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Martin Frank, PhD, Retires as APS Executive Director

The Society’s longest-tenured executive officer steps down after 33 years

Rockville, Md. (June 25, 2018)—Martin Frank, PhD, FAPS, will retire on June 30, 2018, from the American Physiological Society (APS) after 33 years as executive director. During his time at APS, Frank has overseen growth in many areas, including increases in the Society’s member base and in its ability to support researchers working in the discipline of physiology. He will be succeeded by Scott Steen, CAE, FASAE.

“I have had the pleasure of serving as APS executive director since 1985, working with the Society’s volunteer leadership, membership and outstanding staff to advance the Society and the discipline of physiology,” Frank said. “Although this was a difficult decision to make, I know that this will be a good transition for APS. I believe Scott Steen will do a great job as the new executive director, bringing a fresh perspective and helping the Society move forward.”

Frank is the fourth—and longest-tenured—executive officer of the Society since 1948, joining Milton O. Lee (1948–1956), Ray G. Daggs (1956–1972) and Orr E. Reynolds (1973–1985). Though his accomplishments have been numerous, the expansion of the Society’s outreach programs for minority physiologists, K–12 teachers and undergraduate researchers are among those of which he is most proud.

“I feel the greatest pride in having helped to foster the Society’s commitment to diversity,” Frank said. “During my tenure, the Society greatly expanded efforts to support underrepresented minorities through meeting travel awards for trainees, K–12 teacher summer research fellowships and undergraduate summer research fellowships.”

One program that Frank nurtured was APS’s Porter Physiology Development Fellowship. Under his watch, the number of fellowships awarded each year and the amount of funds allocated to each Fellow have grown significantly. To date, the Fellowship has awarded more than $4.4 million to more than 140 young researchers of color. He also cites building a strong advocacy program for animal research, transitioning the APS family of journals from print to online and developing an undergraduate research program that attracts students to physiology research careers among his significant accomplishments.

“Marty’s dedication to physiology and the Society have been evident throughout his tenure as executive director, and APS has grown tremendously because of it,” said APS President Jeff Sands, MD. “The APS publications program thrived under his tutelage. He played a leadership role in championing society publishers during the advent of open access. Marty has also worked tirelessly to advance inclusion and diversity within APS.

“All APS members owe Marty an enormous debt of gratitude for his many years of exemplary service and leadership as executive director. As a tribute to Dr. Frank’s passion for diversity, APS is naming its Minority Travel Fellowship award program as the Martin Frank Minority Travel Fellowship Program,” Sands added.

For APS staff, Frank’s daily presence will be missed. “APS has a long-tenured staff of dedicated employees, and Marty has been the common theme for us all,” said Robert Price, APS deputy executive director, finance and administration. “Marty has always stressed the importance of putting our members first. But in addition to his dedication to the members and the discipline of physiology, he’s made a point to get to know everyone who works here. He’s made space to laugh, celebrate everything from birthdays to babies to retirements, and in general he’s made APS a supportive work environment.”

Frank is looking forward to having more time to pursue his many interests and spend more time with his wife of 48 years, Cheryl, his two children and their spouses and his five grandchildren. He is also looking forward to experiencing APS as a member again and participating in events such as the APS annual meeting at Experimental Biology. APS members and staff will look forward to seeing him.


About Martin Frank, PhD, FAPS

Martin Frank, PhD, FAPS, served as APS executive director from 1985 to 2018. He oversaw a staff of 84 and an annual budget of $20 million and managed reserves of approximately $44 million. Frank was responsible for budget development and administration, program development and implementation, publication production and circulation, personnel division and evaluation, meeting and convention planning, congressional relations and public speaking, fundraising, educational development and strategic planning. During his tenure, APS saw its membership grow from 6,000 to nearly 11,000 members.

Frank came to APS after seven years of service as executive secretary of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Physiology Study Section. There, in addition to general supervision of the granting process, he initiated workshops and symposia in emerging areas of physiology and served as spokesperson for NIH at universities and national conferences on the subject of peer review of grant applications.

Frank was born in Chicago and completed both his undergraduate and graduate study at the University of Illinois in Urbana. He received his PhD in 1973 for an analysis of calcium storage sites in guinea pig atrium. The work was carried out in the laboratory of W.W. Sleator, then head of the department of physiology and biophysics. Frank then spent a year with Samuel B. Horowitz at the Michigan Cancer Foundation in Detroit, where he studied nucleocytoplasmic interactions in amphibian oocytes. He spent the following year in the lab with Tai Akera and Theodore M. Brody at the department of pharmacology at Michigan State University, where he investigated the effect of various pharmacological interventions on excitation-contraction coupling in cardiac muscle.

From 1975 until 1978, he was assistant professor in the department of physiology at George Washington University Medical Center in Washington, D.C. He then accepted the post at NIH but continued an association with George Washington University, first as an assistant professorial lecturer (1978–80) and then as an associate professorial lecturer (1980–present). In 1983, he was selected for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Senior Executive Service Development Program, which was designed to prepare "middle managers" for future positions of leadership and major responsibility. As a part of his training, he was assigned to the Office of the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Health (Planning and Evaluation), where he worked with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Frank’s laboratory research continued the line he began with Sleator, using the guinea pig atrium to study the influence of various ions (potassium, in particular) and a variety of organic compounds on ultrastructure and electromechanical properties of muscle.

He has held numerous professional memberships and has served in leadership roles with scientific organizations, including the Commission on Professionals in Science and Technology, American Institute for Biological Sciences and International Union of Physiological Sciences. Frank was elected a member of APS in 1976 and is a Fellow of the APS (FAPS). He received the Distinguished Alumnus Award from the department of molecular and integrative physiology at his alma mater in 2001 and the Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics, and Engineering Mentoring (PAESMEM) on behalf of the Society in 2004. More on Frank’s career in research and at APS, professional achievements and early life influences can be found in his APS Living History of Physiology project video.

Physiology is the study of how molecules, cells, tissues and organs function in health and disease. Established in 1887, the American Physiological Society (APS) was the first U.S. society in the biomedical sciences field. The Society represents more than 10,000 members and publishes 15 peer-reviewed journals with a worldwide readership.



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