A career of discoveries

A career of discoveries

College of Medicine honors two longtime faculty with Lifetime Achievement Awards

By April Frawley Birdwell

Kathleen Shiverick with College of Medicine Dean Michael Good (left) and Frank Bova./Photo by Maria Belen Farias

Kathleen Shiverick, Ph.D.

Today, most expectant mothers know the risks of smoking during pregnancy. But that wasn’t always the case.

Throughout her career at the College of Medicine, Kathleen Shiverick, Ph.D., a professor emeritus of pharmacology and therapeutics, has shown through her research just how damaging cigarette smoke and other toxins can be to a developing baby.

As a new faculty member in 1978, Shiverick received funding to study the effects of cigarette smoke on the placenta. During this research, Shiverick and her team discovered that blood cells are formed in the fetal liver, meaning that if a mutation occurs there because of a toxin, it will spread to the bone marrow and, potentially, the rest of the body.

With a career of discoveries that have helped broaden understanding about the effects of toxins on the placenta as well as nutrition as a way to stymie the growth of cancerous tumors, Shiverick became the first woman to receive the Lifetime Achievement Award from the College of Medicine Faculty Council. The award was presented to Shiverick April 13.

“I was humbled looking at the list of past recipients, which included Dr. (Thomas) Maren, the founder of our department,” Shiverick said.

Her research projects have varied over the years, from her early work on cigarette smoke to examining the health effects of pollutants found at Superfund sites. During the past 10 years, Shiverick has studied nutrition as a way to prevent tumor growth.


Edward Block

Edward Block, M.D.

The patient was dying, a victim of too much oxygen. The idea confounded Edward Block, M.D., then a young doctor.

“I was so flabbergasted that (doctors) could give too much oxygen so that it would damage someone’s lungs and kill them,” said Block, a distinguished professor of medicine in the College of Medicine and former chair of the department of medicine. “It never struck me that oxygen could be harmful.”

This notion that oxygen could have ill effects on the body sparked Block’s three-decades-long research career studying the endothelial cells that line blood vessels in the lungs. These cells play a key role in the lungs because it’s the place in the body where blood comes in closest contact with the air we breathe. Consistently funded by the National Institutes of Health, Block’s pioneering research led to a greater understanding of how these cells work and the various roles they play, from transporting toxins out of the body to serving metabolic functions.

Block’s research career is just one of the accomplishments that earned him a Lifetime Achievement Award from the College of Medicine Faculty Council, an honor he was surprised to receive.

“I am delighted, so honored and humbled,” he said of the award. “I never expected anything like this.”

For eight-and-a-half years Block served as chair of the College of Medicine’s largest department, stepping down in the fall of 2010.

“He guided the department through tough times but made us better,” Wingard said. “The size grew, the research enterprise grew, there was a greater focus on education … he is a very selfless individual who was dedicated to his faculty. He helped many people advance their careers.”