Johnny R. Porter, PhD
Professor Emeritus of Physiology, Medicine, Pharmacology, and Neuroscience, LSUHSC 1973-2010
Retired Adjunct Professor of Physiology Tulane Physiology; circa 1990’s-2010
Retired Professor of Biomedical Sciences (Physiology) William Carey College of Osteopathic Medicine (COM) 2010-2015
Early life and education written from Dr. Porter’s recollection of his early childhood and young adult years:
I grew up as a child in Union Parish (community of Shiloh; close to Bernice LA), a very economically deprived parish in North Central Louisiana. My father, John T. Porter, was a farmer until I was seven years old. My Dad only had a high school education. My mother, Betty Porter, was a housewife and helper with the crops until we moved a short distance from the farm to Claiborne parish. My, grandfather, grandmother aunts, uncles and cousins all lived in close proximity to these locations and all of them provided a wonderful family interaction for my early development and carefree childhood. My Mother only had an eighth grade education and most all of her family members were from Arkansas. We would visit those relatives in the summer and sometimes during holidays (early trips were in a model A Ford). I have one Sister, Sharon, who is still alive today and lives in Dixon Ky. We were underprivileged in an economic sense but we were a very happy family simply because we did not realize we were poor. My sister and I still have remnants of 80 acres of land on the old family farm where we grew up (See Figures 1,2, & 3 below). The early relatives of the Porter family settled on that land in 1847, coming over from Georgia in covered wagons. My dad started working for a natural gas company, Texas Gas Transmission, corporation in 1951(Claiborne Parish) and after further moves to Ouachita Parish, Texas Gas finally relocated our family to Owensboro KY in 1958-59. This was quite a change for me, a lad brought up in the deep South. I was starting the 10th grade in Daviess County high school in Owensboro KY. I had capable teachers at this public school.
Education and college years from BS to PhD:
After graduation from high school (1962), I attended Western KY University in Bowling Green KY. I had excellent biology and even physiology teachers at this school. Dr. Don Bailey was my physiology teacher (we used the early edition of Dr. Guyton’s textbook). I was also Dr. Bailey’s student grader. Dr. William Norris was my teacher in comparative anatomy and embryology. He was one of the best instructors that I have ever had in my entire educational career. Dr. Norris left before my senior year at Western KY and moved to the University of Louisiana at Monroe in 1965. I followed him there after graduation from Western KY and received my MS in biology under his direction in 1968. They paid me to go to school!!! I had wonderful instructors in Monroe and my thesis study was focused on endocrine physiology, specifically the pineal gland regulation of the reproductive system. One of the most important events of my life transpired in Monroe. I met and eventually married my sweet wife (of 48 and almost 49 years) Terry. From that marriage we have procreated 3 very beautiful and talented children, Tricia, Julie, and John. There are roughly 8-year intervals between each of our children. We have 3 of the most beautiful and handsome grandchildren two boys (16 and 11) and a princess for a grand daughter (7).
At the end of my MS study in Monroe in 1968, I met the graduate coordinator, Dr. Raymond Russell, from LSU Medical School. He was attending the LA Academy of Sciences Meeting in the spring of 1968 and he heard me speak. LSU Medical School was a relatively new graduate school at the time and I accepted a graduate stipend to go to graduate school at the medical school in New Orleans (Paid again!!). Sidney Harris was the Chair of the physiology department and a nationally recognized investigator in the area of cardiovascular research. Much of his work dealt with coronary blood flow and myocardial ischemia. The department had recently hired several young faculty members. One of these faculty members was my major professor, Dr. Mary Coyne. Dr. Coyne, a graduate of Wellesley college in Massachusetts, had trained with Dr. Julian Kitay (a Harvard MD) in endocrinology at the University of Virginia. Biochemistry also had Dr. Paul Hyde, a well know steroid biochemist from Saint Louis University, that was also a very important part of my Ph.D. training in endocrine physiology. New Orleans was a hotbed of endocrinology during my graduate career. Tulane and the VA hospital had Andrew Schally, Abba Kastin, and A.K. Arimura. LSU medicine and endocrinology had William Blackard, an expert in GH control. Dr. Coyne collaborated with many of these investigators. Our work was focused on understanding the regulatory inputs that controlled hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal secretions. We had NIH funding for this work. The Nobel Prize eventually came to Dr. Schally in 1977 for his work on hypothalamic releasing hormones. I received my Ph.D. in physiology in 1973. The year before (1972) Dr. Coyne and husband John, a surgical resident at Charity Hospital, moved back to Boston. Dr. Harris retired and John Spitzer came to be our new department head of physiology. He hired me as an instructor to immediately fill the void in neuroendocrine physiology. Many of the faculty of Harris’s department were retiring and moving on so it was lucky for me that a new department and scientific environment came to me instead of vice versa. I was fortunate. I do not recommend staying at the place where one receives one’s degree, but for me it worked out in a magnificent way. Dr. John Spitzer was absolutely one of the finest physiologist and mentors that a young budding endocrinologist could wish to have. Dr. Spitzer encouraged me and gave me release time after teaching to go to the VA hospital and work with Dr. Abba Kastin. Dr. Schally and Arimura would pass through the lab and say hello to me and to my tag along graduate students.
To read more about Dr. Porter's life, please see the full narrative below.