March 4, 2005

Remembering: B.V. Rama Sastry, Ph.D.

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B.V. Rama Sastry, Ph.D.

Remembering: B.V. Rama Sastry, Ph.D.

B.V. Rama Sastry, Ph.D., professor of Pharmacology, Emeritus, died Wednesday, Feb. 23. He was 77.

Dr. Sastry was born in Andhra, India, and received his bachelor's, master's and doctoral degrees in Chemical Technology from Andhra University. For his pharmacology training, Dr. Sastry came to the United States in 1956, where he received his M.S. in Pharmacology from Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta, Georgia, in 1959 and his Ph.D. in Pharmacology from Vanderbilt University in 1962.

After completing his Ph.D., Dr. Sastry joined the Vanderbilt faculty as assistant professor of Pharmacology, rising through the ranks to full professor in 1971. He served as professor of Pharmacology from 1971-1995 and professor of Anesthesiology from 1989-1995.

“Dr. Sastry was a pillar in the department of Pharmacology,” said Elaine Sanders-Bush, Ph.D., professor of Pharmacology and director of the Vanderbilt Brain Institute.

“He was an internationally recognized scientist, especially for his research on cholinergic mechanisms in the placenta.”

Dr. Sastry's broad scholarship in Pharmacology is apparent in the more than 170 papers, reviews and book chapters he penned during his career. His research focused primarily on the neuropharmacology of the autonomic nervous system and the role of the cholinergic system in non-nervous tissues.

His studies revealed the molecular basis for the toxic effects of insecticides, herbicides, toxic metals and components of tobacco smoke.

Dr. Sastry also investigated the impact of smoking on amino acid transport in the human placenta and the impact of maternal tobacco smoking on the induction and functioning of these transport mechanisms.

His contributions didn't end at the laboratory bench. “He wrote a terrific little treatise on the history and impact of Pharmacology at Vanderbilt,” Sanders-Bush noted.

“He was a superb scientist, a major figure in pharmacology for many years and one of Vanderbilt's most highly regarded faculty,” said Joel G. Hardman, Ph.D., professor of Pharmacology, Emeritus and former chair of the department.

“Whoever coined the term 'collegial' must have had him in mind,” recalled Hardman. “He was always willing to help whoever asked. And many asked, including me.”

Throughout his career, Dr. Sastry enthusiastically trained undergraduates, graduate and medical students, and introduced many individuals to the joys of biomedical discovery.

Reflecting his commitment to graduate education, Dr. Sastry also served as director of Graduate Studies in Pharmacology from 1965-1989.

“He was very bright, trusting, had a slow, leisurely manner and laughed easily,” said James A. O'Neill, M.D., professor of Surgery, Emeritus. “He was someone you could relate to easily — a lovely gentleman.”

“He was a true gentleman in every sense of the word,” Hardman said. “He will be greatly missed.”

Dr. Sastry is survived by his wife, Annette Sastry; daughter and son-in-law, Susan and Jim Armstrong; son, William Sastry; three sisters and one brother.

A funeral service was held on Saturday, Feb. 26, at the Holy Family Catholic Church at 9100 Crockett Road, Nashville. In lieu of flowers, the family asked that donations in Dr. Sastry's name be made to the Department of Pharmacology at VUMC or to a charity of the donor's choice.