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Department of Pharmacology Changes Name To Emphasize Research Focus

Dr. Alex Dopico (Photo by Allen Gillespie/UTHSC)

The Department of Pharmacology in the College of Medicine at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center has changed its name to the Department of Pharmacology, Addiction Science and Toxicology. The new name emphasizes the growth of expertise and research-based methodologies in the department.

The change comes as a result of the new areas of knowledge and technology that are growing in importance within the national medical school curriculum that fall outside the basic science units of anatomy, biochemistry, physiology, microbiology, pathology and pharmacology. It also follows the national trend of phasing out traditional teaching and curriculum development methods and including more research-focused education initiatives.

“I am delighted to celebrate the change in the name of this department,” said Scott Strome, MD, Robert Kaplan Executive Dean and vice chancellor for clinical affairs in the UTHSC College of Medicine. “It reflects the positive trajectory of the department and appropriately encompasses the research endeavors of its faculty.”

“In doing research and in my medical practice, I often met the reality that while some drugs are pharmacotherapeutic in some scenarios, they may be toxic in another,” said Alex Dopico, MD, PhD, University Distinguished Professor and chair of the department.

“When I became chair of the department in 2013, I decided to build it around the thematic core of the neurovascular unit.” Since then, the department has been in transition, intentional about faculty recruitment and placement, and dedicated to strengthening its research presence and making the program more appealing to applicants. “Focusing on a few research areas also makes the unit more appealing to applicants at all levels,” Dr. Dopico said. “Those interested in research would know that they would have an increased probability of success as independent scientists, which leads to recovery of investment by the recruiting institution.

Dr. Dopico has been at the forefront of promoting pharmacological research in higher education. His own research on drugs of misuse, substance use disorders and neurotoxicity has attracted national research funding including an National Institutes of Health Merit Award from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), allowing him to represent UTHSC locally, regionally, and nationally.  He is also involved with the NIAAA as a member of the Scientific Advisory Council and as a performance evaluator.