Gary H. Gibbons

Born: October 4, 1956 | Philadelphia, PA, US

Gary H. Gibbons was born in 1956 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. His early interest in science came from books, electronics, and investigating his surroundings. He received his BA in Biology from Princeton University. After receiving his MD from Harvard Medical School, Gibbons took two years off to pursue research in Dr. Clifford Berger's lab studying the renin-angiotensin system and cardiovascular disease. In 1990 Gibbons became a faculty member in the Stanford University Cardiology Department, where he collaborated with Dr. Victor J. Dzau on investigation of the renin-angiotensin system. His is now the director of the Cardiovascular Research Institute at the Morehouse School of Medicine, where he oversees research aimed at decreasing incidence of cardiovascular disease in African-Americans in the southern United States.

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Interview Details

Interview no.: Oral History 0580
No. of pages: 99
Minutes: 500

Interview Sessions

Helene L. Cohen
20-22 February 2001
Morehouse School of Medicine, Atlanta, Georgia

Abstract of Interview

Gary H. Gibbons was born in 1956 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; the youngest of three siblings. His father was pharmacist-turned-schoolteacher from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; his mother was a school teacher from Camden, New Jersey who had been orphaned at a very young age. Religion and spirituality were very important in the Gibbons household. Gibbons came through the Philadelphia public school system during the beginning of desegregation and was bused from his area to a traditionally Caucasian school. Later as a result of his good grades he attended Episcopal Academy during the institution's early attempts at integration. He credits these academic opportunities for much of his success, and as a result has always felt a great responsibility to succeed. Gibbons' early interest in science came from books, electronics, and the investigation of his surroundings. Gibbons received his B.A. in Biology from Princeton University in 1978. At Princeton he participated in research and was a photographer for the school newspaper, The Daily Princetonian. He also developed an interest in the history and philosophy of science on which he wrote his senior thesis. Gibbons matriculated into Harvard Medical School, where he earned his MD in 1984. He elected to take two years off from medical school between his basic science and clinical years to pursue research in Dr. Clifford Berger's lab studying the renin-angiotensin system and cardiovascular disease. Following two years of clinical rotations Gibbons did his two-year internal medicine internship and a subsequent three-year cardiology fellowship at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts. In 1990 Gibbons was appointed assistant professor of medicine in the Cardiology Department at Stanford University, where he collaborated with Dr. Victor J. Dzau on further investigation of the renin-angiotensin system. He was then recruited back to Harvard Medical School by Dzau in 1996; there he pursued his research, focusing on the many complex factors that regulate blood pressure. In 1999 Gibbons was appointed director of the Cardiovascular Research Institute at the Morehouse School of Medicine in Atlanta, Georgia. In this capacity, Gibbons oversees large amounts of research aimed at decreasing the alarmingly high incidence of cardiovascular disease in the African-American population of the southern United States. Throughout his oral history Gibbons acknowledges the many opportunities and rights obtained for him by the civil rights leaders of his day, and as a result feels a deep sense of greater purpose in his work. He has received several grants and awards, including the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Minority Faculty Development Fellowship, a Baxter Foundation Award, an Established Investigator Award from the American Heart Association, and a Pew Scholars Program in the Biomedical Sciences grant, which he discusses in the oral history interview.

Education

Year Institution Degree Discipline
1978 Princeton University BA Biology
1984 Harvard Medical School MD

Professional Experience

Harvard Medical School

1984 to 1985
Intern, Brigham and Women’s Hospital
1985 to 1987
Resident, Brigham and Women’s Hospital
1987 to 1990
Cardiology Fellow, Brigham and Women’s Hospital
1990
Attending Physician, Brigham and Women’s Hospital
1996 to 1999
Assistant Professor of Medicine
1996 to 1999
Attending Physician, Brigham and Women’s Hospital

Stanford University School of Medicine

1990 to 1996
Assistant Professor of Medicine, Cardiology
1991 to 1996
Associate Director, Cardiovascular Fellowship Program
1991 to 1996
Director, Marfan Syndrome Clinic

Morehouse School of Medicine

1999
Director, Cardiovascular Research Institute
1999
Associate Professor of Medicine

Honors

Year(s) Award
1989

Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Minority FacultyDevelopment Fellowship

1994

Baxter Foundation Award

1994 to 1998

Pew Scholars Program in the Biomedical Sciences Grant

1998

Established Investigator Award, American Heart Association

Table of Contents

Growing Up
1

Family life in Philadelphia. Religion and creationism. Experience withdesegregation. Gang violence. Culture shock. Philadelphia school system. Social life. Influential teachers. Scientific interest. Parental Expectations.

Undergraduate Education
21

Attends Princeton University. Summer programs. Integration at Princeton. Majors in Biology. Senior Thesis. Photography for school newspaper. Applying to medical schools.

Medical School Information
27

Attends Harvard Medical School. Admissions committee. Clifford Berger's lab. Research on renin-angiotensin system. Cardiovascular science. Clinical Years. Choosing Internal Medicine.

Internship, Residency, and Fellowship
33

Interning at Brigham and Women's Hospital. Stress of medical internship. Marriage. Cardiology fellowship. Finding employment.

Life as Principal Investigator
38

Assistant professorship at Stanford University. Research with Victor J. Dzau. Follows Dzau back to Harvard Medical School. Wife's career. Grants and awards. Morehouse Medical School. Move to Atlanta. Administrative responsibilities. Cardiovascular Research Institute. Community service. Publication. Grant writing. Travel. Renin-angiotensin system. Balancing familyand professional responsibilities. Attending church regularly. Current grant proposals. Lab management. Affirmative Action and appropriate uses. Hard money vs. soft money. Funding. Receiving the Pew. Teaching.

Biomedical Science
66

Ethnic make-up of students. Promoting diversity. Women and minorities in science. Importance of role models. Clinical research. Vascular disease. Ethnic correlation to cardiovascular disease. Angiotensin. Blood vessel cell biology research. Pew annual meetings. Bypass grafts. Angiotensin receptor blockers and applications. Patents. Conflicts of interest. Competition. Publication. Collaboration. Quality control in the lab. Stem cell research. Human cloning. Genetically modified food. Changing climate in medical research. Goals.

Index
95

About the Interviewer

Helene L. Cohen