UW Today

This is an archived article.

October 17, 2000

Two University of Washington School of Medicine leaders are among the newly elected members of the Institute of Medicine

UW Health Sciences/UW Medicine

Dr. William A. Catterall, professor and chair of the University of Washington (UW) medical school?s Department of Pharmacology and Dr. Paul G. Ramsey, vice president for medical affairs and dean of the UW School of Medicine, are among the 60 new members elected to the Institute of Medicine. The announcement was made Oct. 16 in Washington, D.C.

The Institute of Medicine was chartered in 1970 as a component of the National Academy of Sciences to enlist distinguished leaders from a variety of fields in examining policy matters pertaining to the health of the public.

Institute of Medicine projects under way include studies on the development of new technologies for detecting breast cancer, the safety and efficacy of the anthrax vaccine used by the U.S. military, and the creation of a medical system to support long-duration space travel. Reports from the Institute this year included studies of medical errors, the resurgence of tuberculosis, the effects of competition and cost on health care access for the poor or uninsured, and recommended dietary intakes of antioxidants.

Catterall joined the UW faculty in 1977 and has served as chair of the UW Department of Pharmacology since 1984. He leads a department involved in research on the interactions of living cells and organisms with the molecules they may encounter, including drugs, environmental chemicals, hormones and other physiological regulators. The department specializes in the study of molecular signaling mechanisms that control cell function.

Catterall is also a national leader in promoting neuroscience research to foster new knowledge about the brain and the nervous system. At the UW, he heads an interdisciplinary committee that guides undergraduate and graduate educational programs in neurobiology.

He is a world-renowned scientist whose research deals with the electrical signaling mechanisms of nerve and muscle cells. He discovered the cell membrane protein molecules, called ion channels, that generate electrical signals in nerve and muscle cells. He studies how the electrical signals from these molecules are regulated by drugs and by chemical messengers such as hormones and neurotransmitters, which carry signals from cell to cell in the brain and heart.

Regulation of ion channels is responsible for critical aspects of learning, memory, mood and physiological control. Catterall?s work is leading to better understanding of, and improved treatments for, pain, epilepsy and heart rhythm disorders.

Catterall is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and chair of its Section of Physiology and Pharmacology. He has received several awards for his research, including the Passano Award and the American Heart Association?s Basic Science Prize.

Ramsey has served as UW vice president for medical affairs and dean of the School of Medicine since 1997. For seven years previously he chaired the Department of Medicine, the medical school?s largest department. As vice president for medical affairs, Ramsey provides leadership for the entire UW Academic Medical Center, an entity that includes one of the nation?s top medical schools and an extensive regional program of medical education, clinical care and research activities. He has overall responsibility for UW Medical Center and Harborview Medical Center and their associated clinics, and oversight responsibility for the planning and delivery of medical services by UW Physicians.

Ramsey, a professor of medicine, is a general internist with a special interest in infectious diseases. He is a nationally regarded expert on methods to assess physicians? clinical performance. Last year the National Board of Medical Examiners presented him with the Hubbard Award to honor him for pioneering evaluation methods to assure that America has a high-quality physician workforce.

As dean of the medical school, Ramsey has initiated a comprehensive review of the curriculum leading to the M.D. degree. Teams of faculty, medical students and practicing physicians have come to a consensus on the changes that can be expected in medicine over the next several decades. The medical school is now taking steps to ascertain that medical students are prepared to meet these future challenges.

Ramsey has also provided leadership in moving research advances in cutting-edge areas of biomedical science closer to new treatments. One example is the recent opening of a Gene and Cell Therapy Core Laboratory at UW Medical Center. He has also provided UW leadership in formation of the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance with Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and Children?s Hospital and Regional Medical Center. One goal of the Alliance is to speed the transmittal of cancer care protocols to regional providers.

Catterall and Ramsey join 37 other UW faculty members previously elected to the Institute of Medicine.