Gerald F. Gebhart 2014 Distinguished Alumni Award Recipient
Thursday, June 05, 2014
Jerry Gebhart is the founding director of the Pittsburgh
Center for Pain Research and professor of anesthesiology, medicine,
neurobiology, and pharmacology and chemical biology at the University of
Pittsburgh. He is internationally recognized for his research on mechanisms and
modulation of pain, principally visceral pain arising from the internal organs.
He is a leading authority in his field, contributing to more than 400
publications and earning him numerous awards and distinctions. Gebhart’s
multidisciplinary approach to conducting research has also allowed him to serve
as a mentor to countless medical and graduate students, postdoctoral scholars,
and colleagues. Jerry was the department
chair in Pharmacology at the University of Iowa from 1996 to 2006.
During his senior year at the University of Illinois College
of Pharmacy, Gerald Gebhart took an interest in pharmacology and neuroscience while
working in a medicinal chemistry laboratory.
“The opportunity to be involved in research and the topic of
pharmacology—particularly drugs acting in the central nervous system—helped
define my post-pharmacy school objective,” remembers Gebhart.
During his time as a professor in the University of Iowa
Department of Pharmacology, a student approached Gebhart with an interest in
conducting thesis research in his laboratory. The student hoped to develop a
research problem focusing on visceral pain.
“As we looked into research problems and approaches, it
became obvious that visceral pain mechanisms were understudied, despite the
fact that visceral pain problems are common,” says Gebhart.
Gebhart credits the support from his UI colleagues and the
dedication of his graduate students for the development and recognition of his
“Jerry’s success as a scientist is matched only by his
success as a mentor,” says Mario Ascoli, PhD, UI professor of pharmacology.
Gebhart served as director of graduate studies, principal
investigator of the Pharmacological Sciences Training Grant, and head of the UI
Department of Pharmacology while mentoring many trainees. His collaborative
approach also produced impressive results in Pittsburgh.
“Jerry is masterful in his ability to bring together
multidisciplinary teams to conduct cutting-edge research. During his tenure,
the Center for Pain Research has grown to involve nearly 70 associated faculty,
postdoctoral, fellows, and other trainees,” says Arthur Levine, MD, senior vice
chancellor for the health sciences and dean of the University of Pittsburgh
School of Medicine.
Gebhart’s impact also extended to his time as the president
of the American Pain Society, editor-in-chief of The Journal of Pain, and president of the International Association
for the Study of Pain.
“Indeed, without his development and characterization of a
model for visceral pain, serious investigation in this area would be far more
difficult,” says Levine. “The value of these investigations becomes
particularly clear when we consider that 25 percent of American adults suffer
from chronic pain.”
As both a research and an educator, Gebhart has
significantly influenced the way we learn about and treat visceral pain around
“Jerry is an exceptionally successful and highly respected
scientist with an impeccable national and international reputation,” says
Ascoli. “The University of Iowa became known as a mecca for pain research
because of Jerry.”