Robert McCuskey

CV | Video (24 min.)


Robert McCuskey

I was born on September 8, 1938 in Cleveland, Ohio into an academic environment. My father was Professor of  Mathematics and also Astronomy at Case School of Applied Science which later became Case Institute of Technology (CIT) and still later merged with adjacent Western Reserve University (WRU) to become Case Western Reserve University (CWRU). For a number of years, he served simultaneously as head of both departments at  CIT and CWRU.  Both of my parents grew up in Hudson, Ohio 25 miles south of Cleveland and were high school graduates of Western Reserve Academy (WRA) which was the precursor of Western Reserve University in Cleveland. I also had the privilege of attending WRA as a boarding student on an alumni scholarship. It was here that I developed a deep interest in biology and especially morphology thanks to the stimulation of the biology instructor, Dr. Tien Wei Yang, and the Biology Club that he also oversaw. After graduating from WRA in 1956, I attended Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut for one year before returning to Cleveland to attend Western Reserve University where I majored in Biology and Chemistry.

During my junior year in 1959, I had the fortune to be offered a part-time job as a laboratory assistant in the lab of  Professor Edward H. Bloch in the Department of Anatomy in the Western Reserve University School of Medicine. It was a unique opportunity since Prof. Bloch studied the microcirculation in living, anesthetized animals using the light microscopy and  water immersion objectives and recording the data on motion picture film. During this time we also were developing the use of video techniques for imaging dynamic microscopic events in living tissue.  The following year, Prof. Bloch asked if I was interested in pursuing MD and/or PhD and being a graduate student in his lab rather than in the Department of Biology where I already was accepted.  I jumped at the opportunity and in the Fall of 1960, I began my graduate studies as a member of the Medical Class of 1964.  WRU developed  the first integrated curriculum in the country with the anatomy, physiology, and microbiology of healthy tissue  and organ systems taught together in the first year along with some introduction to clinical medicine and patients.  The pharmacology, pathology, and microbiology of diseased tissue and  systems were taught in the second year and the first half of the third year along with continued clinical instruction followed by full-time  clinical rotations during the last year and a half.  I left the Medical Class of 1964 in the middle of the third year at the end of the basic science period to focus on my dissertation research, “A Dynamic and Static Study of Hepatic Arterioles and Hepatic Sphincters"  using in vivo microscopic techniques that I developed in Prof. Bloch’s lab. During this time, Prof. Bloch introduced me to many of the prominent researchers in the field of microcirculation as well as anatomists at the annual meetings of the Microcirculatory Society which in late 1950s and early 1960s met with the American Association of Anatomists.  I also was asked to lecture and to provide laboratory instruction in the  medical gross and microscopic anatomy of the cardiovascular, pulmonary, renal, and gastro-intestinal systems which I found to be very rewarding.  I completed my Ph.D. in 1965.

In July, 1965, I moved to Cincinnati, Ohio where Professor Roger Crafts  had  offered me a job as Instructor in Anatomy in the Department of Anatomy at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine.  My initial responsibilities were to set up my  laboratory, initiate my own extramurally funded research program, and to teach Microscopic Anatomy during the Fall and Winter Quarters and Neuroanatomy during the Spring Quarter.  During my first year, I wrote an NIH grant application which  was successful on the first try!  This project was to study the morphology and regulation of the microcirculation in the developing erythropoietic fetal rabbit liver.  I also developed a collaborative relationship with Professor Howard A. Meineke who, along with Professor Crafts, were studying the hormonal regulation  of erythropoiesis in rats.   This led to a very productive thirteen year collaboration and resulted in considerable extramural funding from the NIH as well as the American Heart Association for our studies of bone marrow in rabbits and splenic erythropoiesis in mice.  It also included the training of several graduate students, numerous  publications, and, for five years (1969-1974), my being the recipient of a NIH Research Career Development Award.  In 1967 I was promoted to Assistant Professor, in  1971   to Associate Professor with tenure  and in 1975 to Professor with tenure.

I am very proud of those graduate students trained in Cincinnati.  My first graduate student, Sam McClugage spent an additional post-doctoral year with me in Cincinnati before moving in 1970 to the Anatomy faculty at Louisiana State University in New Orleans; he currently is Head of the Department of Cell Biology and Anatomy as well as Associate Dean for Admissions for LSU Medical School.  Frank Reilly remained in Cincinnati in 1975  as an Assistant Professor of Anatomy and later moved with me to West Virginia University (WVU) in 1978 as an Associate Professor which allowed us to continue our NIH funded research collaboration. He currently is Professor of Neurobiology and Anatomy at WVU and in recent years has developed some elegant interactive computer programs to aid in anatomical instruction.  Gene Cilento, a doctoral student in  Chemical Engineering within the Biomedical Engineering Program, did his dissertation in my lab and also moved to WVU with me as  a Post-doctoral Fellow before taking a position as Assistant Professor of Chemical Engineering at WVU. He currently is Professor of Chemical Engineering as well as Dean of the College of Engineering and Mineral Resources at West Virginia University.

As indicated above, in 1978, I moved to West Virginia University School of Medicine (WVU)  in Morgantown, West Virginia to become the  Professor and  Chairman of Anatomy.  I was charged by Dean John Jones to improve the research productivity of the Department while preserving the excellence in teaching for which the Department was known. To help me do this, I was provided enough resources to establish core support facilities for histology and electron microscopy including the purchase of a new transmission electron microscope with a scanning attachment and renovated lab space. I also was provided with several new faculty and staff positions to recruit new faculty with productive research programs. Together this provided the necessary investment to dramatically improve the research productivity of the department while retaining its excellent reputation for teaching. The move of my NIH grants and two of my former students/collaborators to Morgantown, Frank Reilly as an Associate Professor and Gene Cilento as a Post-doctoral Fellow, permitted me  to continue and expand my own collaborative research program established in Cincinnati. During this time, I also was becoming quite active with international collaborations as will be outlined below.  Of note, is that four of my faculty at WVU went on to become department heads of anatomy departments (Drs. Burr, Carmichael, Dey, and Carmichael); two of these also served as officers of the American Association of Anatomists (Drs. Burr and Haines).

I moved to the  University of Arizona in 1986 to become the Professor and  Head of Anatomy (later Cell Biology & Anatomy, and now Cellular & Molecular Medicine)  which  afforded me several new exciting opportunities for collaborations with an number of  microvascular researchers in the Department of Physiology and other departments.  Almost immediately, I was asked Professor Katz to participate in a multi-investigator project funded by the US Army to study the effects of arena-viral infection on the hepatic and mesenteric microcirculation in guinea pigs.  Dr. Watson in Family and Community Medicine also  asked me  to be a participant in an application for an NIAAA Alcohol Research Center grant which was successful. My project was to study the role of gut-derived bacterial endotoxin, Kupffer cells, and the hepatic microcirculation  in alcoholic liver injury.  Later, Prof. Koldovsky in Pediatrics invited my participation in a program project grant to study the role of milk-borne substances in the developing liver. As a result of these interactions, I received joint faculty appointments  in the Departments of Physiology and Pediatrics. These multi-investigator grants plus my own independent NIH projects to study the interactions of alcohol and acetaminophen on hepatic sinusoid dysfunction and the effect of ageing on hepatic microvascular dysfunction permitted the training of several post-doctoral fellows and graduate students, among whom were   Drs. H. Eguchi, J. Nishida, W. Ekataksin, Y. Ito, and G. Baker. It also resulted in close collaborations with Professor  DeLeve at the University of Southern California, Professors Farrell and LeCouteur at the University of Sydney, Australia, and Professor Smedsrød at the University of Tromsø, Norway. Taken together, this  resulted in a highly productive laboratory until my retirement in 2006 and closing the lab in 2009.   I was honored to have these accomplishments during my career recognized by receipt of the Eugene M. Landis Award from the Microcirculatory Society in 2004 and receipt of the Henry Gray/Lippincott Williams & Wilkins Scientific Achievement Award from the American Association of Anatomists in 2008. I also was honored and take pride in the fact  that during my twenty years as Department Head, the recruitment, cooperation, and hard work of a very productive and  collegial departmental faculty resulted in the building of  a strong department that is highly recognized for excellence in teaching as well as research and , in 2005 ranked 10th in NIH funding for Cell Biology and Anatomy Departments in the United States. While at the University of Arizona, I also was honored to have been elected and to have served on the  Board of Directors of the American Association of Anatomist for 10 years including serving as President-Elect, President, and Past-President from 2001-2007 as well as chair of several committees.

During my career, I have been very fortunate to have had the privilege to establish a number of  national and international collaborations and friendships. While at the University of Cincinnati, the first International Meeting on Microcirculation was held in 1975 in Toronto, Canada.  At that meeting, I was introduced to Professor Bernhard Urbaschek and his wife and collaborator, Dr. Renate Urbaschek, from the University of Heidelberg, in the Federal Republic of Germany. We had many mutual interests in the effects of bacterial toxins on the microcirculation which led to invitations to visit their lab and give seminars in 1976, 1979, and 1980.  In 1981, I was invited to be a Visiting Professor for two months, and in 1982, upon the nomination by Prof. Urbaschek, I was awarded the Alexander von Humboldt  Distinguished Senior U.S. Scientist Prize from the Federal Republic of Germany for outstanding achievement in high resolution in vivo  microscopy of organs and spent six months in Heidelberg during 1982 and 1983.  Re-invitations for 3 months followed in 1987-88, 1993-94, and 2001-02. The Urbascheks also visited my laboratory on many occasions to do experiments. As a result of this strong collaboration and friendship, numerous papers were published during a twenty year period. When Professor  Urbaschek retired and  closed his laboratory in 1989, he transferred his Leitz Intravital Microscope and associated optical and recording equipment to me. We remain close personal friends to this day – a friendship extending across borders for more than 35 years!

Other long-term friendships and collaborations  also were established during this time with Professor Eddie Wisse and  Dr. Dick Knook from The Netherlands  who, in 1977, initiated a series of international meetings that continue today. I was invited to participate in The First Symposium on Kupffer Cells and other Liver Sinusoidal which was held in Noorrdwijkerhout, The Netherlands.  After the Second Symposium in Brussels in 1981, I was asked to join the Organizing Committee together with Professor Kirn from Strasbourg, France and Professor Wake from Tokyo to develop the program for the Third Symposium. Both became good friends together with Professor Wisse and Dr. Knook.  In subsequent years others have joined the Committee, some of whom became good friends including Professor Vidal-Vanaclocha from Bilbao, Spain, Professor Fraser from Christchurch, New Zealand, and Professor Smedsrød from Tromsø, Norway.   I remained on this Committee until after the meeting in 2008 when the group reorganized as the International Society for Hepatic Sinusoid Research.

Additional international collaborations also were developed as well as  invitations to speak at other institutions as a result of interactions at scientific meetings and discussions of publications and research activities. These included collaborations in France, Japan, Norway, Belgium, Holland, Australia, New Zealand, Switzerland, as well as Germany. Interactions with Professors Tshuchiya, Ishii and Oda  at Keio University in Tokyo as well as Professor Sato at Juntendo University and Professor Wake at Tokyo Medical and Dental University and several of their faculty led to numerous  invitations to speak in Japan as well as several post-doctoral fellows coming to study in my lab. As a result, at the  IV World Congress for Microcirculation in  Tokyo in 1987, I was honored to be the first recipient of the Nishimaru Award given for distinction as a scientist and the important contribution to the Japanese Society for Microcirculation. And, in 2005, I was presented the Asian Union for Microcirculation Award at the 6th Asian Congress for Microcirculation in Tokyo.  In 2000, Professor Smedsrød asked if I would be a part-time  adjunct professor his Department of Cell Biology and Histology at the University of Tromsø, Norway which I accepted.  My duties were to visit several times each year , to give lectures in the medical and graduate histology classes, and to do collaborative research including establishing an in vivo microscopy system.  I held this appointment from 2001-2008 during which time we obtained a collaborative NIH grant to study the effects of ageing on hepatic microvascular dysfunction;  and,  I had the pleasure of helping to mentor several graduate and post-doctoral students as well as teaching medical students.

In summary, I feel very fortunate to have had an exciting and wonderful career and am very thankful to  all of those individuals who were part of making it happen including those faculty, post-doctoral fellows and graduate students not named above,  and especially my family.

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