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Biography of Dr. Conn

Jerome W. Conn, M.D. (1907-1994), delineator of primary aldosteronism, devoted his entire professional career to the University of Michigan and served as the first Endocrinology & Metabolism Division Chief from 1943-1973.

Dr. Conn was born in New York City on September 24, 1907 and died in Naples, Florida on June 11, 1994. A graduate of Rutgers University (1928), Dr. Conn received his MD from the University of Michigan Medical School in 1932 was associated with the University for the duration of his career. He received the title of professor of internal medicine in 1950.

Dr. Conn’s greatest contribution to medicine was the description in 1954 of the new entity called primary aldosteronism (later named the Conn Syndrome). Caused by an adrenal tumor secreting excessive amounts of the adrenal hormone aldosterone, this disorder is one of the few serious hypertensive diseases that can be cured completely by the surgical removal of the adrenal tumor, if it is recognized early enough.

Dr. Conn subsequently devised new diagnostic techniques for the early detection of this adrenal tumor. Between 1955 and 1975, the University of Michigan Hospital was a worldwide center for study and treatment of patients with primary aldosteronism and related conditions.

Dr. Conn also pioneered studies exploring the physiology of the pituitary-adrenal system, the mechanism of acclimatization to heat, and the physiology and pathophysiology of the renin-angiotensin-aldosterone systems in humans. He contributed significantly to the knowledge of many aspects of diabetes and spontaneous hypoglycemia.

Dr. Conn served as president of the Central Society for Clinical Research and the American Diabetes Association. He was elected to the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America and became a charter member of the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences.

He received numerous honors, including the Banting Medal of the American Diabetes Association; the John Phillips Memorial Award and Mastership of the American College of Physicians; Honorary Fellowship in the American College of Surgeons; an honorary Doctor of Science Degree from Rutgers University; an honorary Doctor of Medicine Degree from the University of Turin, Italy; the Claude Bernard Medal from the Institute of Experimental Medicine and Surgery at the University of Montreal; the International Prize of the Gairdner Foundation in Toronto, Canada; and the International Stouffer Prize and Gold Medal for Research in Hypertension.

In 2012, the Regents of the University of Michigan established the Jerome W. Conn Collegiate Professorship in his honor.