The MPB Circle of Distinguished Alumni

Please click here to read the VUMC reporter article on the establishment of the MPB Circle of Distinguished Alumni in 2002.

  • Jackie D. Corbin, Ph.D.

    Graduate Student, Assistant, Associate, Full and Emeritus Professor, Molecular Physiology and Biophysics, 1971-Present

    Dr. Corbin, together with Dr. Sharon Francis, devoted his research career to determining the biochemical mechanisms whereby cyclic nucleotides mediate the effects of hormones, neurotransmitters, and other agents on many biological processes.  In 1976, he identified a novel protein that bound to cyclic GMP, which was later purified and characterized as being a phosphodiesterase that degrades cyclic GMP.  This enzyme, now known as PDE5, is the site of action of drugs used to treat erectile dysfunction.  Dr. Corbin was a HHMI investigator for 17 years.

  • John H. Exton, M.D., Ph.D.

    Instructor, Assistant, Associate and Full Professor , Molecular Physiology and Biophysics, 1963-Present

    Over his five decade research career, Dr. Exton’s research greatly advanced our understanding of the biochemical mechanisms of signal transduction.  His research explored how hormones, neurotransmitters and growth factors activate phospholipase enzymes in order to regulate calcium ions, G proteins, protein kinases and other factors within multiple cell types.  He was a HHMI-funded investigator for 36 years and the recipient of multiple honors and awards, including the Lilly Award from the American Diabetes Association and election to the National Academy of Sciences in 2001.

  • Sharron H. Francis, Ph.D.

    Graduate Student, Assistant, Research Associate, Research Professor and Adjunct Professor, Molecular Physiology and Biophysics, 1975-Present

    Dr. Francis worked as a close scientific colleague with Dr. Jackie Corbin, forming a scientific partnership that lasted for 37 years.  Together they studied how cyclic nucleotides mediate the effects of hormones, neurotransmitters, and other agents on many biological processes.  She is widely recognized for her studies of phosphodiesterases, and specifically for helping to purify and characterize PDE5, the enzyme that degrades cyclic GMP and is the site of action of drugs used to treat erectile dysfunction. 

  • Daryl K. Granner, M.D.

    Professor and Chairman, Molecular Physiology and Biophysics, 1984-2008

    Over his 14 years as Chair, Dr. Granner both renamed and transformed the classically-organized Department of Physiology into one that used molecular biological and biophysical strategies to define how hormones, neurotransmitters, growth factors and nutrients regulate gene expression and other signaling processes. He may be best known for his highly successful mentoring of many young scientists.  His own research focused on how insulin regulates genes important for glucose metabolism, including phosphoenolpyruvate carboxykinase (PEPCK), glucokinase and hexokinase II.  He also served as Director of the Vanderbilt Diabetes Research and Training Center for 16 years, and was a frequent keynote or invited speaker at international conferences. 

  • Joel G. Hardman, Ph.D.

    Instructor, Assistant, Associate and Full Professor, Physiology / Molecular Physiology and Biophysics, 1964-1975

    The very significant body of work performed by Dr. Hardman has contributed tremendously to our understanding of cyclic nucleotide synthesis and degradation.  In particular much of the fundamental knowledge of guanylate cyclase and cyclic nucleotide phosphodiesterases, which synthesize and degrade cyclic GMP, respectively, is a result of Dr. Hardman’s research.  In addition to his appointment in our department, Dr. Hardman was also Professor and Chairman of the Pharmacology Department from 1975 to 1990 and Associate Vice-Chancellor for Health Affairs at Vanderbilt until his retirement in 1997.

  • Leonard S. "Jim" Jefferson, Ph.D.

    Graduate Student and Postdoctoral Fellow, Physiology / Molecular Physiology and Biophysics, 1961-1967

    Dr. Jefferson’s graduate training with Dr. Charles Park helped prepare him for his impressive career at Penn State.  His research has encompassed multiple aspects of the translational control of protein synthesis in skeletal muscle and liver, including effects of substrate availability to the tissue and the mechanisms by which hormones such as insulin and glucocorticoids regulate gene expression.  Dr. Jefferson has been a Professor of Physiology / Cellular and Molecular Physiology at Penn State since 1975, and Chairman of that Department since 1988.  One of his many honors and activities was serving as President of the American Physiological Society in 1995-1996.

  • Tetsuro Kono, Ph.D.

    Assistant, Associate and Full Professor, Physiology / Molecular Physiology and Biophysics, 1963-1992

    Dr. Kono’s primary research focus was on the control of glucose entry into fat cells by insulin.  He was among the first to report that glucose transporters can be translocated from an intracellular pool to the cell membrane in an insulin-dependent manner is fundamental to the understanding of insulin-regulated glucose transport.  In addition, Dr. Kono identified and extensively characterized the insulin-sensitive cyclic AMP phosphodiesterase enzyme in fat tissue.  Dr. Kono remained active in the laboratory for several years as an Emeritus Professor..

  • Howard E. Morgan, M.D.

    Medical Fellow, Assistant, Associate and Full Professor, Physiology / Molecular Physiology and Biophysics, 1954-1967

    During Dr. Morgan’s tenure at Vanderbilt, he investigated glucose uptake and glycogenolysis in heart muscle.  In particular, his studies of the regulation of phosphorylase b activity provided insights into the control of glycogen breakdown.  Dr. Morgan’s post-Vanderbilt research program at Penn State focused on the regulation of protein turnover in heart muscle.  He was Chairman of  the Department of Physiology at Penn State from 1973 – 1987.  Among his many honors and awards, Dr. Morgan was President of  the American Physiological Society (1985-86) and American Heart Association (1987-88), and was elected to the Institute of Medicine, National Academy of Sciences in 1987.

  • Charles R. "Rollo" Park, M.D.

    Professor and Chairman, Physiology / Molecular Physiology and Biophysics, 1952-1984

    During his more than 3 decades of leadership in the Department of Physiology, Dr. Park’s research efforts with the group of investigators he recruited to Vanderbilt yielded tremendous advancements in the understanding of a variety of metabolic processes.  These include the regulation of glucose entry into cells by insulin, hormonal control of gluconeogenesis and glycolysis, and intracellular actions of hormones acting via cyclic AMP and its protein kinase.  Two of his many honors include the Banting Award of the American Diabetes Association in 1979 and election to the National Academy of Sciences in 1980.

  • Simon J. Pilkis, M.D., Ph.D.

    Assistant, Associate and Full Professor, Physiology / Molecular Physiology and Biophysics, 1972-1986

    The research area pursued by Dr. Pilkis involved hormonal control of hepatic gluconeogenesis and glycolysis via alterations in enzyme activities.  He discovered fructose-2,6-bisphosphate, the key allosteric modulator of phosphofructokinase and fructose-1,6-bisphosphatase, the bifunctional enzyme which synthesizes and degrades this regulator, and identified the gene that encodes this protein.  This led to his extensive study of the hormonally-mediated regulation of the enzymatic activities of the bifunctional enzyme, including studies of its genetic expression.  Dr. Pilkis became Professor and Chairman of Physiology and Biophysics at The State University of New York at Stony Brook in 1986.

  • Robert L. Post, M.D.

    Instructor, Assistant, Associate and Full Professor, Physiology / Molecular Physiology and Biophysics, 1948-1991

    Dr. Post is credited with identifying the sodium and potassium ATPase active transporter of cell membranes, which is responsible for maintaining the proper concentrations of sodium and potassium in cells. Dr. Post pursued highly successful studies on the mechanism of action and energetics of the transporter, the results of which have also been extended to an understanding of many other transport systems.  Among his many honors and awards is the 1983 Cole Award from the Biophysical Society.

  • Earl W. Sutherland, Jr., M.D.

    Professor, Physiology / Molecular Physiology and Biophysics, 1963-1973

    Dr. Sutherland’s discovery of adenyl cyclase and cyclic AMP was a seminal contribution and led to the concept of intracellular second messenger signaling.  His research linking changes in intracellular enzyme activity to hormones such as glucagon and epinephrine provided a foundation for subsequent decades of work in the areas of  hormonal regulation of intracellular metabolism and other processes.  These important contributions resulted in election to the National Academy of Sciences and the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine in 1971 for Dr. Sutherland.