June 28, 2002

Goldenring joins VUMC to head surgical research

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Dr. Jim Goldenring sees his primary role at VUMC as a leader for future scientists. Goldenring has accepted the newly created vice chairman position for Research of the Section of Surgical Sciences. (photo by Dana Johnson)

Goldenring joins VUMC to head surgical research

Dr. Jim Goldenring has joined Vanderbilt University Medical Center in the newly created role of vice chairman for Research of the Section of Surgical Sciences.

Goldenring, who comes from the Medical College of Georgia, will oversee the growing research in the Section, collaborate on new initiatives, sharpen the focus of resident development and will continue his own work in epithelial cell biology as a professor and the Paul Sanger Chair in Surgical Investigation in the Department of Surgery.

“Jim brings to Vanderbilt strengths that are important to the continued development of surgical research,” said Dr. Daniel R. Beauchamp, chairman of the Section. “He’s an outstanding researcher and a physician-scientist in the true sense of the word — he is a classically trained investigator and he understands what surgeons do, which makes him uniquely qualified.”

The position, Beauchamp said, was created to facilitate the Section’s growth in basic science research for faculty and residents.

And, with a facet of the job that focuses on developing new scientists, it helps ensure Vanderbilt’s contribution of physician-scientists, added Dr. Steven G. Gabbe, dean of the School of Medicine. “Not only is Dr. Goldenring an accomplished scientist, but he has been devoted to the development of young investigators. He was actively involved in the M.D./Ph.D. program at Yale and served as director at Georgia. I am confident Dr. Goldenring will contribute significantly to the growth of our scientific programs as an investigator and an educator.”

Goldenring received a bachelor’s degree in Biochemical Sciences from Harvard. He then earned both a Ph.D. degree in Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry and a medical degree from Yale. He stayed at Yale for surgical residency and two years of postdoctoral research as an American College of Surgeons Scholar. In 1990 he became Assistant Professor of Surgery at Yale and Director of the GI Surgical Research Unit at the West Haven, Conn., VA Medical Center. In 1993, he moved to the Medical College of Georgia and the Augusta VA Medical Center as a founding member of the Institute of Molecular Medicine and Genetics and Director of the Georgia University System M.D./Ph.D. Program. From 1998 to 2002 he served as Professor and Chief of the Program in Cell Signaling.

For 15 years, Goldenring has collaborated with Beauchamp and other VUMC faculty, including Dr. Robert Coffey and Dr. Ray DuBois, both professors of Medicine in Gastroenterology and of Cell Biology, on GI cancer research. Here, he will continue those collaborations and will join with Coffey and Dr. Robert Whitehead, research associate professor of Medicine in Gastroenterology, to establish an Epithelial Biology Program to be housed in the new MRB III. “It’s going to be a joint lab, and it’s going to be a lot of fun,” Goldenring said.

Epithelial cancers “are the ones we die of, and the ones for which we really have few good therapies or a poor understanding of their developmental process,” Goldenring said.

Epithelial cells line organs, like the stomach, intestines and the skin, with one surface oriented towards the blood supply and the opposite side towards an open space, such as inside an organ. Most solid-tumor cancers – including colon, pancreatic, lung, breast, cervical and ovarian cancers – form from epithelial cells.

Goldenring has three active grants — two NIH RO1 awards and a Veterans Administration Merit Review award. Project topics include: the study of the processes for moving pumps, receptors and channels between the inside and outside of cells, a project that started with GI cells, but which has far-reaching implications in other systems; investigation of how the cell compartmentalizes the signaling process by creating docking stations or scaffolds in discrete locations that can influence how the cell divides or how it processes proteins; and a project stemming from his surgical training that is studying a newly recognized cell lineage that may represent a precursor of stomach cancer and a target for a screening test.

Six researchers from the Medical College of Georgia — including two senior scientists who will be research assistant professors, two post-doctoral fellows and two M.D./Ph.D. students — will eventually join Goldenring at Vanderbilt.

Most important, Goldenring said, will be his role to develop and support future scientists. “The biggest thing for us is to develop our young faculty,” he said. “Mentoring is No. 1, making sure they use their time well, helping them write grants and making sure they are successful.”