NEW YORK, Dec. 5 /PRNewswire/ -- Gerald D. Fischbach, M.D., Director of
the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke at the National
Institutes of Health (NIH), has been named Columbia University's Vice
President for Health and Biomedical Sciences, Dean of the Faculty of Health
Sciences and Dean of the Faculty of Medicine, Columbia President George Rupp
announced today (Tuesday, December 5, 2000). Dr. Fischbach will also be the
Harold and Margaret Hatch Professor of the University in the Faculties of
Health Sciences and of Medicine.
A pioneering researcher, Dr. Fischbach was the Nathan Marsh Pusey
Professor of Neurobiology and Chairman of the Neurobiology Departments at both
the Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital before assuming
his current position at NIH in 1998.
At Columbia he will head a division that includes four health science
professional schools with 27 academic departments, 3,000 students and 2,300
full-time faculty; a biotechnology park; some 40 biomedical research and
treatment centers; and physician practice affiliations with two dozen
hospitals. The Health Sciences Division has an annual operating budget of
$815 million and has $230 million in sponsored research grants.
Dr. Fischbach replaces Herbert Pardes, M.D., who left Columbia in December
1999 to become Vice Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer of New
York Presbyterian Hospital.
"Gerry Fischbach is a highly respected researcher and a far-sighted leader
who has had a distinguished career at NIH and the Harvard and Washington
University medical schools. He is superbly qualified to meet the challenges
and opportunities of leading a world-class health and biomedical sciences
center," said President Rupp. "Columbia has made dramatic progress in
biomedical education and research, and in the clinical practice of our
physicians, both in our hospital-based and clinical programs. I am delighted
that Gerry Fischbach has agreed to lead our continuing aggressive initiatives
in the health and biomedical sciences."
Jonathan R. Cole, Columbia's Provost and Dean of Faculties, co-chaired the
search with Dr. Timothy Pedley, the Chair and Henry and Lucy Moses Professor
of Neurology. Cole said of Dr. Fischbach: "A man of exceptional scientific
achievement, intelligence, energy, determination, strategic vision about the
future of biomedical sciences and its links to clinical medicine, Gerald
Fischbach is the ideal choice for Vice President of the Health Sciences and
Dean of the Faculty of Medicine. Building upon Herb Pardes' successes, I
fully expect that Gerry Fischbach will demonstrate the leadership necessary
for Columbia to take full advantage of the biological revolutions that have
begun. He will help us become an even more distinguished university.
"When we began this search, many people inside and outside of Columbia
said to me: 'Try to get someone like Gerald Fischbach. He would be terrific.'
I asked, 'Why not get Gerry himself?' And we are fortunate to have succeeded
in that effort. We all welcome him to Columbia."
Dr. Fischbach said of his appointment, "This is an extraordinary time in
biomedical and health sciences. Advances at all levels of analysis, ranging
from molecules to behavior, have begun to revolutionize the practice of
medicine. Investigators throughout Columbia University have contributed
enormously to this revolution. It is privilege to join this distinguished
faculty and help shape its course in the coming years."
Dr. Fischbach received his M.D. degree in 1965 from Cornell University
Medical School and interned at the University of Washington Hospital. He
began his research career at the National Institutes of Health, serving from
1966 -- 1973. He subsequently served on the faculty of Harvard Medical
School, first as Associate Professor of Pharmacology from 1973 -- 1978 and
then as Professor until 1981. From 1981 -- 1990, Dr. Fischbach was the Edison
Professor of Neurobiology and Head of the Department of Anatomy and
Neurobiology at Washington University School of Medicine.
In 1990, he returned to Harvard Medical School where he was the Nathan
Marsh Pusey Professor of Neurobiology and Chairman of the Neurobiology
Departments of Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital until
Dr. Fischbach is a past-President of the Society for Neuroscience and he
now serves on several medical and scientific advisory boards. He is a member
of the National Academy of Sciences, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences
and the Institute of Medicine, and he is a fellow of the American Association
for the Advancement of Science and a non-resident Fellow of the Salk
Throughout his career, Dr. Fischbach has studied the formation and
maintenance of synapses, the junctions between nerve cells and their targets
through which information is transferred. He has been particularly interested
in the neuromuscular junction, a synapse that is easily accessible to
experimental manipulation. He pioneered the use of cultured neurons and
muscle cells to characterize the biochemical, cellular, and
electrophysiological mechanisms underlying development and function of the
Beginning in the 1970's, Dr. Fischbach embarked on a search for molecules
released by motor neurons that regulate the number of acetylcholine receptors
on muscle cells. This work culminated in 1993 with the purification and
cloning of a protein called ARIA (for acetylcholine receptor-inducing
activity) that stimulates synthesis of acetylcholine receptors by skeletal
muscle cells. This molecule is now known to be a member of a family of
trophic factors called neuregulins that are thought to be involved in a
variety of important developmental processes in the nervous system. Because
ARIA and other neuregulins act by binding to tyrosine kinase receptors on
target cells, Dr. Fischbach's work was key in demonstrating that synaptic
development relies upon biochemical mechanisms that are broadly similar to
those that underlie the action of nerve growth factor and other well known
trophic molecules. His current focus is on trophic factors that influence
synaptic efficacy and nerve cell survival.
Dr. Fischbach's wife, Ruth, has been appointed Professor of Bioethics in
Psychiatry at Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center.
Dr. Ruth L. Fischbach served as Senior Advisor for Biomedical Ethics in
the Office of Extramural Research at NIH. She also was a member of many NIH
and inter-agency committees concerned with safeguarding the rights and
protecting the welfare of participants in research. Prior to joining NIH, she
as a bioethicist/medical sociologist at the Harvard Medical School, where she
was assistant professor in the Department of Social Medicine with joint
appointments in the Division of Medical Ethics and the Division on Aging.
Her research efforts have focused on projects involving decisions around
the end of life, autonomy of the elderly, communication between patients and
health care professionals, pain assessment and management, and the experiences
of research subjects particularly as they relate to informed consent. Her
current work focuses on research ethics.
She received a B.S. from Cornell, an M.S. and a Ph.D. from Boston
University, and an M.P.E. from Washington University.
The Fischbach's have four children.
Dr. Fischbach's colleagues and former colleagues at NIH lauded his
Dr. Harold Varmus, President and CEO of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer
Center and former Director of the NIH, said, "At the NIH, Gerry Fischbach's
keen intelligence and insight helped shape national policy on issues of great
research and societal sensitivity. Columbia University is fortunate to have
attracted someone of Gerry's stature to lead its biomedical area."
Dr. Richard Klausner, Director of the National Cancer Institute, said
"Gerry has been a marvelous head of the neurology institute. He has brought a
level and a set of expectations for both integrity and expertise that will
leave their mark. He will be missed here, and I believe that he will be an
outstanding head of Columbia's Health Sciences Division. I look forward to
watching the great things he will do in New York."
Columbia's Health Sciences Division encompasses the College of Physicians
and Surgeons, the Joseph L. Mailman School of Public Health, the School of
Dental and Oral Surgery, and the School of Nursing. It also includes the
Audubon Biomedical Science and Technology Park, New York City's only
university-related research park, which houses the only biotechnology business
incubator in the city.
The Health Sciences Division has more than 40 research and treatment
centers including the Center for Neurobiology and Behavior, the Center for
Women's Health, Columbia Genome Center, the Institute of Comparative Medicine,
the Herbert Irving Comprehensive Cancer, and the Naomi Berrie Diabetes Center.
It also has affiliations with two dozen hospitals including New York
Presbyterian Hospital, Harlem Hospital and St. Luke's-Roosevelt Hospital
SOURCE National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Storke at the