteristics? How do sensory cells respond to mechanical signals? In his studies, he has introduced several novel biological methods in addition to his work with GFP.

He traces his work on Green fluorescent protein to a 1988 seminar from Paul Brehm about bioluminescent organisms. This led to some crucial experiments in 1992, detailed in his paper “Green fluorescent protein as a marker for gene expression,” which is among the 20 most-cited papers in the field of molecular biology and genetics. He has published more than 200 papers, of which at least 16 have more than 100 citations.

Dr. Chalfie is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and the Institute of Medicine and a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and the Royal Society of Chemistry (Hon.).  He shared the 2006 Lewis S. Rosenstiel Award for Distinguished Work in Basic Medical Science from Brandeis University and the 2008 E. B. Wilson Medal from the American Society for Cell Biology with Roger Tsien.

2008 Distinguished Scientists

Agre, Peter1-Head ShotUniversity Professor and Director
Johns Hopkins Malaria Research Institute
Baltimore, Md.

A native of Minnesota, Peter Agre studied chemistry at Augsburg College  (B.A., 1970) and medicine at Johns Hopkins (M.D., 1974). He completed his residency at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland and an oncology fellowship at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Agre joined the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine faculty in 1984 and rose to the rank of professor of biological chemistry and professor of medicine. In 2005, Agre moved to the Duke University School of Medicine where he served as vice chancellor for science and technology and James B. Duke Professor of Cell Biology. Agre returned to Johns Hopkins in January 2008, where he is professor and director of the Malaria Research Institute at the Bloomberg School of Public Health.

In 2003, Agre shared the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for discovering aquaporins, a family of water channel proteins found throughout nature and is responsible for numerous physiological processes in humans and is implicated in multiple clinical disorders. Agre has received other honors including 12 honorary doctorates, Commandership in the Royal Norwegian Order of Merit from King Harald V, and the Distinguished Eagle Scout Award from the Boy Scouts of America. Agre is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and the Institute of Medicine, for which he chaired and serves on the Committee on Human Rights. In February 2008, Agre became president-elect of the American Association for the Advancement of Sciences.

2007 Distinguished Scientists

AbboudUniversity of Iowa Carver College of Medicine
Iowa City, Iowa

Dr. Abboud is internationally recognized for his discovery that the heart plays a major role as a neurosensory organ, a finding that has advanced scientific understanding about autonomic control of circulation. As a result, biomedical researchers know more about the interplay between the nervous system and the heart, and doctors can better treat heart disease, obstructive sleep apnea, hypertension and neurocardiogenic syncope.   Dr. Abboud is widely known for pioneering the use of multidisciplinary teams in cardiovascular research -- "a visionary paradigm shift" for the field.  Dr. Abboud is the Edith King Pearson Chair of Cardiovascular Research. He directs an interdisciplinary cardiovascular research training program and a Program Project Grant on Integrative Functions in Neurovascular Control, now in its 32nd year. He has been director of the Cardiovascular Research Center since 1974.   Dr. Abboud has served as president of several leading national organizations, including the American Heart Association, the Association of American Physicians, the Central Society for Clinical Research, and the American Federation for Clinical Research.  Dr. Abboud is the recipient of numerous awards, including the prestigious CIBA Award for Hypertension Research conferred by the American Heart Association, and is former editor-in-chief of Circulation Research.

2006 Distinguished Scientists

Photo - Breslow, JanFrederick Henry Leonhardt Professor
Rockefeller University
New York, N.Y.

Jan L. Breslow heads the Laboratory of Biochemical Genetics and Metabolism at The Rockefeller University, where he investigates genetic and environmental factors involved in atherosclerosis susceptibility.

Over the past 25 years, Dr. Breslow has identified many of the genes that control the transport of cholesterol and other fats through the bloodstream and has shown that some forms of these genes predispose individuals to atherosclerosis, while others protect against the disease. His creation of the apolipoprotein E knockout mouse provided the first good small animal model of atherosclerosis and has opened up many new experimental approaches for the study of this disease.

In recent years, Dr. Breslow has applied genomic techniques to mouse models to identify new sets of genes that act in the immune system and in the blood vessel wall to control atherosclerosis susceptibility, as well as genes that influence a person’s response to high cholesterol diets. 

Dr. Breslow received A.B. and M.A. degrees from Columbia University and an M.D. from Harvard Medical School.  He completed an internship and residency in pediatrics at Children’s Hospital Medical Center in Boston, and was then a staff associate at the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, before returning to Harvard and Children’s Hospital in 1973. 

He joined The Rockefeller University in 1984, where he holds the Frederick Henry Leonhardt Professorship.  A member of the National Academy of Sciences and its Institute of Medicine, Dr. Breslow is a former president of the American Heart Association. 

His numerous honors include the American Academy of Pediatrics E. Mead Johnson Award, the Heinrich Wieland Prize in Lipid Research, the American Heart Association Basic Research Prize, the Pasarow Foundation Cardiovascular Research Award, the Bristol-Myers Squibb Award for Cardiovascular Research, and the New York City Mayor’s Award for Excellence in Science and Technology.

2005 Distinguished Scientists

FeigenbaumDistinguished Professor of Medicine
Krannert Institute of Cardiology
Indianapolis, Ind.

Dr. Harvey Feigenbaum is widely recognized as one of the pioneers in echocardiography and has been a leading scientist in this field for decades. He is a visionary, one of the first to understand the potential of ultrasound in cardiovascular medicine, and was one of the first to appreciate the role that echocardiography could play in expanding our knowledge of the pathophyisiology of ischemic heart disease.

Dr. Feigenbaum was born and raised in East Chicago, Ind. He graduated with honors from Indiana University undergraduate and medical schools, and interned at Philadelphia General Hospital. He returned to IU for residency and fellowship. In 1962 became an instructor at IU Medical School and rose to distinguished professor in 1980. Investigational interests were initially in electrophysiology and then cardiac catheterization and hemodynamics. In 1963 he saw an advertisement claiming that ultrasound could measure cardiac volume. The ad was a sham, but diagnostic ultrasound was intriguing. Although there was great skepticism toward new cardiac tests following failures such as ballistocardiography and the fact that cardiac ultrasound had been around for about 10 years without much clinical enthusiasm, he used it to detect pericardial effusion. This application became the world’s first practical, popular use of echocardiography. His laboratory subsequently developed many more applications. Other echocardiography contributions included training many early pioneers and the first cardiac sonographers, organizing the first and numerous other courses, writing the first textbook with multiple editions and translations, founding the American Society of Echocardiography and later serving as its journal’s first editor.

Dr. Feigenbaum truly shaped the face of echocardiography, as we now know it, and is regarded internationally as the "Father of Echocardiography."

2004 Distinguished Scientists

Cowley_AllenProfessor and Chairman
Medical College of Wisconsin
Milwaukee, Wis.

Dr. Cowley’s research has focused on the study of high blood pressure to create ways to bring about a meaningful convergence of the genetic and physiological responses to environmental perturbations.  Over the past decade this research has been directed toward elucidating genetic and physiological pathways that determine the function of the kidney, blood vessels and endocrine systems that influence blood pressure.  This work with his colleagues culminated in the first comprehensive systems biology map of cardiovascular function published in Science in 2001.  Dr. Cowley has served as the chairman of the Council for High Blood Pressure Research of the AHA and as the president of American Physiological Society.  He is the current president of the International Union of Physiological Sciences.  He is the chairman of the Department of Physiology and director of the NIH Specialized Center for Hypertension Research at the Medical College of Wisconsin.

2003 Distinguished Scientists

New York Medical College
Valhalla, N.Y.
Council on Basic Cardiovascular Sciences

Dr. Piero Anversa received his M.D. degree from the University of Parma, Italy in 1965.  He became a professor of pathology at the University of Parma and subsequently professor of medicine in microbiology, immunology and pathology at New York Medical College.  Dr. Anversa is also vice-chairman of the Department of Medicine and director of the Cardiovascular Research Institute.  He has published over 200 original articles and published 61 book chapters/review articles.

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