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May 15, 2001

UCSD School of Medicine Faculty
Elected to Prestigious Associations

Three faculty members in the UCSD School of Medicine have been elected to prestigious professional associations.

John B. West, M.D., Ph.D., professor of medicine and physiology, was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, an international society composed of nearly 4,000 of the world's leading scientists, scholars, artists, businesspeople, and public leaders. The Academy cited West’s “important contributions in physiology and medicine during the last 40 years. He studied human respiration at ever-increasing altitudes from sea level to the high Andes, Mount Everest, and, recently, outer space.”

C. Richard Boland, M.D., professor of medicine, was elected to the Association of American Physicians, a 121-year-old professional organization dedicated to the pursuit of medical knowledge and the advancement of basic and clinical science and their application to clinical medicine. Associate director for clinical research at the UCSD Cancer Center, professor of medicine, and chief of the Division of Gastroenterology, Boland is a widely recognized authority on colorectal cancer, with particular focus on familial colon cancer and on the genetic aberrations underlying gastrointestinal cancers.

Gregg J. Silverman, M.D., associate professor of medicine, was elected to the American Society for Clinical Investigation, a prestigious professional society of academic physician-scientists who treat patients, conduct research and teach. Silverman’s research interests focus on understanding the molecular and cellular origins of antibody production and the immune responses to infectious and autoimmune diseases.

(Note: See below for more information on Drs. West, Boland and Silverman.)

John B. West, M.D., Ph.D.

John WestOne of the foremost world authorities on respiratory physiology, West has performed extensive research on pulmonary circulation and gas exchange. He led the team that discovered the effects of gravity on the distribution of pulmonary blood flow. A related interest has been the effects of oxygen deprivation on the body at high altitude. West was a member of Sir Edmund Hillary's Silver Hut expedition to the Himalayas in 1960-1961 when he lived for several months at an altitude of 19,000 feet (5800 meters). In 1981 he led the American Medical Research Expedition to Everest during which the first physiological measurements were made on the summit at 29,028 feet (8848 meters). West's work on the effects of gravity in the lung led him into a study of weightlessness as it affects astronauts in space. Several experiments have been carried out in Spacelab on the Space Shuttle, and the first measurements will be made on the International Space Station later this year.

West has a strong commitment to teaching and his book "Respiratory Physiology - The Essentials" has been translated into 13 languages and is used all over the world. He also has a keen interest in the history of physiology and his book "High Life: A History of High-Altitude Medicine and Physiology" is a standard text. He has spearheaded the development of an archival collection in high-altitude medicine and physiology in the Mandeville Special Collections Library at UCSD. In addition, West is on the editorial boards of several scientific journals, and is the editor-in-chief of the new journal High Altitude Medicine & Biology. He has served on numerous national committees including those of the National Academy of Sciences, National Institutes of Health and NASA. He has published 20 books and almost 400 articles. Among his many honors are an honorary doctoral degree from the University of Barcelona, Spain, foreign membership in the Russian Academy of Sciences, a term as president of the American Physiological Society, and the Ernst Jung prize for medicine.



C. Richard Boland, M.D.

Richard BolandBoland’s recent work has focused on the potential role of the JC Virus (JCV) in colon cancer. JCV is a common human virus; about 75 percent of the population has antibodies to JCV. Boland and colleagues reported in 1999 that 88 percent of colon cancer studied contained JCV and that there are more copies of JCV in colon tumors than in the normal colon by at least 10- to 100-fold. In continuing studies,Boland and his team have discovered that JCV in cancer tissue has a rearranged DNA sequence not seen in JCV in normal tissue. This may explain why the virus is able to live in the intestinal tract and not cause any harm most of the time, but cause serious harm under some circumstances.

Boland is a member of the American Federation for Clinical Research, the American Gastroenterological Association, the American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases, and the American Association for Cancer Research. He is a former associate editor of Gastroenterology and he serves as a reviewer for many journals including The Journal of Biological Chemistry, The Journal of Clinical Investigation, and the Annals of Internal Medicine.


Gregg J. Silverman, M.D.

Gregg SilvermanA rheumatologist and clinical immunologist with an interest in basic immunology, Silverman is intrigued by what he calls an elegantly efficient, but terrible pathogenic bacterium called Staphylococcus aureus Commonly known as “staph” and found on the skin and in the noses of healthy people, this bacteria is a common cause of minor illnesses such as food poisoning as well as life-threatening infections of the bone called osteomyelitis and heart-valve infections called endocarditis. Silverman and his team, in collaboration with crystallographers, recently defined the structure of a toxin made by staph called staphylococcal protein A, and the molecular basis by which it works, noting that it binds to antibodies and B lymphocytes differently than any other protein that’s been described.In animal studies, the Silverman group also found that this toxin destroys lymphocytes that produce antibodies, in effect creating a hole in the host’s immune system, weakening or eliminating defense against invading pathogens. In continuing research, Silverman will study the effects of this staph toxin in human subjects and he is interested in it’s potential in a vaccine to treat autoimmune diseases where the body turns against itself by creating auto-antibodies that injure cells in the body.

Silverman is a member of the Arthritis Foundation’s National Medical and Scientific Advisory Committee, the American Association of Immunologists and the American College of Rheumatology. He has served as a reviewer for several journals including The Journal of Immunology, The Journal of Clinical Investigation, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences,and Circulation. Each November, he directs a course on phage-display and antibody engineering at the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratories. This past year, he also co-authored a major text on the theory and practice of protein engineering methods that use phage-display.


Media Contact: Sue Pondrom

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