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"As far as the laws of mathematics refer to reality, they are not certain, and as far as they are certain, they do not refer to reality." — Albert Einstein
2013 Bodil M. Schmidt-Nielsen Distinguished Mentor and Scientist Awardee
Jerome A. Dempsey, University of Wisconsin-Madison
Dr. Dempsey was born in London, Ontario in Canada. He went to elementary and secondary schools in London and attended the University of Western Ontario where he received a B.S. degree in 1961. After teaching in a secondary school in Hamilton, Ontario for a year, he went to the University of Alberta in Edmonton Alberta to obtain a M. S. degree in 1963. From the fall of 1963 until the spring of 1966, he was in a Ph.D. program at the University of Wisconsin in Madison receiving the Ph.D. in June of 1966. Jerry then was a Research Associate in the Department of Medicine at the University of Wisconsin for two years. In1968, 1975, and finally in 1978, he was promoted to the ranks respectively of Assistant, Associate and full Professor of Preventive Medicine at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. He maintained full-time faculty status until 2008and since then he has been Professor Emeritus of Preventive Medicine at Madison. During his years on the faculty, he was also an Affiliate Professor of Physiology, Kinesiology, Veterinary Science and Biomedical Engineering. Since 1981, he has been director of the John Rankin Laboratory of Pulmonary Medicine at Madison. In 1974, 1983, and 2001, he tooksabattical leaves to laboratories in Goteborg, Sweden, Montreal, Canada, and Sydney, Australia respectively.
Dr. Dempsey is internationally recognized for his distinguished research career. To date he has 334 primary research publications. Many of these publications relate to basic mechanisms of the respiratory system (control of breathing, pulmonary mechanics, and alveolar-capillary gas exchange), while others relate to critical changes that occur during sleep, exercise, high altitude sojourn, thermal stresses, and other environmental stresses of the respiratory system. In addition, many of the publications report on studies on the integration of the respiratory system with cardiovascular, microcirculatory, and/or neural systems. Studies reported in these publications were funded by continuous National Institute of Health RO1, Merit and/or Specialized Center Awards from 1972 to 2012 for which he was the principal investigator. Recognition of his high quality research has been given by numerous awards such as the Citation Award for Scientific Contribution by the American College of Sports Medicine (1989), an Honorary Doctor of Science degree from the University of Waterloo, Canada (1990), andnumerous honorary named lectureships including the prestigious APS Julius Comroe lectureship (2004) and the Bayliss-Starling Prize Lecture by the UK Physiologic Society (2012).A further testament to his scientific accomplishments include invitations to write major reviews on sleep, high altitude acclimatization, and exercise that were published in major journals. Finally, Dr. Dempsey’s recognized expertise resulted in editorship of the Journal of Applied Physiology from 2005 to 2011 and service on several editorial boards and National Institute of Health, American Heart Association, and other research grant review panels.
Dr. Dempsey is also well recognized for his outstanding teaching and mentoring of students. Since 1970, he has contributed to classroom teaching at the University of Wisconsin in Organismal Biology, Respiratory Therapy, Environmental and Exercise Physiology, and Medical Respiratory and Physiology and Pathophysiology. Throughout his career at the University of Wisconsin, he has mentored over 100 undergraduate students and has been the primary mentor for a total of 34 Ph.D students in Kinesiology, Biomedical Engineering, Veterinary Science, and Physiology and 40 postdoctoral fellows (MD, Ph.D and DVM). There are several key elements contributing to Dr. Dempsey’s success as a mentor and several of these are mentioned in letters recommending him for this award. For example, one past traineewrote, “Jerry is generous with his ideas and his time. His curiosity and enthusiasm for science are both endless and infectious; he is truly in his element when embroiled in heated scientific debate”. Similarly, another trainee wrote that when he interviewed for a trainee position with Dr. Dempsey, he prepared a 30 minute talk but “I did not even get past my title slide before Jerry and the Rankin Lab group began to ask questions, and two hours later when I had ten slides left, Jerry felt I had presented enough”. Along the same lines a past trainee wrote “my research studies, like those of the other trainees in the lab, were challenging and time-consuming, but addressed significant physiological questions utilizing novel and state-of-the art methodologies. The science was cutting-edge and the discussions were lively, thought-provoking and intellectually challenging”. Significant also was as a trainee wrote “Jerry was intimately involved with every facet of every project while at the same time giving each trainee the autonomy to develop creativity and individuality in our science”. Importantly another trainee stated “the mentoring I received from Jerry did not end once I obtained a faculty position. In fact, he has continued for more than 11 years to encourage and nurture my development as a physiologist. Without fail he makes time for and provides critical feedback whenever requested”.In essence as another trainee wrote “Jerry brought out the best in all of us by his unique ability to individually motivate us recognizing the line between pushing an individual hard enough versus too hard. Another key element in his mentoring is reflected in comments such as “apart from the scientific interactions in the lab, Jerry developed a deep and honest friendship with his students most remarkable being his genuine interest in his trainees personal life and success and uncompromised willingness to help wherever possible. Similarly, a trainee wrote Jerry knew how to have fun and how to inject humor into the workday; in short, Jerry is the patriarch of a close-knit laboratory family. Likewise, a trainee wrote “There is nothing insincere about Jerry’s caring of others. He treats everyone, be they mentees, technicians, colleagues, neighbors, and family the “right way” not because he feels compelled but because it is his nature; he does it right and for the right reasons”.Finally, a long-time colleague of Jerry’s at Madison wrote “I am like many other non-Jerry Dempsey trainees who though not formally trained by Jerry, learned so much from him through association in any setting, whether it was in seminars, meetings, the research lab, informal discussions, etc. He is truly a naturally gifted mentor”.
Dr. Dempsey contributions to science will continue for years through his numerous publications and equally through the scientists he has mentored. The impact of the latter cannot be overstated as his past trainees are now dispersed throughout the globe in prestigious positions conducting cutting-edge research and training future generations of scientists. Moreover these past trainees are instilling into their trainees the personal qualities exemplified by Dr. Dempsey that will make them a “better” person.
2012 Bodil M. Schmidt-Nielsen Distinguished Mentor and Scientist Awardee
Past awardees of the Schmidt-Nielsen Distinguished Scientist and Mentor Award.