Concise Encyclopedia of Tufts HistorySauer, Anne
Department of Physiology, 1893
Physiology was first taught at the medical school in 1893 as a lecture course. (The first professor of physiology was Dr. Albert Nott, who was also the first dean of the medical school.) By 1900 laboratory sessions were provided, and by 1929 first-year students were required to devote five afternoons a week to the subject.
That year Dr. David Rapport was recruited to teach medical and dental students and develop research. Stressing the importance of laboratory sessions, he conducted a series of experiments on dogs, in which groups of students were asked to prove series of points about the circulatory and respiratory systems.
In those years the department's research focused on several areas: the chemical process involved in vision; the enzymatic reactions involved in amino acid, protein, nucleic acid, and nucleoprotein metabolism; and the utilization of phosphate bond energy in the synthesis of protein from amino acids. The Charlton Fund helped support this research as well as laboratory fellowships.
In the 1960s and 1970s the department underwent a series of changes under the leadership of Dr. Walter L. Hughes. He believed that laboratory experimentation should demonstrate the principles of physiology via modern techniques. As such, he ensured that the laboratory was equipped with electronic transducers and recorders that would permit students to make sophisticated and precise measurements. He also expanded the graduate program to include Ph. D. candidates and postdoctoral investigators. Departmental research at this time focused largely on cellular mechanisms involving macro molecules (proteins and nucleic acids). When Dr. Hughes stepped down as chair in 1977, the department was subsequently led for two years by Dr. Jeffrey Sharpe and for four years by Dr. Eunice Bloomquist (in an acting role).
Dr. Irwin M. Arias became professor and chairman in 1984. He received his M.D. degree from SUNY in Brooklyn and trained in medicine at the Boston City Hospital and at Albert Einstein's in New York. He became a distinguished professor of medicine at Einstein before coming to Tufts. Arias has proved to be a superb investigator, teacher, and administrator, creating a first-rate Department of Physiology, attracting outstanding faculty, and developing an impressive research program. Under his leadership, a totally new physiology laboratory was built and equipped with modern equipment. Moreover, the department has grown to such an extent that it now includes fourteen full-time faculty, forty postdoctoral fellows, twenty-eight graduate students, eight M.D. /Ph. D. students, and five physician scientists. As of this date each faculty member has been awarded at least one NIH grant; the total departmental research support exceeds $5 million. The faculty have also received an NIH training grant as well as nineteen major awards from various sources, such as the Rockefeller, Markey, Macy, and Pew Foundations. Drs. Arias and Dice have been honored with the prestigious NIH MERIT Award.
In the last two decades classic organ physiology has moved from basic science departments into clinical settings: cardiac catheterization, pulmonary function assessment, and intestinal motility have become critical in patient management and are rarely the subject of modern physiology laboratories. In addition, physiology departments have shifted their focus to cellular and molecular physiology: Tufts' department is currently researching how events on the surface of cells regulate gene expression - namely how hormones and growth factors interact with their receptors and how cells respond by growth, differentiation, or transformation.
The physiology department in 1999 presents a basic course in medical physiology for first-year students: modern principles of normal physiology are considered in lectures, patient presentations, small group discussions, and problem-solving exercises. Second-year students take parhophysiology among other subjects. No laboratory sessions are currently offered.
Source: COE, 151-52.
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