Archive for: April, 2012

#EB2012: Physiology in Perspective

Apr 21 2012 Published by under EB2012 Meeting

Dr. L. Gabriel Navar will deliver The Physiology in Perspective: The Walter B. Cannon Award Lectureship of the American Physiological Society (APS) on Saturday, April 21, at 5:45 pm in Ballroom 20A of the San Diego Convention Center.  If you tweet about the lecture, please use #Navar as your hashtag.

Cannon and the Lectureship

The Physiology in Perspective: The Walter B. Cannon Award Lectureship is awarded to an outstanding physiological scientist, domestic or foreign, who is an APS member. The recipient is selected by the President-Elect in recognition of his/her original and outstanding accomplishments in the field of physiology.  The recipient presents a lecture on "Physiology in Perspective" during the plenary session of the Experimental Biology meeting, addressing Cannon's concepts of "The Wisdom of the Body." The lecture is considered for publication in the Society journal of the recipient’s choosing.

Gabriel Navar

Dr. Navar

Dr. Navar completed his undergraduate studies at Texas A&M University and earned the PhD degree in 1966 from the University of Mississippi under the tutelage of Dr. Author C. Guyton. He then accepted an Instructor position at Mississippi, quickly rising through the ranks to the level of Associate Professor by 1971. He spent a year as a Visiting Scientist at Duke University, where he learned micropuncture under the guidance of Drs. Ike Robinson and Jim Clapp. In 1974, he accepted a position as Associate Professor (and was soon promoted to Professor) at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, where he was affiliated with both the Nephrology Research and Training Center and the Department of Physiology and Biophysics. He moved to Tulane University School of Medicine in 1988, where he is Professor and Chairman of the Department of Physiology.

Fueled by his PhD research on renal autoregulation, Dr. Navar’s long-term research efforts have significantly advanced our understanding of pressure-natriuresis, regulation of glomerular filtration dynamics in the dog, arterial pressure regulation, autoregulatory mechanisms, the tubuloglomerular feedback response, angiotensin II influences on renal hemodynamic and excretory function, and mechanisms of angiotensin II-dependent hypertension. He has published 180 peer-reviewed manuscripts and 123 book chapters and review articles. Dr. Navar has garnered numerous awards in recognition of his research accomplishments, including the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Consortium for Southeastern Hypertension Control, the American Society of Hypertension’s Richard Bright Award, and the Arthur C. Corcoran Award from the American Heart Association. In 1997, he was the Carl W. Gottschalk Distinguished Lecturer of the APS Renal Section, and he won the Berliner Award of the same section in 2007.

Dr. Navar’s research efforts have been inexorably linked to training young scientists. He excels in teaching at the advanced graduate student and postdoctoral levels, helping these individuals with complex concepts of renal physiology, as well as the design, execution, and interpretation of experimental studies. Indeed, Dr. Navar’s mentorship has contributed to the success of numerous individuals who have been named Established Investigators of the American Heart Association, who have had long-term National Institutes of Health grant support, and who are now producing another generation of students and fellows pursuing research in the field of renal physiology. In recognition of his mentoring efforts, he was named the 2005 recipient of the Bodil M. Schmidt-Nielsen Distinguished Mentor and Scientist Award of the APS.

In addition to his research and mentorship accomplishments, Dr. Navar is a tireless servant to the scientific community, having held leadership positions in the American Heart Association Council for High Blood Pressure Research, the American Society of Hypertension, the Association of Chairs of the Departments of Physiology, and others. His service and dedication to the APS include his election to the APS Council (1991–1994), his service as President of the Society (1998 –1999), and his most recent position as chair of the Long Range Planning Committee.

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#EB2012: I Can Haz Hashtags Pleez?

Apr 18 2012 Published by under EB2012 Meeting

A few posts back I came up with hashtags for some events at Experimental Biology that I hope to immortalize, perhaps via Storify. The latter is a service that lets one collect tweets, Facebook updates, and other posts around and about the internet into a single story. Using unified hashtags to identify tweets and other links will help me find your input to include.

Here are the tags I suggested so far:

  • #apsACE         Animal Research: A Toolkit for Investigators (Sat, Apr 21, 1pm, 25B)
  • #apsComm    Using Social Media to Communicate About Physiology and You (Sat, Apr 21, 3pm, 25C)
  • #Navar              Physiology in Perspective: The Walter B. Cannon Memorial Award Lecture (Sat, Apr 21, 5:45pm, Ballroom 20A)
  • #apsParty       APS Beach Party (Sat, Apr 21, 7pm, North Embarcadero)

All of these sessions occur on day 1 of the big meeting. Of course, there are four more days of fun and science that follow this one, and I cannot attend everything. I do not plan to designate hashtags for every session either (wouldn't it be cool if that were included in the meeting program, so we would all be on the same page?). That's where the rest of you Whizbangers come in. In the comments, let me know sessions that look yummy to you and suggest a hashtag. Then tweet the session and encourage others to do the same. That way everyone can follow along.

Who knows? I may even end up Storifying something you suggest! Imagine, being immortalized here on the internet!

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That Time of Year Again: "Equal" Pay Day

Apr 17 2012 Published by under [Education&Careers]

April 17, 2012, is the date when women will earn what men took home in 2011. Yes, it will take the average women almost four extra months to earn what men get in twelve.

When I grew up in the 1970's I spent no time worrying about this problem. After all, I was a woman going to medical school, then a male-dominated profession. If more women chose the MD instead of the RN we would catch up with those pesky d00ds. The answer lay in education, getting me and my "sisters" to pursue higher-paying fields.

Now women make up nearly half of new doctors, yet even we suffer a pay gap. Even in academia we make less, even in pediatrics, a specialty with lots of women physicians. I wrote in detail about a study that came out in January in Academic Medicine in which the Department of Pediatrics at University of Colorado performed a gender equity study. They found many gaps in the treatment of their female faculty, but the salary differences were impressive (figure below right).

Click to enlarge; data from Acad Med 87:98, 2012

All salaries were standardized to 1.0 FTE and compared to national means for rank, years in rank, and subspecialty. The average male faculty member received 105% of the median, while the average female received only 98%. Looked at another way, 51% of men had salaries at or above the median (black line in red bar in right column of figure), about what one would expect with a "normal" salary distribution. Only 28% of women earned in this range (black line in left column of figure). Remember, these data have been adjusted for part-time work, rank, years in rank, and subspecialty. The authors concluded that the department did not treat women and men equally, and salary corrections were implemented immediately.

These women got a break. First, this salary gap averaged $12,000, a gap they would "make up" with only 1-2 more months of work. They also worked in a department that did the study and made corrections. Women in lower-paying fields may take much longer to catch up to their male counterparts, and many of them have no idea how underpaid they are. If they cannot document the gap, then they cannot use the law to address it.

Pay equity is unfair. Pay equity is wrong. Find out where the candidates stand on fair pay laws. Then use your vote. Together, we can change the country.

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More Wardrobe Advice

Apr 16 2012 Published by under Fashion (or not)

As I browse the long-term San Diego forecast, I see the possibility of a bit of rain. Yes, I always keep a tiny umbrella in my bag, but sometimes you need a bit more. If it can be stashed in my day bag, even better! Of course, I also want to look good, even in the rain.

I really like RainRaps:

I will be sporting the navy/turquoise one for now (others may be in my future). I love how much lighter it feels than my trench coat, especially for spring and summer showers in the warmer climate I now inhabit.

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Packing for #EB2012

Apr 13 2012 Published by under Fashion (or not), Travel

Many of us will travel to San Diego in a week for Experimental Biology. You have spent time registering, picking a hotel, making travel arrangements, and considering sessions. Now it is time to consider your packing.

San Diego makes it easier; most of the year the temperature runs about 70 and the sun usually shines. Could we get rain? Sure, but really bad weather is not a strong possibility. You should have a fold-able pocket umbrella in your suitcase anyway. Check the weather forecast right before you finish packing; they don't get particularly predictive until the 5-day time-frame.

Conference travel involves at least 3 types of activities. These include travel, attendance, and presentation. With a bit of planning, you can get appropriate apparel for a 5-day trip into a case that fits in the overhead compartment of an airplane. What do you sacrifice? Shoes. If you need more than 2 pair (one to wear on the plane and one to ride in the case) it's unlikely that you will get by with just the roll-aboard.

On travel days, comfort may be the primary consideration; however, you should also consider what happens if checked luggage does not immediately make it to your final destination. Having a clean set of underwear and all personal necessities available can make that delay tolerable. Also consider wearing something you could wear to a session; nice jeans with a shirt and jacket can work for almost any meeting session and can be just as comfortable as sweats. OK, not sweats, but you know what I mean. Also, wearing a jacket avoids taking up valuable suitcase room. Nice slip-on shoes also work well. You want something that won't slow you down too much when you hurry for a connection, but not something so complicated it will take you half-an-hour to redress in security. The people behind you in line will be more of a threat if you wear above-the-knee lace-up boots (trust me, I have seen this happen) than any terrorist.

The rest of the meeting you have two things to avoid: looking sloppy or slutty. You are meeting potential colleagues and reviewers; if I receive your next manuscript, do you really want me to remember the girl with the dragon tattoo or your unusual navel piercing? When you present, a suit-like ensemble is ideal, especially if you are young or female. Like it or not, dressing professionally will make you seem more authoritative. Pissed that people may judge you by your clothing? It happens whether you like it or not.

Finally, remember all the chargers for your gizmos and never let anyone check your presentation. Posters should only enter the luggage compartment if pried from your cold, dead fingers.

This advice has been compiled into a brief slideshow below. Enjoy, and may you and your luggage always arrive together. See you in San Diego!


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Inspiration From #TEDMED

Apr 12 2012 Published by under [Medicine&Pharma]

Yesterday I got to hear a TEDMED talk by Thomas Frieden, Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. One theme that hit home with me:

If you do not track and measure something over time, you will never know if you succeed, no matter how hard you work.

This is exactly why I started the Academic Women for Equality NOW website. Click over there and read my thoughts about this wonderful talk.

I promise I will link to the video when it goes up online.

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If I Ran the World: Part 1

Apr 11 2012 Published by under Travel

I travel the skies a fair amount, enough to get me 30+ "segments" each year for the lowest elite status on United. Recent flights have pointed out an issue that seems "fixable" on some level.

Living in Oklahoma City, the first leg of every trip is from Will Rogers World Airport (yup, named after a guy who died in a plan crash) to a hub. From the hub airport, after 1+ hours, I then board a plane to where-I-really-want-to-go. When booking each trip, I have to make a bet, a game I call hub roulette. In December or January, Houston generally has better odds than O'Hare or Denver. In the spring, you never know which way to go. On vacation in March, I bet on Houston, and we damn near spent the night there because of thunderstorms in Texas that grounded our flight from OKC for 3 hours (but not the one we connected to in Texas which flew in from Seattle and got to take off on time). Had I chosen a Chicago connection we would have been better off, but you cannot know that 2 or 3 months in advance.

What I really want to do is tell the airlines that I want to travel from my home to a final destination on a given date and have them get me there. I can specify a time frame for departure or arrival and then let them pick the actual route the day before! I don't care if I'm spending a couple of hours in Houston or Chicago; I'm only there because they make me!

Now, there are no complete guarantees. The plane I need to get on may be coming from a location with bad weather or other issues. But I hate rolling the dice on which hub city will have clear weather on a given date months down the line.

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Meeting & Greeting

Apr 09 2012 Published by under [Education&Careers]

An interesting post at Science News addresses the costs of conferences. All sorts of issues arise, including shrinking travel budgets, environmental costs of all that air travel, preliminary work that becomes "permanent", and even the number of trees used to generate program books. Having been in the biomedical science biz for 20+ years now, I have survived several waves of "let's quit meeting and just do this online." Conferences will never go away for one reason: we like them.

Bumping into new contacts in the Exhibit Hall

Oh, I hear people complaining about taking time away from their work and family. We all gripe about time spent in airports. Yet we all keep submitting and accepting and going because nothing replaces face-to-face interactions for us human beings.

There is value in meeting potential colleagues and reviewers. Some of the best ideas and collaborations get built around informal conversations when you toss a group of people with something in common together. Big keynote addresses could just as easily be done via the net, but those do not keep me on the road. No, it's the chance to meet new people who will help me think about things in a new way. I always consider a meeting successful if I get one new idea to explore.

Last month my department had a panel discussion about working a meeting, directed at our trainees and junior faculty. Those of us on the panel all agreed that networking (there's that word again) was why we paid for attendance. You never know who may be important in reviewing your work or getting you hired sometime down the line. Even if you really only connect with other trainees, you will learn more stuff about what other programs are like (you may be in nirvana and not know it). You may meet someone who will be hiring when you are ready for a second job. You may meet someone who will be reviewing you on their first study-section assignment. You will learn something from everyone you meet. Think of it as being mentored by a hive of "E-Bees".

There are some tips we gave our n00bs to make their networking easier. First, get a professional non-university email. You do not want all your job offers and conversations going through your university accounts. You also do not want to use an address that is too personal; "" or "" will not impress potential colleagues. If it does, you probably do not want that job. Figure out some permutation of your name and/or science and get that gmail account set up now. As someone who recently changed jobs, it was wonderful to have a "permanent" email to use as my university account went dead.

Next we suggested business cards. Even in the age of the electronic frontier, the humble piece of dead tree remains the most accepted method of exchanging contact information. You're a trainee and they don't make cards for you? Do it yourself! Anyone with a computer and printer can buy a pack at the office store and have reasonable cards in less than an hour. Yes, some people will exchange cards and then throw yours out in the airport. Some new acquaintances will put you in their contacts. That's the way it works. You will do the same.

Finally, consider starting an online presence. If you aren't up to a full-fledged website, at least start on LinkedIn (this link takes you to my public profile as an example). The networking site for professionals essentially puts your resume into your profile. Upload a nice photo of your face, and you're in business. Eventually, you will make connections on the site. Some of us even get the odd job offer via LinkedIn (wrong place, wrong time, but otherwise something I would have jumped at). It will not yet replace emailing your CV, but it does give you an online presence that should not provide any embarrassing personal details. Eventually you will find useful information here via interest groups and discussions.

Finally, remember that the real meeting takes place away from the microphone. Casual discussions in hallways and restaurants and bars are more important than plenary sessions (unless you are on the platform, and even then...).

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Countdown to EB: 14 Days

Apr 06 2012 Published by under [Education&Careers]

Two weeks from today I board a plane and fly to San Diego for Experimental Biology. As one of the official bloggers for the American Physiological Society I find myself doing more prep work than any other year. The Online Itinerary Builder is now live, allowing attendees to search the program by track, presenter, society, keywords...or any combination of the above.

I have identified a few sessions, and some suggestions have been made by you, my loyal readers.

I will not be "live" blogging. I attempted that a couple of times, and I just do not have that skill set. Watch my twitter feed in the right column (or follow me on twitter; you really should, you know) for real-time updates on what I am attending. Some sessions will get full coverage a bit later; others may not.

Some sessions will be covered with twitter feeds via Storify. This web-based service will let me collect tweets, facebook updates, photos, videos, and other thoughts on various sessions to tell a more completes version. The first session I will use for this technique is on Saturday, April 21, at 3 pm in Room 25C of the San Diego Convention Center. The APS Communications Committee has convened a discussion about the use of social media to communicate about physiology. James Hicks will chair the symposium, while the panel is staffed by Dr. Isis, Jason Goldman, Danielle Lee, and yours truly. Since I am on the platform participating, I will look to the audience for thoughts and impressions.

So how can I track down your thoughts and impressions? Hashtags. On twitter, thoughts can be mapped to topics via #keyword. We can use those same hashtag/keywords on other platforms to mark relevant content. Here are the ones I will be following for Saturday events:

  • #apsACE          Animal Research: A Toolkit for Investigators (Sat, Apr 21, 1pm, 25B)
  • #apsComm    Using Social Media to Communicate About Physiology and You (Sat, Apr 21, 3pm, 25C)
  • #Navar              Physiology in Perspective: The Walter B. Cannon Memorial Award Lecture (Sat, Apr 21, 5:45pm, Ballroom 20A)
  • #apsParty       APS Beach Party (Sat, Apr 21, 7pm, North Embarcadero)

Since I cannot be everywhere at once, some sessions will not get my blog treatment. If anyone wants to see a session immortalized online, just let me know what hashtag you and your colleagues are using; I will be glad to assemble coverage here!

For photos and video, you can also add your stuff to a Flickr group (

Don't be shy; consider this your scientific outreach!

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Poison by Any Other Name

Apr 05 2012 Published by under [Medicine&Pharma]

Evil chemicals! Click for source

What image springs to mind when you see the word...


If you smoke, you may have a warm, fuzzy feeling, but for a lot of us, poison comes to mind. Nicotine makes tobacco products addictive, so it cannot be good. See the diagram at right; it's used as an insecticide! It kills bugs! It must be bad!

Of course, nicotine is merely a chemical. But chemicals are bad, right? Even a natural one that comes from a plant (like tobacco)? Even one with a short, pronounceable name?

So nicotine is bad...except when it isn't.

Renoprotective effects of long-term oral nicotine in a rat model of spontaneous proteinuria.
Agarwal et al. Am J Physiol Renal Physiol 302:F895, 2012
DOI:  10.1152/ajprenal.00507.2011

Nicotine has demonstrated beneficial effects in a number of inflammatory disorders, including inflammatory bowel disease, sepsis, and hypersensitivity pneumonitis. In animal models of ischemia-reperfusion kidney injury results are more variable, depending on the model and route of nicotine administration. It seems that macrophages (immune white blood cells) and capillaries in the kidney have alpha-7 nicotinic acetylcholine receptors which modulate these anti-inflammatory effects.

This study used a rat model of spontaneous proteinuria, Munich-Wistar-Fromter rats. As these rats age, they develop proteinuria. As protein is reabsorbed by the peritubular capillaries in the kidney, filtered agents such as cytokines and growth factors can promote inflammation and further kidney damage. At the time proteinuria begins in this model (24 weeks, a middle-aged rat), animals were begun on one of three doses of nicotine in drinking water along with an untreated control group. Saccharine in the water in all groups masked the taste of nicotine (yes, the control rats were drinking diet soda, circa 1970). Every 4 weeks they measured blood pressure, glomerular filtration rate, and proteinuria. They examined kidney structure in a number of ways after 28 weeks of study, when the rats reached one year of age.

Kidney function (upper panel) & proteinuria (lower panel)

The control rats showed the typical course for the MWF model, with glomerular filtration rates less than half of baseline after 28 weeks of study (see figure at left). This effect on clearance of waste products was blunted by nicotine ingestion. Protein excretion increased in all groups of rats, but, once again, nicotine treatment reduced the level of protein spill.

Nicotine treatment also reduced scarring in the glomeruli, the filtering units of the kidneys. Macrophages, those pesky blood cells that promote inflammation and scarring, were also reduced by nicotine treatment. Production of scar materials by the kidney was also reduced with the nicotine treatment.

So proteinuric patients should smoke? Or at least wear those patches?

Not exactly.

Smoking is a major risk factor for the development and progression of all sorts of kidney diseases. We ABSOLUTELY DO NOT WANT ANYONE SMOKING EVER FOR ANY REASON!

Like most molecules, nicotine has many faces. In this case, we examined its perky, anti-inflammatory side. Nicotine also has other effects that may not be desirable. Short-term ingestion raises blood pressure and heart rate via stimulation of the adrenergic system; these effects were not detected with long-term ingestion in this rat model. Nicotine also affects a number of systems that modulate blood flow (and can therefore affect function) of the kidney. Changes in these systems were not assessed in the present study.

Also, prior studies show that what happens in rats does not necessarily happen in mice when it comes to nicotine. Why? We really do not know. Do these species metabolize nicotine differently? Or is there some other reason for these differences? When it comes to nicotine, are people more like rats or mice or neither?

Nicotine has another danger: addiction. Can we come up with a modified nicotine (with a longer, scarier, more chemically name) that would provide anti-inflammatory effects without producing undesirable vascular or behavioral effects? Anything is possible, but this molecule is still in the future.

The bottom line: nicotine from a natural, plant-based source like tobacco can be a killer. Pure nicotine from the lab may be a healer. Only time and more experiments will tell.

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