Joseph Szurszewski
Szurszewski

Joseph Szurszewski

I was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and attended Duquesne University where I received my B.S. degree in 1962. My interest in human biology and in particular in physiology was ignited by Dr. Julius Greenstein who taught a course in physiology. He supported my application to the graduate program in physiology at the University of Illinois at Champaign Urbana. I had the good fortune of having two advisors for my doctoral research work: Dr. F. R. Steggerda and C. Ladd Prosser. Both encouraged me to do my Ph.D. thesis research project on gastrointestinal motility. I received my Ph.D. degree in physiology in 1966. Drs. Steggerda and Prosser encouraged me to do postdoctoral research in gastrointestinal physiology at the Mayo Clinic in Dr. Charles F. Code’s laboratory. I was accepted into his program in the fall of 1966 and remained there until the end of 1968. The research that I did for my doctoral dissertation and in Dr. Code’s laboratory was done in conscious animals using implanted electrodes and strain gages to measure on-going spontaneous electrical activity and contractility from multiple sites in the gastrointestinal tract. To understand the cellular mechanisms that regulate gastrointestinal motility, Charlie Code urged me to acquire methods to record intracellularly from neurons and smooth muscle cells. With his support and encouragement and having successfully applied for a Fulbright Scholarship, I went to work with Professor Mollie Holman at Monash University in Melbourne Australia where I learned to record intracellularly from single autonomic ganglion neurons. With the encouragement and support of Charlie Code, I applied for a Burn Fellowship to extend my technical abilities by learning to record intracellularly from smooth muscle cells. So, it was off to Oxford University in England as an Oxford University Burn Fellow for a third postdoctoral research position to work in Professor Edith Bulbring’s laboratory. After two years at Oxford, I re-joined the physiology department at Mayo Clinic in 1971 where I have spent my entire career. I have been incredibly fortunate to have trained with and learned from Professors Greenstein, Steggerda, Prosser, Code, Holman and Bulbring. Each in their unique way provided an environment that was supportive, positive and collegial and where I acquired conceptual and technical skills. They created an environment where self-esteem was never at risk when asking questions and looking for guidance. They promoted my career development and networking in the community of physiologists. I never would have had the career that I have had without their mentorship.

I was promoted to Professor of Physiology at the Mayo Clinic in 1977 and was Chair of the Department of Physiology and Biophysics from 1983-1997. I received the Bowditch Award from the American Physiological Society, an Established Investigator Award from the American Heart Association, the Distinguished Achievement Award from the American Gastroenterology Association, the Janssen Lifetime Achievement in Gastrointestinal Motility, the Distinguished Achievement and Special Services Award from the American Motility Society, the Outstanding Research Award in Gastrointestinal Physiology from the American Physiology Society and the Research Mentor Award from the American Gastroenterology Association. I was award two MERIT Awards from the National Institutes of Health and the Doctor Honoris Causa of the University of Law, Economics and Sciences of Aix‑Marseille, University of Marseille, France. I was a member of the National Advisory Council, National Institutes of Arthritis, Digestive Diseases and Nutrition, National Institutes of Health. I received the Distinguished Investigator Award, Mayo Foundation and I am the Bernard C. Pollack Professor of Research. The success I’ve had in my research career and the awards and recognitions that have come my way are in no small way due to the continuous support and encouragement my wife Cecelia has given me from the days when she typed my PhD thesis to the present day. 


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