History of Our Department

1884-1957   Instructions on Medicinal Products (Materia Medica & Therapeutics) were given by a variety of Departments and Faculties, e.g. Pharmacy and Botany. Towards the end of this period it was taught by Dr. M. Ormerod of the Dept. of Physiology.

1957-1968   Mark Nickerson was appointed to the Faculty (Department of Physiology). The circumstances that led to this appointment were rather unusual. While working in the Department of Pharmacology at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Nickerson had to report to the infamous committee on Anti-American activity chaired by Senator Joe McCarthy. Nickerson was known to have a good working relationship with scientists in the Eastern Block countries in Europe. Furthermore he refused to divulge names of other colleagues who were in a similar situation. Nickerson was fired from Ann Arbor. Nickerson started to modernize the teaching of Pharmacology in Manitoba. Soon after a separate Department was created, with Nickerson being appointed Chairman.

Under the guidance of Dr. Nickerson, the number of staff mushroomed and space wherever available was gratefully accepted. Among the first additions to staff were Mr. Mazerall, an electronics engineer who assisted in the building and design of many pieces of research equipment, Dr. P. Dresel, who became chairman of the Department of Pharmacology at Dalhousie University, Drs. G. Frank and F. Inoue who moved to the Department of Pharmacology at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Dr. I. R. Innes who eventually succeeded Dr. Nickerson as chairman of the department and Drs. I. Bihler and F. LaBella, full professors and senior research scholars of the Medical Research Council. The increase of staff was matched with an influx of graduate students, including several local medical graduates who on completion of their postgraduate degrees became heads of departments and in one case, Dr. R. Tuttle, president of a major pharmaceutical company. Names readily remembered include, Dr. S. Carter, who was the first individual to receive a postgraduate degree in the new department, Drs. K. MacCannel, J. Gourzis, N. Hollenberg, G. Karr, S. Kalsner, M. Sutter. The department has continued to produce bright graduates who have gone on to become Heads of Department, senior administrators, Deans and well-known scientists.

The research productivity improved rapidly allowing the Department a premiere status nationally and was rated among the top 10 department in North America. Graduates from this program went to many parts of the world to become noted research investigators and future Heads of Departments and Deans

In 1967, Mark Nickerson moved to McGill University in Montreal as Chairman. He left the Department in an excellent shape, steeped in good traditions and with a robust training and research program.

1967-1983   Ian R. Innes became the next Head. He got his Undergraduate medical training at Aberdeen, Scotland. After a 10 year stint in general medical practice, he returned to postgraduate research training in Physiology at Aberdeen and then went for postdoctoral Fellowship with Otto Krayer at Harvard.

During his term as Head, the excellent research and training program continued. The Department continued its policy of admitting North American as well as international students. Eventually the Department lost its NIH Training Grant and had to rely wholly on Canadian sources of funds. The established policy producing well-rounded graduates continued and a strong component of training was the system of rotation. Every student before embarking on thesis work was allowed to work in 2-3 laboratories during the first year of training. This allowed them to learn different research techniques and approaches. They also had to do course work not only in their own areas of research but also in other major areas of Pharmacology. This was made possible due to the fact that so many investigators with a wide variety of interests were housed in the same building. Dr. Innes’s research interest was in autonomic and smooth muscle Pharmacology and he was a contributor to the Pharmacology textbook edited by Goodman and Gilman.

1982-1989  C.V. Greenway: who got his Ph.D. from Cambridge University, was an outstanding cardiovascular scientist specializing in research on the regulation of venous function (especially the splanchnic and hepatic vascular beds). His forte was in performing studies on intact animals and he trained a large number of Ph.D. and M.Sc. students. He was also noted for his excellent teaching skills. During his Headship the Department was reorganized into 4 research groups: Cancer chemotherapy, Cardiovascular, Hepato-renal, and Neuropharmacology.

1989-1994  W.W. Lautt: was trained in vascular pharmacology under the supervision of Dr. Greenway. His initial interest was in hepatic vascular buffer response. He then went on to do research on the Hepatic Insulin Sensitization Factor and the role of the parasympathetic nervous system in the control of blood sugar and skeletal muscle glucose utilization. During his Headship several changes were made to the regulations defining our graduate training program. Dr. Lautt also encouraged the commercial potential of research and was able to get funding from the pharmaceutical industry for supporting graduate students.

1994-1996  C.V. Greenway:
served as an Acting Head for 2 years before seeking retirement.

1996   G.B. Glavin: was interested in studying gastric pharmacology and ulcer pathophysiology. He was a great champion for good teaching and he himself set an excellent example. His tenure was short as he was seconded to the University administration for serving as an Associate Dean for Research. He is now serving as the Vice President of the National Virology Laboratory in Winnipeg.

D.D. Smyth: served as an Acting Head for xx years. His research area is hypertension and he currently the Associate Dean for Graduate Studies. He is well recognized for his teaching.

1999-2009: Dr. Daniel S. Sitar Due to budgetary restraint, the academic staffing of the Department had declined from 11.68 FTE in 1978/79 to 8.99 FTE by 1988/99. Starting in 1999, the Department was again able to recruit new academic staff, partly due to allocation of new FTE positions from the University administration, and partly due to partnership with the St. Boniface Hospital Research Foundation. This growth has been both a blessing and a challenge, as our Department is now physically divided between the Bannatyne Campus and the St. Boniface Hospital Research Centre. A video link between the two research clusters will enrich the interactions among these 2 groups. The Department has expanded its interdisciplinary professional relationships with the College of Pharmacy and the College of Nursing. The College of Pharmacy will soon relocate to the Bannatyne Campus. This relocation will strengthen our already fruitful research and teaching collaborations. Since 1999, two of our academic staff members have held CIHR Scientist Awards, and we are in the process of nomination of a staff member for a Tier I Canada Research Chair. Some recruitments occurred subsequent to the loss of valuable academic members, as our staff continued to be recognized for their leadership abilities, and continued to be recruited to other challenges within and outside of the University of Manitoba. Dr. Jonathan Geiger left our Department in 2003 to become the Chair of the Department of Pharmacology, Physiology and Therapeutics at the University of North Dakota. In the same year, Dr. Michael Mayne was recruited back to his home in Prince Edward Island to establish the new NRC Institute for Nutrisciences and Health. Our staff continue to be recognized by national appointments and awards, and these are documented elsewhere on the web page. Dr. Donald Smyth is currently serving as Acting Dean of the Faculty of Graduate Studies and was appointed as Editor of the Pharmacology section of the Canadian Journal of Physiology and Pharmacology last year. We continue to be recognized for our academic contributions by memberships on editorial boards of important scientific journals in our discipline. As well, a number of our staff members serve on grants panels as either members or chairs. The fact that there is now an international shortage of pharmacologists will increasingly strain our ability to attract the brightest and the best. However, the situation provides an excellent opportunity for those young persons with a scientific interest related to the development of new drugs and optimization of their use to treat the increasing burden of chronic diseases in our society.

2009 - present:    Dr. Fiona Parkinson currently serving as  Head.


Dr. Mark Nickerson
First Head of Department of Pharmacology & Therapeutics


See Also:

Mark Nickerson and the Department of Pharmacology
Past Members Remembers