I had a busy time in Chicago this past weekend. On Friday, I accompanied three of our Department’s junior faculty to the annual meetings of the Central Society for Clinical and Translational Research and the Midwestern Section of the American Federation for Medical Research. I was invited to host a session led by two Department of Medicine Chairs to highlight research achievements by junior faculty holding career development K awards. In the first of two sessions hosted by Chairs of Medicine from the University of Iowa and Washington University in St. Louis, respectively, Iowa excellence was represented by Saket Girotra, MD (Cardiology), Sailesh Harwani, MD, PhD (Cardiology), and Brian O’Neill, MD, PhD (Endocrinology and Metabolism). Dr. Girotra discussed his groundbreaking work on hospital trends in outcomes in hospital cardiac arrest, Dr. Harwani presented his provocative studies linking immune activation in the vasculature and the kidney in the pathophysiology of hypertension, and Dr. O’Neill presented his innovative work linking insulin signaling and diabetes-related muscle atrophy. Listening to these presentations assured me that the future of our Department is bright.
Chicago was also host last weekend to the meeting of the American Society for Clinical Research (ASCI) to celebrate the induction of our own Dr. Eli Perencevich into this distinguished society that represents physician scientists. ASCI membership represents one of the greatest recognitions for research achievements in medicine. Across town Michael Welsh, MD, delivered the Walter B. Cannon Memorial Award Lecture of the American Physiological Society (APS) at the annual Experimental Biology Meeting. The Walter B. Cannon Award Lectureship is the most prestigious award that APS bestows, recognizing the lifetime achievement of an outstanding physiological scientist and APS member. His lecture, “Insights into the Pathogenesis of Cystic Fibrosis Lung Disease,” was a remarkable testament to a career-long investment in unraveling the pathophysiological underpinnings of this devastating disorder and was very well received. Thus, as I reflect on the achievements this past weekend I remain convinced that the future of biomedical research in Iowa is equally as bright.
I also joined the March for Science, attended by many other members of our Department in Chicago. This was a remarkable global event. I was impressed by the diverse group of people ranging from young students, college students, ordinary citizens, scientists, and even some octogenarians, who stood together to make a strong case that scientific inquiry will and should continue to be an important basis that advances many of our social missions. As physicians and scientists, we all agree that many of the discoveries in medicine that we may now take for granted grew out of scientific inquiry and curiosity. The rigorous testing of hypotheses, development of robust methods of obtaining, evaluating, and validating our data has not only resulted in therapies, diagnostics, and preventive strategies that have improved human health and promoted wellbeing, but have provided new tools with which to test their effectiveness. I am pleased that our Department was founded on these principles, and we remain committed to them through investment and advocacy for this core mission.
In this regard, I also applaud Dr. Rajan Sah for his publication this week in Nature Cell Biology that reveals a hitherto unknown mechanism by which fat cells can sense their size. Dr. Sah discovered a novel ion channel signaling molecule, SWELL1, in lean and obese mice as well as in fat cells obtained from bariatric surgery patients. Using CRISPR/cas9 gene editing, they genetically ablated the molecule selectively in mouse fat, rendering the cells resistant to obesity, but also worsening glucose tolerance. Dr. Sah and his lab colleagues will continue to pursue this line of inquiry, manipulating the molecular pathway in the search for a novel therapeutic approach to obesity-induced diabetes.
Finally, I want to add my congratulations to the winners of this year’s M4 Student Awards, presented at yesterday’s Internal Medicine Grand Rounds. For decades, our Education team has presented these awards to the most promising scholars and clinicians among the senior medical class, many of whom remain to realize the great opportunities for advancement and leadership that exist right here at the University of Iowa. Previous winners of the Wilson, Sebelin, and Parsons awards have gone on to hold endowed chairs and professorships, lead innovative clinics, perform globally vital and trail-blazing research, and even direct divisions within Internal Medicine. The legacy and dedication of these students are a testament to this institution’s commitment to them.
Writing this piece has strengthened my conviction that as an organization and Department we should renew our commitment to investing in our future by training and mentoring the next generation of physicians, scientists, and health care providers and engaging and educating the communities that we serve to become partners and advocates for our missions.