Department History

Historical Overview

"The value the world sets upon motives is often grossly unjust and inaccurate. Consider, for example, two of them: mere insatiable curiosity and the desire to do good. The latter is put high above the former, and yet it is the former that moves one of the most useful men the human race has yet produced: the scientific investigator. What actually urges him on is not some brummagem idea of Service, but a boundless, almost pathological thirst to penetrate the unknown, to uncover the secret, to find out what has not been found out before. His prototype is not the liberator releasing slaves, the good Samaritan lifting up the fallen, but a dog sniffing tremendously at an infinite series of rat-holes." H.L. Menkin (1880-1956)

While as H.L. Menkin says, curiosity motivates basic scientists the mission of our department is threefold. As has been the case at most medical schools our faculty engages in research, teaching and service. The balance between these three missions has certainly changed over the past several decades but we are always committed to serving the educational needs of our students while contributing to the body of scientific investigation and satisfying our curiosity to uncover new information.

The Department of Cellular and Integrative Physiology is one of the five basic science departments of the College of Medicine. Our mission encompasses the traditional activities involved in teaching, research and service. Since 1970, this department has maintained a major research emphasis in cardiovascular and renal physiology. We have teaching responsibilities for a wide variety of students on the Medical Center Campus. These include medical, physical therapy, physician assistant, radiation technology and graduate students. Prior to 1970, this department was combined with pharmacology and headed by a well known pharmacologist of the time, Dr. A. Ross McIntyre. Upon Dr. McIntyre’s retirement, Dr. A. Lawrence Bennett became chairman for a short period of time: 1967-1970.

In 1970, the department was split into two separate departments, Pharmacology and Physiology. A new chair was recruited at this time, Dr. Joseph P. Gilmore, and substantial resources were provided for expansion. Dr. Gilmore recruited a cadre of outstanding scientists whose emphasis was primarily cardiovascular and renal physiology and pathophysiology. In addition, there has always been a neurophysiology component to the department. Dr. Gilmore changed the name of the department in 1971 to Physiology and Biophysics to reflect the changing nature of the research being carried out in the department. Because of the focused nature of our faculty, we have been competitive for local and national resources. Many of our faculty are well known in their field. They are highly sought after to provide national, international and regional expertise in the form of study section members, editorial board members and various advisory committees. Dr. Gilmore retired in 1988 and a national search was begun for a new chair. In 1989, Dr. Irving H. Zucker was recruited by Dean Robert Waldman to be Chair of the Department. Because several faculty had left, Dr. Zucker was able to recruit seven new faculty at that time.

In January of 2004 the department moved from Bennett Hall to the Durham Research Center. This move expanded our total research space and provided laboratories and support space for faculty from other departments whose research interests overlapped with those of the full time faculty. While Bennett Hall provided many fond memories, the exceptional space provided in the Mary and Richard Holland Cardiovascular Research Laboratories will be the seed for the future expansion of research and personnel. Along with the move to the Durham Research Center and expansion of our space we have once again changed the name of the department. For 34 years we were called the Department of Physiology and Biophysics. While this name depicted the type of research and the teaching within our department, it was clear that we had developed, as at the national level, a renewed emphasis on integrative physiology. Our department clearly carries out integrative physiology at the organ and organismal levels. Further, many laboratories within our department focus on the interface between genetic, cellular and membrane function, and the integration of organ systems in health and disease. Therefore, we have changed our name to the Department of Cellular and Integrative Physiology. We are hopeful that this name change will attract the type of graduate students, post-doctoral fellows and faculty that are interested in the research emphasis in this department.

Service functions of the department relate primarily to providing representation on College of Medicine, Medical Center and University committees. In addition, the faculty in this department serve on a wide variety of national committees. Several faculty provide their teaching expertise to local school districts and have been instrumental in the development of science curricula in the Omaha area.