Gerald F. Gebhart 2014 Distinguished Alumni Award Recipient

Gebhart, Jerry - 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 research program.

“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 the world.

“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.”