Ormond MacDougald chosen as first John A. Faulkner Collegiate Professor of Physiology

Endowed professorship named in honor of physiology pioneer and longtime U-M professor

pop-busui in lab photoOrmond A. MacDougald, Ph.D., a professor of molecular and integrative physiology and internal medicine (Metabolism, Endocrinology & Diabetes Division) in the University of Michigan Medical School, is the inaugural recipient of the John A. Faulkner Collegiate Professorship in Physiology.

The professorship is named for longtime U-M faculty member and research pioneer John Faulkner, Ph.D., professor of molecular & integrative physiology and biomedical engineering. MacDougald's installation will be celebrated on August 30, 2010 at 4:30 p.m. in a ceremony in the D. Dan and Betty Kahn Auditorium in the Biomedical Science Research Building.

Ormond MacDougald received his undergraduate degree from the University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada, in 1986. From Michigan State University he received his master’s degree in 1988 and a doctorate from the Department of Physiology in 1992. He pursued postdoctoral training from 1992-96 in the Department of Biological Chemistry at Johns Hopkins University, where he began his studies on adipocyte biology with M. Daniel Lane, Ph.D.

MacDougald joined the U-M faculty in 1996 as an assistant professor of physiology and was promoted to associate professor of molecular and integrative physiology in 2002. In 2005, he received a secondary appointment as associate professor of internal medicine in the Metabolism, Endocrinology & Diabetes Division. He was promoted to his current rank of professor in 2006.

MacDougald is an internationally recognized investigator for his work on metabolism and adipocyte (fat cell) differentiation - the process by which a less specialized cell becomes a more specialized cell type. Specifically, his research explores the signals that act on mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) to influence fat tissue development and metabolism, including effects on insulin sensitivity. This research provides important insight into the problems of obesity and type 2 diabetes. MacDougald’s research is funded by the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, among other sources.

MacDougald is a highly sought-after speaker at national and international meetings. In addition to lectures at the Endocrine Society, American Diabetes Association and Keystone conferences, he presented at the Nobel Symposium on Adipose Tissue Biology, one of the most prestigious invited international lectureships. Nationally, MacDougald has served on numerous editorial boards and provides extensive peer-review service for journals. He currently is a member of the Cellular Aspects of Diabetes and Obesity study section at the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

In 2005, MacDougald received the Medical School’s Achievement in Basic Science Research Award. The same year, he earned the Henry Pickering Bowditch Award, one of the American Physiological Society’s highest honors, given to “a distinguished young physiologist less than 42 years of age who has made original and outstanding contributions in physiology.” MacDougald’s bibliography reflects more than 70 peer-reviewed journal articles, as well as numerous book chapters, reviews and abstracts.

In addition to his research accomplishments, MacDougald is highly regarded for his dedication and commitment to education. He has provided lectures on integrative genomics and mammalian physiology to dental, pharmacy and non-physiology graduate students, and to students in the Program in Biological Sciences curriculum. He has served in numerous educational roles as director, co-director and lecturer in departmental courses. He currently directs the Molecular and Integrative Physiology graduate program, and he initiated and directs a summer research program for undergraduate students. He is praised for his contributions to the educational environment in the department.

A member of more than 80 preliminary examination committees and graduate dissertation committees, MacDougald is principal investigator on educational grants sponsored by the American Diabetes Association and the NIH. As testament to his mentoring skills, many of his graduate students have attained faculty positions or prestigious fellowships at research and academic institutions.

The Extraordinary Achievements of John Faulkner

pop-busui in lab photoThe professorship was established in 2010 through a generous gift from fellow U-M faculty member John Faulkner, Ph.D., and his wife, Margaret Faulkner. Their gift - and additional donations from faculty, former trainees and friends of the Faulkners, within and outside the Department of Molecular and Integrative Physiology - also will help to establish the John and Margaret Faulkner Lectureship and Educational Fund.

Both funds honor a man whose long and diverse career as a coach, teacher and scientist has resulted in many contributions toward the understanding of the physiology of humans - particularly the structure and function of skeletal muscles and their response to exercise and aging.

Born in 1923 and raised in a working-class neighborhood in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, John Faulkner was a skilled athlete, but demonstrated little interest in the academic side of high school life. World War II began in 1939, and immediately after graduating from high school in 1942, he joined the Royal Canadian Air Force. He was accepted for aircrew training and he received his ‘wings’ in 1943. Following operational training in Canada, he was posted overseas to a Royal Air Force fighter squadron in England. He completed an operational tour in the European Theater in 1945.

When WWII ended in 1945, Faulkner entered Queens University in Kingston, Ontario, and graduated in 1950 with a degree in biology. He then obtained a teaching certificate and taught high school biology for five years. During the summer holidays, he attended the U-M and earned a master’s degree in science in 1956. He accepted a position on the education faculty at the University of Western Ontario and continued to attend the U-M, where he fulfilled residency requirements for a doctorate in education in 1960.

That same year, Faulkner was hired by the U-M School of Education to establish an exercise physiology laboratory. With considerable assistance from the legendary Horace H. Davenport, chair of the U-M Department of Physiology, he developed a graduate course in human physiology for kinesiology students. He earned his doctorate in 1962 and stayed on as a full-time faculty member in the School of Education until 1966. He contemplated a career change to physiology, and when Davenport heard of these plans he offered Faulkner an associate professorship in physiology. Since then, Faulkner’s wisdom, experience and gentle sense of humor have influenced generations of Medical School students and faculty. He was promoted to professor in 1971.

During his 50-year career at the U-M, Faulkner participated in the establishment of the Department of Biomedical Engineering and has mentored and collaborated with students and faculty from across many disciplines, including physiology, plastic and reconstructive surgery, biomedical engineering, orthopedic surgery, kinesiology and biogerontology. He was appointed professor of biomedical engineering in 1997.

Faulkner is considered a pioneer investigator in the fields of muscle physiology, biogerontology and biomedical engineering. He has had a long-term interest in the loss in muscle mass and strength that is experienced by all mammalian species during aging. Between ages 50-80, humans lose almost half the number of muscle fibers that they had in their 20s. Even highly conditioned athletes suffer this loss of muscle fibers. “Consequently, staying active throughout one’s life span is vitally important in order to maintain the viability of the muscle fibers that remain,” he says.

Faulkner has received many awards, including the Honor Award from the American College of Sports Medicine, the U-M Distinguished Faculty Achievement Award, the Bioengineering Program’s Glenn Edmonson Award, the School of Kinesiology’s Lifetime Achievement Award, and the William C. Grabb Medal of Honor from the Reed O. Dingman Society of Plastic Surgery. In 2009, he was the recipient of the U-M’s Lifetime Service Award.

Adapted from an article by Kevin Bergquist, Medical School Development