December 20, 2012
Jennifer Hasamear
314-977-7306

Pharmacological, Physiological Chair Steps Down After 33 Years

Thomas C. Westfall, Ph.D., who will remain with the department as a faculty member, was honored with the creation of a graduate fellowship in his name.

Thomas Westfall, Ph.D.
Thomas Westfall, Ph.D.

For nearly 50 years, Thomas C. Westfall, Ph.D., has served as a researcher, educator and leader in the field of pharmacology.

"His dedication to graduate training and to medical education were the foundation of his career," said Mark Knuepfer, Ph.D., professor with the Department of Pharmacological and Physiological Science.

"Despite making several important observations in his research and becoming an international expert in the role of catecholamines and neuropeptide Y in vascular function and hypertension, he cherished his graduate program and sent every student from the department with the same exhortation - 'Do great research and make us proud.'"

As chair of the Department of Pharmacological and Physiological Science for more than 33 years, Westfall recently announced that he would be stepping down as chair, effective Wednesday, Jan. 2. Throughout his time at Saint Louis University, he has served as a strong leader and outstanding role model for both faculty and graduate students. He will remain on staff with the department as a faculty member.

For former student T. Vivian Ishimaru-Tseng, M.D., Westfall was the most influential professor throughout her medical career.

"At one point during my medical training, I felt so overwhelmed that I began looking at the option of leaving medical school and not becoming a physician," said Ishimaru-Tseng, who is now the medical director at Hawaii Medical Center East in Honolulu, Hawaii.

"However, Dr. Westfall and his team believed that I could succeed in spite of some of my struggles. We moved forward in faith and not only did I go as far as winning second place in a research contest, I graduated from medical school as scheduled and even had a baby during my third year, making my husband and I the happiest and busiest couple in the class of '92."

Throughout his career, Westfall has also secured more than 28 National Institutes of Health grants, which totaled 103 years of support with more than $12 million in funding. He also authored more than 200 peer-reviewed papers, articles and book chapters.

Much to Westfall's credit, his leadership and dedication to the training of scientists in pharmacology is apparent through the department's accomplishments over the years.

"Tom Westfall developed the department of pharmacology at Saint Louis University to facilitate a cohesive investigation of cardiovascular and neuropharmacology by hiring a team of faculty whose research efforts could synergize," said Allyn Howlett, the first faculty member hired by Westfall in 1979. Howlett remained at Saint Louis University until 1990 when she left to take a chair position.

"He mastered a smooth merger with the department of physiology and brought neuroscience research into the mix, thereby diversifying and, at the same time, strengthening the program for all subsequent graduate students."

Former student Kevin Gamber, Ph.D., a 2005 graduate, found Westfall to be a "terrific mentor."

"He taught me not just about science, but also how to conduct research and think critically about a problem and how to test it," said Gamber, who is now a product manager with Sigma Advanced Genetic Engineering Labs in St. Louis.

"He understood that bringing people together fosters an exchange of ideas and collaborations, synergizes the individual strengths within the department, which drives research forward."

Last spring, more than 60 former graduate students and faculty from the department came together at the Dr. Thomas C. Westfall Graduate Symposium. During the event, the creation of the Thomas C. Westfall Graduate Student Fellowship was announced to honor his years of service with the University and the department.

The fellowship was created to assist students in their future research endeavors. It is expected to further Westfall's mission of training scientists to elucidate the causes of human diseases using physiological and pharmacological techniques.

To give to the Thomas C. Westfall Graduate Student Fellowship, go online to giving.slu.edu/med.

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