Physiology was first recognized as a discipline at the Medical College of Georgia in 1834. Mergers and divisions between Physiology and other departments were common until William F. Hamilton, PhD took over as Chair of Physiology and Pharmacology in 1934. A PhD program in physiology was approved in 1963, with the first two students entering the following year. In 1986, Physiology merged with the Department of Endocrinology, founded in 1946 by Dr. Robert B. Greenblatt, MD, inventor of one of the first oral contraceptives and first oral fertility drugs.
In 1986, Chair of Endocrinology, Dr. Virendra Mahesh became chair of The Department of Physiology and Endocrinology. During his tenure, the Department rose to national prominence for its work in reproductive endocrinology and steroid metabolism. In 1999, R. Clinton Webb, PhD became chairman of the Department of Physiology following Dr. Mahesh's retirement. Changes at the Medical College resulted in a significant turnover in faculty, and by 2004 the entire faculty consisted of professors recruited by Dr. Webb.
Physiology officially recognized
Physiology was officially recognized as a discipline at the Medical College six years after the founding of the school, with the appointment in 1834 of Louis A. Dugas, MD, Professor of Pathological Anatomy and Physiology. In 1850, Dr. Homer Virgil Milton Miller replaced Dr. Dugas as Professor of Pathological Anatomy and Physiology, and served in that position until the onset of the Civil War.
The Medical College closed from 1861 to 1865 because of the war, and Dr. Miller returned briefly following the war as Professor of Physiology before leaving to become Dean of the Atlanta Medical School, a forerunner of Emory University School of Medicine. In 1866, Edward Geddings, MD was appointed Professor of Physiology, and Anatomy became a separate discipline. Dr. Geddings served in that position until 1884 when he became Dean of the Medical College.
Thomas D. Coleman, MD succeeded Dr. Geddings as Professor of Physiology, and was followed in 1900 by William H. Goodrich, MD, who served as Chairman of Physiology until 1906. The 1907-1908 college bulletin listed William C. Kellogg, MD as Professor of Physiology and A.A. Williams, MD as Assistant Professor, and by this time the medical curriculum had been expanded to four years. The years 1909-1912 were difficult years for the Medical College because a lack of resources and equipment threatened to close the school. Significant action by the faculty as well as the city of Augusta revived the school, and it received an "A" rating in 1913 by the AMA Committee on Medical Education.
In 1912, Physiology was combined with Pharmacology, and William D. Cutter, MD succeeded Dr. Kellogg as head of the new department. Dr. Cutter left in 1921 for a deanship, and was replaced by William Salant, MD. Research activities began to be an important departmental function under Dr. Salant, but he resigned in 1929 following a reprimand by the executive committee for his handling of a student problem. Assistant Professor Dr. Wilbur F. Potter served as acting Chairman for the remainder of the year, and Eric W. Schwartz, MD was appointed chairman in 1930.
In 1931, however, the entire sophomore class complained to the administration that the instruction in both physiology and pharmacology was unsatisfactory, and Dr. Schwartz resigned at the end of the 1931-32 academic year to enter into private medical practice. Dr. Owen Stanley Gibbs became Professor of Physiology and Pharmacology in 1932, but left after only 9 months as the onset of the depression and infighting between the full-time and clinical faculty over control of the hospital began to plague the Medical College.
Dr. William Goodrich, department chair from 1900-06, served as Dean from 1923 to 1932. His replacement as Dean, Dr. William L Moss, found the school to be in a state of anarchy with a number of vacant positions on the faculty. With little hope of recruiting outstanding individuals until there was assurance the school would survive, he "borrowed" visiting professors from the best medical schools. Thus, James O. Pinkston, a graduate student in physiology at Harvard, served as Visiting Professor and Chairman of Physiology during the 1933-34 academic year. The AMA Committee on Medical Education revoked MCG's "A" rating in 1934 and Dr. Moss resigned.
Dr. George Lombard Kelley assumed command as Vice-Dean, and became Dean in 1935. He was successful in raising funds, and was able to have the "A" rating restored by the AMA Committee on Medical Education in 1936. A new building to house the Departments of Physiology and Pharmacology was constructed, and in 1937 was dedicated to honor the first Professor of Physiology, Dr. Dugas.
New Era for Physiology at MCG
In 1934, Dr. Kelley hired William F. Hamilton, PhD as Professor and Chairman of Physiology and Pharmacology. Dr. Hamilton had a great impact on physiology at MCG and was able, with minimal resources, to turn a perishing department into a credit to the institution. In fact, his industry, ingenuity, and hard work were given a large share of the credit for rescuing the entire college from near collapse.Dr. William F. Hamilton (circa 1950), former Chairman of the Department of Physiology, and inventor of the Hamilton manometer (shown here). This device made possible some of the first measurements of blood pressure pulses and was a precursor to sophisticated instruments used today.
One of Dr. Hamilton's first actions was to bring in Robert A. Woodbury, MD, PhD as Assistant Professor to help teach pharmacology. Typical of department size up to this day, Mr. Elkin Vogt, an instructor and part-time medical student, and Mr. Walter Heath, a machinist, rounded out the department faculty. Dr. Kelly, however, recognized the importance of research as part of medical teaching, and he considered research ability in the appointment of faculty. He established five $900 one-year research fellowships that played an important role in bringing medical scientists to Augusta. Two of those individuals of particular importance to the Department of Physiology were Philip Dow, PhD, who joined the faculty in 1935, and Robert B. Greenblatt, MD, who later established the Department of Endocrinology. (see section on Physiology and Endocrinology below).
Dr. Dow was listed in the 1935-36 bulletin along with Mr. Vogt as instructors, and this faculty group remained stable for many years. Dr. Dow was invited to spend the 1939-1940 academic year working in Carl Wiggers' laboratory, and was promoted to Assistant Professor upon his return. Elkin Vogt received his MD degree and left Hamilton, Woodbury, and Dow as the department faculty responsible for all the teaching in the physiology and pharmacology courses.
Fiscal and political problems in 1939 were accompanied with strong pressure to move the Medical College to Atlanta. Reducing faculty salaries eased the fiscal crisis and pressure to move the College, but problems returned in 1941 when Governor Talmadge replaced several members of the Board of Regents of the University System in order to fire an administrator at the University of Georgia. As a result of his action, all ten colleges of the University system lost their accreditation. Talmadge lost his re-election bid in July 1941, and the new governor restored the dismissed faculty, resulting in the re-accreditation of the University system and MCG.
Two additional faculty were brought in to help with the pharmacology course in 1941, and Physiology was separated from Pharmacology in 1943. Dr. Woodbury was made chairman of Pharmacology, and Dr. John W. Remington joined Drs. Hamilton and Dow as the faculty of the Department of Physiology.
Significant outside grant support did not come to the department until 1945, when Dr. Hamilton, with his team of Drs. Dow and Remington, received a grant from the Life Insurance Research Fund to investigate the measurement of cardiac output. This was followed by support from the NIH that continued throughout Dr. Hamilton's career.
In 1950, the Medical College of Georgia was officially separated from the university of Georgia and became an independent unit within the University system. Dr. Kelly was named as president, and in 1951 a graduate program was established at MCG and construction of a teaching hospital was authorized.
In 1952, Dr. Raymond P. Ahlquist, new Professor and Chair of Pharmacology, and Dr. Hamilton were asked by the NIH and the American Heart Association to continue the postdoctoral training program in cardiovascular research that was being relinquished by the retiring Dr. Wiggers in Cleveland. From 1954 until the grant ended in 1962, 32 postdoctoral fellows from all over the world came to train at the Medical College, many moving on to careers of national prominence. The larger medical school class and the training program required an increase in department size, and additional faculty were hired during those years.
During the Hamilton years, fundamental work by Hamilton, Remington, and Dow was conducted on cardiovascular hemodynamics, particularly on the pulse wave velocity and its transformation in its passage through the arterial tree, the development of the Stewart-Hamilton indicator dilution method of measuring cardiac output, and other aspects of cardiovascular physiology. Dr. Hamilton, with assistance from Dr. Dow and Mr. Heath, the machinist, also developed an optical manometer for the measurement of intra-arterial blood pressure. This device, the Hamilton manometer, was a considerable improvement over the earlier Frank and Wiggers models and was widely adopted as a research standard. Dr. Hamilton received numerous honors and awards, including being elected as president of the American Physiological Society in 1955. Among his contributions to the APS, Dr. Hamilton co-discovered the estate that serves as the APS headquarters, designed the APS seal, and edited the circulation volumes in the first APS Handbook of Physiology series. In 1958, Dr. Hamilton was awarded of the prestigious Golden Heart Award from the American Heart Association for his contributions to cardiovascular physiology that paved the way for modern heart and vascular surgery. Dr. Hamilton retired in 1960 and became Professor Emeritus.Dr. Philp Dow and Dr. Curtis H. Carter are holding a part of Dr. William F. Hamilton’s manometer. For more information, see page 16 of the 1972 issue of MCG Today for the write-up regarding Dr. Dow donating $10,000 to establish the W. F. Hamilton Memorial Fund. (1972)
Dr. Philip Dow followed Dr. Hamilton as Chairman in 1960 with a faculty of four fulltime and two part-time members. With an increase in medical school enrollment, the training program, and approval of a PhD program in Physiology in 1963, an increase in departmental faculty followed. Lois Ellison, MD, worked with Dr. Dow as a research professor and in 1963, Carleton Baker, PhD and Darrell Davis PhD joined the Physiology faculty. However, the momentum generated during the Hamilton years began to dissipate, and research activities steadily declined. Teaching load, on the other hand, continued to rise due to the graduate program and the changing medical curriculum. The department began to diversify away from its cardiovascular roots, and hired Dr. Russell W. Morse, a neurophysiologist, in 1964. After Dr. Baker resigned in 1967, Joe O'Brien PhD, a cardiovascular physiologist, joined the faculty as his replacement, and in 1968, Dr. Joel R. McKenney, a gastrointestinal physiologist, and Dr. Jack M. Ginsburg, a renal physiologist, were added to the faculty ranks. In June of 1968, the Medical College received a special grant to develop a program in neurobehavioral science. Dr. Morse was placed in charge of the project, and 4 faculty were hired: Drs. John Dallman, David S. Stoney, and William J. Jackson, and Mr. Olin Padgett, an engineer. Because departmental status for the group had not been established, they were administratively appointed in Physiology. In 1970, a respiratory physiologist, Wendell F. Hofman PhD, became part of the faculty.
The year of 1971 was a time of transition and turmoil for the department. The department moved from the antiquated Dugas building to the new Carl Sanders Research and Education building, which at the time was the largest classroom building in the entire University System. This move consolidated the entire department under one roof along with all the other basic science departments. Dr. Christopher C. Fordham, III, who became Dean of the School of Medicine in 1969, initiated several educational changes and pilot teaching programs and was critical of the basic sciences at the Medical College. Before his departure to University of North Carolina as Dean of Medicine, he suggested that basic science departments be merged or be combined with clinical departments. This resulted in merging of the Departments of Biochemistry and Microbiology to form the Department of Cell and Molecular Biology. Dr. Fordham appointed an ad hoc committee, chaired by Dr. Jack Ginsburg, to consider the future of the physiology department, which he sought to merge the department with Medicine. However, based upon the recommendations of several outside consultants, the committee recommended keeping the department intact. Dr. Fordham also convinced Dr. Dow to retire as Chair of Physiology and appointed Joe O'Brien, PhD, MD as acting chairman upon his return to full time faculty status after finishing medical school.Dr. Phillip Dow portrait unveiling, circa 1982The Phillip Dow Collection is located within the Historical Collections of the Robert B. Greenblatt, MD Library.
Together with the growing medical class size of 153 students, a new interdisciplinary medical curriculum, teaching responsibilities in the School of Allied Health and the new Dental School, and coupled with resignation of Dr. Davis, Dr O'Brien hired Thomas Wiedmeier, PhD, a cardiovascular physiologist, and Maysie Hughes, PhD, an electrophysiologist. When the NIH grant that supported the neurobehavioral science group was not renewed, the new Dean of Medicine, Dr. Curtis Carter abolished the group and merged its faculty into the Department of Physiology.
In 1972, Dr. Joe O'Brien resigned as acting chairman to become Chair of Physiology at Texas Tech and Dr. Hughes accompanied him to Lubbock. Dean Carter appointed Dr. Ginsburg as acting Chairman and initiated a search for a new Chairman. Soon after, Dr. Remington was granted a medical retirement and Dr. Morse died unexpectedly which led to a ongoing decline in faculty number, morale and productivity. During this year, several clinicians and outside lecturers were engaged to help teach the medical physiology course. After a lengthy search, Robert C. Little MD, a cardiovascular physiologist and Chair of Physiology at Ohio State University, was appointed as Chair of Physiology at MCG in 1973. Dr. Little received his MD from Case Western Reserve and did a post-doctoral fellowship in the laboratory of Carl Wiggers in Cleveland.
Dr. Robert C. Little's Chairmanship
There was significant reorganization of the department coincident with the beginning of Dr. Little's chairmanship, and in 1973-74 the department consisted of 9 full-time faculty. Accompanying Dr. Little to MGG from Ohio State were Associate Professors Jean F. Delahayes, an electrophysiologist, and Chester E. Hendrich, a thyroid endocrinologist, and Assistant Professor David A. Miller, a respiratory physiologist. They joined the MCG group of Drs. Jack Ginsburg, Wendell F. Hofman, William J. Jackson, David S. Stoney, and Thomas Wiedmeier. Dr. Litte instituted a non-faculty title of Lecturer in Physiology to bring other Medical College faculty closer into the activities of the department, including Virendra B. Mahesh in the Department of Endocrinology. The large and diverse faculty presented instruction in 28 courses to a total of 737 students in 5 schools at the Medical College during the 1973-74 school year.
The multidisciplinary medical curriculum that was implemented in the late 1960's was deemed a failure by this time, and the return to a more conventional curriculum that was department-based necessitated a reformulation of the medical physiology course. The physiology graduate program also received considerable attention, and a list of 25 courses that were offered on a 2-3 year rotation was established. Dr. Little recruited faculty whose research interests covered the function of all the major organ systems of the body and who enjoyed teaching. Dr Little insisted that all faculty involved in the medical physiology course attend all lectures and conduct weekly small group conferences with students. In 1974, Drs. Ina C. Ehrhart, a cardiovascular physiologist, and Thomas T. Ogle, a reproductive physiologist, joined the faculty, followed two years later by Drs. Thomas Nosek, an electrophysiologist, Gary C. Bond, a renal physiologist, and Susan Porterfield, a thyroid endocrinologist. In 1977, Dr Robert Vargo joined the faculty to teach Allied Health courses, and in 1978, Dr. Robert E. Godt, a muscle physiologist, became a faculty member. A number of research groups developed within the department during the 1970's and early 1980's: Drs. Ehrhart and Hofman studied the pulmonary circulation while Drs. Godt and Nosek studied phosphate metabolism, energy utilization, and excitation-contraction coupling in skeletal and cardiac muscle. Drs. Stoney and Jackson developed an area of neuroscience and Drs. Ginsburg and Bond combined their interests in renal function and body fluid regulation.
In 1979, the William F. Hamilton Wing of the Research and Education Building was dedicated. The first Philip Dow Lecture on Cardiovascular Physiology was presented by Dr. Arthur C. Guyton of the University of Mississippi on November 18, 1980, and the lecture was presented annually through 1988, when the Lecture was presented by Dr. Paul M. Vanhoutte. The physiology departmental library was named after Dr. Dow the year after his death in 1981. Following the resignations of Drs. Delahayes and Miller, Dr. Robert Moriff, an electrophysiologist, joined the faculty in 1981 followed by Dr. Clyde Watkins, a respiratory physiologist in 1982. After the resignations of Drs. Vargo and Moriff, Dr. William F. Jackson, a microcirculatory physiologist, joined the department in 1983. The departmental report for 1984-85 listed faculty morale to be excellent and educational and research activities remained at a satisfactory level. However, during Dr. Little's tenure, lead by a succession of Deans, the primary mission of MGC shifted from teaching to research, belatedly following the trend of other medical schools. By 1986, Dr. Little was already one year past retirement age and requested permission to step down as chairman to devote more time to his textbook, The Physiology of the Heart and Circulation, and other writing. After several faculty meetings with Dean Bass, the faculty opted to merge with the Department of Endocrinology rather than seek an outside chairman to replace Dr. Little. On July 1, 1986 the Physiology Department merged with the Department of Endocrinology with Dr Virendra Mahesh as Chairman.Dr. Robert C. Little, circa 1983
The Department of Physiology and Endocrinology
The Department of Endocrinology was founded in 1946, with Robert B. Greenblatt, MD as its first professor and chairman. Dr. Greenblatt in 1950 showed the effectiveness of estrogens in managing menopause symptoms, and in 1966 developed a monthly oral contraceptive pill. For those and his other contributions, MCG established a Robert B. Greenblatt Professor of Endocrinology and named the MCG library as the Robert B. Greenblatt, MD Library in 1988. Dr. Virendra B. Mahesh, who earned his PhD from the University of Delhi and a DPhil from Oxford, was the first full-time faculty member of the Department of Endocrinology and succeeded Dr. Greenblatt as chairman in 1972. When Physiology merged with Endocrinology in 1986, the department was renamed the Department of Physiology and Endocrinology to preserve the rich legacy of the Department of Endocrinology under the leadership of Drs. Greenblatt and Mahesh. Faculty who joined the department from the former Department of Endocrinology included: Drs. Thomas Abney, Vinod Bhalla, Allen Costoff, Thomas Mills, Thomas G. Muldoon, and James O'Conner. The merger under Dr. Mahesh was more of a consolidation of administrative functions than an amalgamation of the departments in that teaching and graduate programs of the two departments remained distinct. Course directors and graduate committees were appointed for each of the former departments and graduate faculty status or graduate degrees were granted either in Physiology or Endocrinology. A couple years after the merger, Dr. Muldoon was tragically killed in an automobile accident and Dr. W. F. Jackson resigned. Otherwise, the faculty number and composition changed little under Dr. Mahesh. Nevertheless, the teaching and graduate program remained strong in the department, and NIH funding exceeded most expectations considering the heavy teaching load for most of the faculty.
By late 1980s, the personal computer evolved from a novelty to a necessity and became a fixture on most desktops and laboratory benches. In response to a criticism from an accrediting agency citing a lack of innovation in the medical curriculum, Dean Gregory Eastwood MD approached Dr. Thomas Nosek, who had developed some novel computer-assisted programs in teaching electrophysiology to medical students. The Dean offered $300,000 in support of a project to produce the first entirely computer-based textbook of physiology. Dr. Nosek recruited departmental faculty members to form a Computer-Aided Instruction Research and Development Group that initially was comprised of Drs. Bond, Ginsburg, Godt, Hofman, Jackson, Ogle, Porterfield, Stoney and Wiedmeier. Dr. Nosek hired a full-time computer programmer and medical illustrator to assist the authors with technical aspects and the production of original illustrations and multimedia. After some initial conflicts with content, scope, design and computer software applications, along with resignation of Drs Bond and Porterfield from the group to assume administrative positions at MCG, the CAI group signed letters of intent in 1993 that outlined each author's contribution to the project with specific completion deadlines. The project was finally completed in January 1996 and the first computer-based textbook of physiology entitled Essentials of Human Physiology was ready to be sold on a compact disk to a publisher. It consisted of 77 chapters arranged in 8 sections with over 3000 screens of text, 1800 illustrations, 125 multimedia presentations, 32 correlative clinical cases and 850 self-testing questions with answers. It was initially sold to a company that refused to pay MCG royalties, but in 1997 a new contract was signed with Gold Standard Multimedia who marketed Essentials as a part of their Integrated Medical Curriculum until 2004 before selling to the DxR Group of Southern Illinois University.
Dr. Virendra Mahesh (circa 1985)
Rebirth of the Department of Physiology at MCG
With the retirement of Dr. Ginsburg in 1995 and Dr. Wiedmeier in 1998, Drs. Chris Wingard and Ralph Kolbeck were hired as faculty replacements. Dr. Mahesh also hired Assistant Professor Dr. Corey Smith and then retired in 1998. Dr. Thomas Mills served as interim Chair of the Department of Physiology and Endocrinology, and a search for a permanent chair began. In 1999, R. Clinton Webb, PhD moved from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor to become the Robert B. Greenblatt Chair of Physiology. Dr. Webb received his PhD from the University of Iowa and did postdoctoral training with Dr. David F. Bohr and Dr. Paul M. Vanhoutte. Dr. Webb's research was in the area of vascular function and ion metabolism in hypertension. He moved to MCG with numerous honors and awards including his election as Chair of the Council for High Blood Pressure Research of the American Heart Association.
The full-time department faculty at the time Dr. Webb joined the department included: Drs. Thomas Abney, Vinod Bhalla, Gary Bond, Darrell Brann, Allen Costoff, Ina Ehrhart, Robert Godt Wendell Hofman, William J. Jackson, Ralph Kolbeck, Thomas Mills, James O'Conner, Thomas Ogle, Susan Porterfield, David Stoney, Chris Wingard and Corey Smith. Dr. Webb changed the name of the department back to the Department of Physiology. Soon after Dr. Webb's arrival on campus, MCG offered an early retirement program to faculty and staff that resulted in an unprecedented turnover of faculty. In the Spring of 2000, as current department faculty awaited retirement, Dr. Mills chaired a search committee to hire the first new faculty to serve under Dr. Webb. There were four persons hired from that initial search: Dr. Michael W. Brands from the University of Mississippi Medical Center and Dr. Edward W. Inscho from Tulane University Medical Center as Professors of Physiology, and Dr. Lynnette McCluskey and Dr. Charlie Chaffin as Assistant Professors. By the time Dr. Brands arrived in the Fall of 2000, Drs. Abney, Bhalla, Bond, Costoff, Ehrhart, Godt, Hofman, Jackson, Mills, O'Conner, Porterfield and Stoney had accepted the early retirement package and were gone or in the process of leaving. Thus, the faculty was comprised of: Drs. Webb, Kolbeck, Ogle, Brann, Smith, Wingard, and Brands. The dramatic loss of faculty threatened to impair the department's ability to teach the medical physiology course that academic year, but Drs. Bond and Hofman greatly alleviated that concern by volunteering to teach their respective sections of the course that year.
By January of 2001, Drs. Inscho, McCluskey, and Chaffin had arrived, and this was followed by the departure of Drs. Smith and Brann and the retirement of Dr. Ogle. Dr. Anne Dorrance, an expert in aldosterone pathophysiology and mechanisms of ischemic stroke, also was hired in January of 2001 as an Assistant Professor. Dr. Brands was a circulatory-renal integrative physiologist, and Dr. Inscho studied the physiological and pathophysiological control of the renal microcirculation. Dr. Webb, with his expertise in vascular smooth muscle function, teamed with Professor Emeritus Dr. Mills and his interest in the mechanisms for erectile dysfunction, and they, along with Dr. Wingard (who left MCG in 2004), developed a strong research group studying vascular mechanisms for erectile physiology and pathophysiology that led to two new R01 awards from the Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute of the NIH. Endocrinology already had been dropped from the department name, and these new research interests in the department validated the transition to a new Department of Physiology at MCG. Moreover, the strength in cardiovascular research brought the department back to its roots in cardiovascular physiology that was a hallmark of the department from the chairmanship of Dr. Hamilton starting in 1934 through the years of leadership by Dr. Little through 1985.
Strength in cardiovascular research was boosted further by the arrival of Dr. Ann M. Schreihofer in September of 2001 as an Assistant Professor. Her research interest was in neural mechanisms for control of blood pressure. This complemented the neuroscience interests of Dr. McCluskey, and the work of Dr. Chaffin in endocrinology likewise was complemented by the September 2001 arrival of Dr. Derek A. Schreihofer, also as an Assistant Professor. Dr. Derek Schreihofer studied tissue specific actions of estrogen and the mechanisms of estrogen neuroprotection and neuroplasticity in stroke. Drs. McCluskey and Chaffin left in 2005 and were replaced by Dr. Paul J. Kruzich, an Assistant Professor specializing in the neurophysiology of psychostimulant addiction, and Dr. William Rainey, Regents' Professor of Physiology who moved from the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center specializing in adrenal and ovarian steroid production and physiology. Dr. Mong-Heng Wang joined the department in November of 2002 as an Assistant Professor with expertise in the renal and cardiovascular actions of cytochrome P450-derived eicosanoids in hypertension. A faculty search chaired by Dr. Brands in 2006 brought in Dr. Tsugio Seki, an Assistant Professor specializing in signaling mechanisms that control angiogenesis, and Dr. Adviye Ergul, an MD, PhD Associate Professor who moved from the Department of Clinical Pharmacy at the University of Georgia specializing in the role of endothelin in vascular complications of diabetes and hypertension.
The Department of Physiology and Endocrinology, and then the Department of Physiology, was housed in the William F. Hamilton Wing of the Research and Education Building until April of 2004, when Dr. Webb moved the department into new facilities on the 2nd and 3rd floors of the Interdisciplinary Research Building II. Dr. Mills elected not to move his laboratory to the new building and left the department in 2005. All of the faculty that Dr. Webb recruited had independent R01 support from the NIH by that time, and Dr. Webb also was the Principal Investigator on a new program project grant (P01) from the Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, on which Drs. Webb, Inscho, and Brands were individual project leaders. The two other project leaders were Dr. David Pollock and Dr. John Imig, both with primary appointments in the Vascular Biology Center at MCG and with respective academic appointments in the Departments of Surgery and Physiology. Dr. David Stepp was another Physiology academic appointee who was a primary member of the Vascular Biology Center. Dr. Ralph Kolbeck, who had coordinated the Medical Physiology course within the School of Medicine's integrated curriculum from 2000 - 2006, retired in September of 2006. Thus, by the start of 2007 there were no longer any full-time faculty in the department remaining from the Department of Physiology and Endocrinology as it existed before Dr. Webb's arrival in 1999. The full-time, tenure-track faculty with their primary academic appointments and research laboratories in the Department of Physiology at the start of 2007 were: Dr. Webb, Chair and Greenblatt Professor, Professors Brands, Inscho, and Rainey, Associate Professors Ergul, Dorrance, Ann and Derek Schreihofer, and Wang, and Assistant Professors Kruzich and Seki.
A significant period of turnover of many of Dr. Webb’s original faculty, and recruitment of new faculty, began in 2007. Dr. Dorrance left for Michigan State University in 2007, and two neurophysiologists were recruited from University of Cincinnati in 2008: Dr. Javier Stern (Professor) and Dr. Jessica Filosa (Assistant Professor). Dr. Wendy Bollag, a faculty member in Molecular Medicine at MCG since 1993, had a strong background in adrenal physiology and moved as a Professor to the physiology department in 2009 to strengthen her collaboration with Dr. Rainey. Dr. Kruzich left to pursue a career in industry. Dr. Ruth Harris (regulation of body composition by leptin) arrived in 2009 from University of Georgia also as a Professor. The Schreihofers’ left for University of North Texas in 2010, and Dr. Harris chaired an aggressive physiology faculty search that brought in four new faculty over the next two years. In 2011, Dr. Alexis Stranahan joined the faculty as an Assistant Professor following her postdoctoral fellowship in neuroscience at Johns Hopkins, and Dr. Eric Belin de Chantemele (mechanisms for obesity hypertension) joined as an Assistant Professor following his fellowship training in Dr. Stepp’s laboratory. Drs. Yisang Yoon and Weiqin Chen joined the faculty in the summer of 2012. Dr. Yoon studied mitochondrial dynamics and came from University of Rochester as an Associate Professor. Dr. Chen came as an Assistant Professor from Michigan State University and studied the regulation of adipose tissue development and energy homeostasis. Dr. Rainey left MCG to join the faculty at the University of Michigan in 2012.Interlude: Three University Name Changes Between 2011 and 2015
The Medical Academy of Georgia was founded in 1828 at the instigation of Augusta physician, Milton M. Antony. It opened as a one-year program in 1829 with three faculty members and seven students, in the facilities of the Augusta city hospital. The name changed to the Medical College of Georgia (MCG) in 1833, and funds were authorized for new facilities. MCG was incorporated into the University of Georgia in 1873, as the Medical Department of UGA. In 1950, the Board of Regents reestablished the Medical College of Georgia, separate from the University of Georgia, and the state funded construction of MCG's own hospital, Talmadge Hospital, completed in 1956. The School of Nursing was moved from Athens to Augusta in 1956, and the Schools of Dentistry and Allied Health Sciences were added in 1965 and 1968, respectively.
In 2010, the Board of Regents named Dr. Ricardo Azziz the eight president of the Medical College of Georgia. He changed the name to Georgia Health Sciences University in 2011 to reflect the scope of health sciences education at the university beyond medical school. However, in 2012, the Board of Regents approved a recommendation by the Chancellor of the University System of Georgia to consolidate eight of the System's colleges and universities, and one pair chosen for consolidation was Georgia Health Sciences University and Augusta State University. Because "Health Sciences" no longer reflected the contributions of the undergraduate components of the newly consolidated university, the name was changed again in 2013 to Georgia Regents University. In 2015, Dr. Brooks Keel was named president and changed the name to Augusta University upon arrival.
Dr. Peter F. Buckley served as Dean of MCG from 2010-2017, and throughout the period of university name changes, the Medical College of Georgia retained that name as a college within the university.
The departmental structure within MCG remained unchanged and unaffected by the university name changes. By the close of 2012, the full-time, tenure-track faculty with their primary academic appointments and research laboratories in the Department of Physiology were: Dr. Webb, Chair and Greenblatt Professor, Professors Bollag, Brands, Harris, Inscho, and Stern, Associate Professors Ergul, Filosa, Wang, and Yoon, and Assistant Professors Belin de Chantemele, Seki, and Stranahan. 2014 saw the departures of Drs. Inscho, Stranahan, and Seki, and the arrival of Dr. Paul O'Connor and Dr. Jennifer Sullivan from the MCG Department of Medicine. Dr. O'Connor's research interests were in physiological pathways involved in the regulation of kidney function and how disruptions in those pathways can lead to disease. Dr. Sullivan's research interests were the molecular mechanisms that regulate blood pressure in males and females under physiological and pathophysiological conditions. In 2016 Dr. Belin de Chantemele left the department to rejoin the Vascular Biology Center, followed by Dr. Stern in 2017 who became Director for the Center for Neuroinflammation and Cardiometabolic at Georgia State University. In 2017, Dr. Mykola Mamenko joined the department as an Assistant Professor. Dr. Mamenko's research interests included the molecular nature of calcium signaling in the renal collecting duct to define its role in water and electrolyte homeostasis. Dr. David Hess, longstanding Chair of Neurology at MCG and internationally-recognized stroke expert, became Dean of MCG in 2017. That year also marked the beginning of a new, 5-year NHLBI program project grant (P01) in the physiology department, with Dr. Webb as PD and project leader, Drs. O'Connor and Sullivan as the other project leaders, and Drs. Brands and Ergul as core directors. Promotions reflected the success of faculty’s success with their research, extramural funding, teaching, and trainees. Drs. Brands, Ergul, and Harris were recognized as Regents’ Professors, Drs. Chen, Filosa, and O’Connor were promoted to Associate Professors, and Dr. Sullivan was promoted to Professor.
In 2018, Dr. Zsolt Bagi joined the department as Professor, and Dr. Philip O'Herron joined the department as Research Assistant Professor. Dr. Bagi's research interests were coronary microvascular disease in patients with diabetes mellitus and diastolic heart failure, and Dr. O'Herron's research used two-photon microscopy and optogenetics to study neurovascular coupling and visual processing. At this time the MCG Physiology Department held more than $7,000,000 in extramural funding, and ranked 10th in research dollars per faculty and 26th in total NIH funding out of 81 Medical School Physiology Departments nationally. 2018 also saw the departure of Dr. Ergul for the Medical University of South Carolina, and Dr. Webb stepped down as department Chair. Dr. Harris was appointed as Interim Chair by Dean David Hess, and a national search for a new chair was begun immediately.
Physiology Department Faculty and Staff (circa 2013)
Physiology Department Faculty (2018)
The second rebirth of the Department of Physiology at MCG
July 1, 2019, Dr. David Mattson joined the faculty as Professor and Chair, and he also was named Georgia Research Alliance Eminent Scholar in Hypertension. Dr. Mattson, previously at the Medical College of Wisconsin, came to MCG internationally recognized for his work on renal mechanisms of hypertension, with particular focus on salt and immunological mechanisms. Dr. Webb departed for the University of South Carolina in the spring of 2020. By the Fall of 2020, the full-time, tenure-track faculty with their primary academic appointments and research laboratories in the Department of Physiology were: Dr. Mattson, Chair and Eminent Scholar in Hypertension, Regents’ Professors Brands and Harris, Professors Bagi, Bollag, Filosa, and Sullivan, Associate Professors Chen, O'Connor, Wang, and Yoon, and Assistant Professors Mamenko and O'Herron. The Department of Physiology is currently recruiting new faculty and we expect our department to continue to grow under Dr. Mattson's leadership.
Dr. Michael W. Brands compiled this history by condensing a comprehensive account of the pre-1988 department history, working with Dr. Wendell F. Hofman to provide information that was missing or unavailable in written records covering 1971 through 1999, and by writing the post-1999 history. The pre-1988 information was drawn from a department history written by Drs. Robert C. Little and Virendra B. Mahesh, and obtained courtesy of Special Collections in the Robert B. Greenblatt Library of the Medical College of Georgia. Dr. Little acknowledged the assistance of Dorothy H. Mims, MCG Special Collections Librarian, in preparing the history of the Department of Physiology. Dr. Hofman also helped proof-edit this document by cross referencing with information from the Special Collections. Kara MacVean helped proof-edit the document post-2007.