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January 28, 2011

Gary Owens, Ph.D., Named Director of the Robert M. Berne Cardiovascular Research Center

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Sharon L. Hostler, M.D., Interim Vice President and Dean of the University of Virginia School of Medicine, announced the appointment of Gary K. Owens, PhD., as Director of the Robert M. Berne Cardiovascular Research Center.

An internationally recognized leader in studies of the role of phenotypic switching of vascular smooth muscle cells in cardiovascular disease, Owens previously served as Professor of Molecular Physiology and Biological Physics at the University of Virginia as well as Associate Dean for the Graduate and Medical Scientist Programs and Director of the M.D./Ph.D. (National Institutes of Health Medical Scientist Training) Program. He received his Ph.D. in Physiology from Pennsylvania State University. He completed a fellowship in Pathology from the University of Washington and joined the UVa faculty in 1982.

“Dr. Owens’s leadership abilities, along with his passion for science, collaboration and education are true assets for the Center,” said Dr. Hostler. “He has been charged with continuing the strong work already being done within the Center and developing a CVRC Strategic Plan which further promotes translational and clinical research and catalyzes collaboration among our basic researchers, clinicians, and clinician-scientists.”

Owens has a broad range of expertise in molecular-genetic studies of cardiovascular disease. A pioneer in the filed, he has discovered numerous molecular and genetic mechanisms that control differentiation of vascular smooth muscle cells in development and disease. He has authored two major Physiological Reviews in this area, including one in 1995 that is ranked in the top 10 cited Physiological Reviews of all time. He has mentored more than 35 pre-doctoral and post-doctoral students, many of whom now hold prestigious positions in academia and industry.

“Dr. Owens is a truly distinguished scholar, scientist, and teacher and I and many of my colleagues are excited about collaborating with him in the coming years,” noted Mark Yeager, M.D., Ph.D., chair of the Department of Molecular Physiology and Biological Physics at the University of Virginia. “He is an exemplary translational scientist and is proof that it is not necessary to have a medical degree to pursue bench-to-bedside research.”

Owens is the past chair of the NIH National Heart Lung and Blood Program Project Parent Review Committee, and the NIH Cell Biology Study Section. He is also the past President of the North American Vascular Biology Organization, and was Chair of the 2003 Vascular Biology Gordon conference, and co-Chair of the 2006 Asilomar Vascular Biology Conference. He currently serves as Chairperson of the NIH National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute Board of Scientific Councils, which is responsible for reviewing all intramural research programs for the Institute Director.

“I am excited about this opportunity to lead the Robert M. Berne Cardiovascular Research Center and I look forward to working with our scientists and physicians to foster new collaborative efforts,” said Owens.

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