Two New Chairs Appointed in the College of Medicine at UTHSC

Dr. Alex Dopico_72 dpi_reduced     Dr. Michael Whitt_72_reduced
Alex Dopico, MD, PhD, and Michael Whitt, PhD

David Stern, MD, executive dean of the College of Medicine at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center (UTHSC), has appointed new chairs to lead two departments in the college.

Alex Dopico, MD, PhD, assumes the chair of the Department of Pharmacology, and Michael Whitt, PhD, is the new chair of the Department of Microbiology, Immunology and Biochemistry. Both are recognized academicians and accomplished researchers.

Dr. Dopico is a UTHSC Distinguished Professor in the Department of Pharmacology. He received his MD in 1984 and PhD in 1989 from the University of Buenos Aires. He did a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, and accepted a faculty position there.

Having joined UTHSC in 2000, Dr. Dopico’s research has been extensively funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and other granting agencies. In 2010, he received an NIH MERIT Award for his research titled, “Ethanol Action on BK Channels from Arteries vs. Brain.” This project, which researches cellular mechanisms underlying alcohol-induced constriction of brain arteries, is in its 16th year of continuous NIH funding, and the work has been incorporated into Medical Pharmacology textbooks.

Dr. Dopico has published 53 original peer-reviewed publications and 11 review articles or book chapters. He serves as a review editor on several scientific journals and on multiple national and international grant review study sections.

“Dr. Dopico is a distinguished scientist, as indicated by his multiple publications in top-tier journals, patents and NIH funding for his research, including a MERIT Award,” Dr. Stern said. “His work on the effects of ethanol and cholesterol on potassium channels is a compelling body of work. I am confident that as a seasoned researcher and mentor, he will lead the department to a higher level of accomplishment.”

Dr. Whitt, a professor in the Department of Microbiology, Immunology and Biochemistry at UTHSC, has served as interim chair of the department since 2011. He received his PhD in 1987 from the University of California, Davis, and did a postdoctoral fellowship at Yale School of Medicine. He joined UTHSC in 1991 as an assistant professor.

From 2001-2005, Dr. Whitt was the Director of Viral Cytolytics and Vector Development at GTx Inc., in Memphis. During that time, he maintained a part-time faculty appointment at UTHSC, and continued to train graduate students and postdoctoral fellows in his lab and teach in the graduate and medical school curriculum.

He returned to UTHSC full time in 2005 to complete several NIH-funded projects and teach medical and graduate students. His current research aims to understand virus assembly and entry, and to develop novel virus-based therapies for cancer treatment.

Dr. Whitt has published 66 original peer-reviewed publications and seven review articles or book chapters. He is on the editorial board of Virology and the Journal of Virology, and has served on multiple NIH Study Sections as a member and ad hoc reviewer.

Dr. Whitt holds multiple U.S. and foreign patents related to his work in recombinant viruses. He has received numerous Golden Apple Awards for Excellence in Teaching for his lectures in the second-year medical school curriculum.

“Dr. Whitt is well recognized for his expertise in virology,” Dr. Stern said. “Through his 22 years in the Department of Microbiology, Immunology and Biochemistry, he understands the faculty very well, and is in an ideal position to engage established faculty and recruit new talent to invigorate the research mission.”