August 25, 2006

Breyer to hold professorship honoring Youmans

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Richard Breyer, Ph.D.

Breyer to hold professorship honoring Youmans

Richard Breyer, Ph.D., has been named to hold a newly funded professorship in the Division of Nephrology and Hypertension.

The John B. Youmans Professor of Medicine will serve to honor Dr. Youmans, a faculty member in the Department of Medicine at Vanderbilt from 1927 to 1946 who served as dean and director of Medical Affairs from 1950-1958. He died in 1979.

“Rich Breyer is an innovative investigator in the tradition of John Youmans,” said Eric Neilson, M.D., chair of the Department of Medicine. “His work continues to bring distinction to Vanderbilt across several disciplines by further understanding prostinoid biology in the kidney.”

Breyer, who is celebrating his 15th year at Vanderbilt, received his B.S. in Microbiology from the University of Michigan (also Youmans alma mater) and received his Ph.D. in Biochemistry from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

“This is a well-deserved recognition of his many long term contributions to the Division of Nephrology and to the Vanderbilt scientific community,” said Ray Harris, M.D., chief of the Division of Nephrology.

Youmans conducted nutrition surveys in Williamson County in the late 1930s and published “Nutritional Deficiencies,” a book for medical students, in 1941.

During World War II he served as director of the Nutrition Division for the Office of the Surgeon General. After the war he initiated nutrition survey work in developing countries for the Interdepartmental Committee on Nutrition for National Defense.

“I trained in a graduate school that didn't have a medical school so it is really an honor to receive a professorship like this, especially to have one named after the dean of this medical school,” Breyer said.

“I think it speaks to the support I have received over the years from Dr. Eric Neilson, Dr. Ray Harris, Dr. John Oates, Dean Gabbe, and Dr. Harry Jacobson. They mentored me along in my medical education since I came out of a very basic science background.”

Breyer, who had been working at the Pasteur Institute in Paris, hadn't considered a career in medicine until he vacationed to Nashville to visit older brother Matthew Breyer, M.D., a professor of Medicine, and Molecular Physiology and Biophysics who came to Vanderbilt in 1985.

“It was really one of those twists in life,” Breyer said. “I never would have guessed that I would have been here, and it has worked out to be one of the best decisions I ever made.”

Breyer's lab specializes in basic pharmacology and works in collaboration with physician scientists in medicine to determine how prostaglandin receptors interact with a number of disease systems.

“This professorship will allow me to take a few more risks than I could normally,” he said.

“It allows me to provide the resources to expand my research into new areas and to make inroads into important areas of eicosanoid pharmacology that I was unable to undertake previously.”