by Jessica M. Ibarra
I always had this curiosity about life. Since the very beginning, always wanting to understand how animals’ breathe, how they live, how they move. All that was living was very interesting. – Dr. Ibarra
“I always had this curiosity about life and I wanted to become a doctor, but my parent told me it was not a good idea,” Lise Bankir explained in her interview for the Living History Project of the American Physiological Society (APS). The video interview (video length: 37.14 min.) is part of a rich collection over 100 senior members of the APS who have made outstanding contributions to the science of physiology and the profession.
The archive gives us great insight into how these scientists chose their fields of study. As Dr. Bankir, an accomplished renal physiologist, explain how she ended up “studying the consequences of vasopressin on the kidney.” She describes her work in a 1984 paper realizing “high protein was deleterious for the kidney, because it induces hyperfiltration,” which of course now we accept that high protein accelerates the progression of kidney disease. Later she describes her Aha! moment, linking a high protein diet to urea concentration, while on holiday.
“It came to my mind that this adverse effect of high protein diet was due to the fact that the kidney not only to excrete urea (which is the end product of proteins), but also to concentrate urea in the urine. Because the plasma level of urea is already really low and the daily load of urea that humans excrete need that urea be concentrated about 100-fold (in the urine with respect to plasma).”
Other interviews highlight how far ahead of their time other scientists were. As is the case when it comes to being way ahead of teaching innovations and active learning in physiology with Dr. Beverly Bishop. In her video interview, you can take inspiration from her 50 years of teaching neurophysiology to physical therapy and dental students at SUNY in New York (video length: 1 hr. 06.09 min.). Learn about how she met her husband, how she started her career, and her time in Scotland. Dr. Bishop believed students could learn better with experimental laboratory activities and years ahead of YouTube, she developed a series of “Illustrated Lectures in Neurophysiology” available through APS to help faculty worldwide.
She was even way ahead of others in the field of neurophysiology. Dr. Bishop explains, “everyone knows that they (expiratory muscles) are not very active when you are sitting around breathing quietly, and yet the minute you have to increase ventilation (for whatever reason), the abdominal muscles have to play a part to have active expiration. So, the question I had to answer was, “How are those muscles smart enough to know enough to turn on?” Her work led to ground breaking work in neural control of the respiratory muscles, neural plasticity, jaw movements, and masticatory muscle activity.
Another interview shed light on a successful career of discovery and their implications to understanding disease, as is the case with the video interview of Dr. Judith S. Bond. She describes the discovery of meprins proteases as her most significant contribution to science (video length: 37.38 min.), “and as you know, both in terms of kidney disease and intestinal disease, we have found very specific functions of the protease. And uh, one of the functions, in terms of the intestinal disease relates to uh inflammatory bowel disease. One of the subunits, meprin, alpha subunit, is a candidate gene for IBD and particularly ulcerative colitis. And so that opens up a window to – that might have significance to the treatment of ulcerative colitis.”
Or perhaps you may want to know about the life and research of Dr. Bodil Schmidt-Nielsen, the first woman president of the APS (video length: 1 hr. 18.07 min.) and daughter of August and Marie Krogh. In her interview, she describes her transition from dentistry to field work to study water balance on desert animals and how she took her family in a van to the Arizona desert and while pregnant developed a desert laboratory and measured water loss in kangaroo rats. Dr. Schmidt-Nielsen was attracted to the early discoveries she made in desert animals, namely that these animals had specific adaptations to reduce their expenditure of water to an absolute minimum to survive.
The Living History Project managed to secure video interviews with so many outstanding contributors to physiology including John B. West, Francois Abboud, Charles Tipton, Barbara Horwitz, Lois Jane Heller, and L. Gabriel Navar to name a few. For years to come, the archive provides the opportunity to learn from their collective wisdom, discoveries, family influences, career paths, and entries into science.
As the 15th anniversary of the project approaches, we celebrate the life, contributions, dedication, ingenuity, and passion for science shared by this distinguished group of physiologists. It is my hope you find inspiration, renewed interest, and feed your curiosity for science by taking the time to watch a few of these video interviews.
Dr. Jessica M. Ibarra is an Assistant Professor of Physiology at Dell Medical School in the Department of Medical Education of The University of Texas at Austin. She teaches physiology to first year medical students. She earned her B.S. in Biology from the University of Texas at San Antonio. Subsequently, she pursued her Ph.D. studies at the University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio where she also completed a postdoctoral fellowship. Her research studies explored cardiac extracellular matrix remodeling and inflammatory factors involved in chronic diseases such as arthritis and diabetes. When she is not teaching, she inspires students to be curious about science during Physiology Understanding Week in the hopes of inspiring the next generation of scientists and physicians. Dr. Ibarra is a native of San Antonio and is married to Armando Ibarra. Together they are the proud parents of three adult children – Ryan, Brianna, and Christian Ibarra.