Lois Jane Heller

Lois Jane Heller

Lois Jane Heller (nee Skagerberg) was born in Detroit Michigan in 1942. Her academic degrees include a BA from Albion College (1964), and MS in Physiology from University of Michigan (1966, advisor David Bohr).  She and her husband, Robert Heller, moved from Ann Arbor MI in 1966 and she completed her PhD in Physiology from the University of Illinois Medical Center in Chicago (1970, advisor William Whitehorn).  Their two children, John and Suzanne, were born while she was doing her graduate work and, she spent an additional year on the faculty in the Physiology Department after completing her PhD. 

In order to find the ideal place for them to settle with their family where they could both pursue their career interests, Lois, Bob and children pulled up roots in Chicago. They traveled throughout the United States for a year in a travel trailer staying in National Parks, local campgrounds and driveways of friends and family.  This adventure also included several stops for Lois to interview for academic positions and after evaluating all factors, they found the perfect place and settled in Duluth MN in 1972. 

At this point, the University of Minnesota Medical School was establishing a new program in Duluth to focus on the first two years of training family physicians to practice in rural areas of the state.  The basic science faculty that started this program were recruited for their research expertise and experience in teaching as well as for their interest in being involved in this new adventure.  (There were no lab facilities, few senior faculty to provide guidance, limited access to graduate programs and 150 miles to the main campus in Minneapolis.) It was indeed an adventure.

Lois joined this group of young faculty and spent the next 40+ years helping to build this now highly successful program.  The program is a leader in the nation at producing rural family physicians and, because of the added emphasis on training Native Americans for medical careers, is also a leader in producing Native American physicians.  Lois spent part of her time in the mid 1970’s as Dean for Student Affairs and throughout her career has been involved with medical student activities and curricular development.  Teaching has always been a high priority and her collaboration with Dr. David Mohrman on their textbook, Cardiovascular Physiology, (now in its 8th edition and published as part of the Lange Series in Physiology by McGraw-Hill) is one of her most treasured accomplishments. 

Her research activities have focused on how cardiac muscle mechanical activity is influenced by various pathophysiological challenges including aging, hypertension, cardiac hypertrophy, hypothermia, copper deficiency, cardiotoxicity of anti-neoplastic therapy and anaphylactic reactions. Her major research collaborator in Duluth has been Dr. David Mohrman with whom she extended her studies to include investigations of regulation of coronary flow by adenosine utilizing a technique for collecting interstitial fluid from isolated perfused hearts. Other major collaborators have included Drs. Edward Stauffer, Joseph Prohaska, Ray Olsson, Jean Regal, Ken Wallace, Alice Adams, George Trachte, William Dole, Harvey Sparks, Steve Katz and Leslie Sharkey.  These various collaborations resulted in nearly 40 peer-reviewed publications and multiple abstracts and reports supported primarily by grants from NIH and American Heart Association, the Minnesota Medical Foundation and the University of Minnesota Graduate School.

Lois Heller has been a member of APS since 1974 and in addition to being a long-time member of the CV Section, has participated activities of the Education Committee and the Teaching Section.  She is currently Professor Emeritus of the Department of Biomedical Sciences at the University of Minnesota Medical School - Duluth.