His Legacy


The Van Liere Chair of Physiology*
A Gift of Heritage

The Professorship
When it comes to the study of medicine, one of the most basic subjects is the science of physiology: the study of the functions of the cells, tissues and organs that comprise living organisms.  The first courses in physiology at West Virginia University were taught in 1869.

First-year medical students begin their study of this science their first day in class at WVU.  Dr. George Hedge, chair of the School of Medicine’s Department of Physiology, describes it as “probably the most crucial subject in the study of general medicine; it is necessary to understand normal function before dealing with the abnormal function of disease processes.”

The department has a double mission familiar to most disciplines: to teach and to conduct research.  In recent years there has been an increasing emphasis on the latter mission in an effort to attract federal research grants into the overall budget and to bring additional exposure and renown to the program.

Currently, 13 full-time faculty are in the tenure track program, and two research assistant professors recently joined the staff.  In addition, four adjunct appointees from the nearby Appalachian Laboratory for Occupational Safety and Health (ALOSH) contribute their expertise to the department’s mission.

Complementing the teaching and research efforts are graduate and postdoctoral training programs in physiology.  These-combined with a recent restructuring of the physiology courses, and the regular seminar presentations by guest scientists-have generated positive reactions and evaluations from the students and faculty.

Although there has been a significant turnover in tenure track faculty (with a resulting surge in federal grant monies coming into the program) since Dr. Hedge became the department chair eight years ago, he feels one of the strengths of WVU’s physiology program is the harmony within the staff.

The establishment of the Edward J. Van Liere Professorship of Physiology will enable the department to maintain continuity in funding visits by professors and scientists to the department and in supporting the professional activities of the staff.  These are very important endeavors in enhancing the department's national and international image as well as in upgrading the staff’s credentials and morale.

Dr. Van Liere established a tradition for teaching, research and publishing his findings during a 58-year association with WVU’s School of Medicine and Department of Physiology.  The professorship is a vital development in upholding that tradition.

The Honoree
There will probably never be a more deserving honoree for a School of Medicine professorship at West Virginia University than Dr. Edward J. Van Liere.

Dean of the School for more than 25 years until December 1960, Dr. Van Liere began teaching physiology classes at the university in 1921.  Following his mandatory retirement as a teacher in 1966, he remained active in his Medical Center office doing research and writing articles and books until the day of this death in September, 1979, at age 83.

The self-described “very conservative Dutchman” provided the energy and the leadership necessary to generate the plans and the support, both legislative and financial, that led to the building of the WVU Medical Center in the late 1950's and the expansion of the School of Medicine from a two-year to a four-year program.

Possessing an MD degree from Harvard and a PhD degree from the University of Chicago, Dr. Van Liere earned the respect of at least two generations of West Virginia physicians through his teaching, research, writing and skill as an administrator.

The Department of Physiology continues to receive inquiries regarding his writings.  His major area of research was hypoxia(the effects of oxygen deprivation on the body).  The Van Liere Awards for best presentation of original research are given annually to two levels of students researchers.

The author of either books, Dr. Van Liere served as an associate editor of the West Virginia Medical Journal for 41 years.  The Wisconsin native was regarded as a first-rate scientist by his peers; and as a Sherlock Holmes devotee he carefully studied the relationship of the famous detective and his associate, Dr. Watson.

Perhaps Dr. Van Liere’s popularity is best explained by his own observation: “I can see something good in everyone. I like people.”

The Medical School Alumni Association established an Edward J. Van Liere Student Loan Fund in the early 1970s.  Since his death, memorials have continued to come into the WVU Foundation, resulting in the funding of the Edward J. Van Liere Professorship in Physiology.

The Recipient
Holding WVU’s first Edward J. Van Liere Professorship of Physiology is George A. Hedge, PhD, who has chaired the Department of Physiology since joining the School of Medicine faculty in 1977.  A native of Missouri, Dr. Hedge earned his doctorate in 1966 at Stanford University.

His two years as a research fellow at the University of Utrecht in the Netherlands, where he learned to communicate in Dutch, enabled him to develop a special bond later with Dr. Van Liere.  The ‘Father of the WVU Medical Center’ was particularly impressed with a birthday card written in Dutch that Dr. Hedge sent him after coming to Morgantown.

Dr. Hedge, who only knew Dr. Van Liere by reputation prior to leaving the University of Arizona to direct WVU’s Physiology program, has positive recollections of the moments they spent together during the two years their careers overlapped at the School of Medicine.

He remembers their conversation as “pleasant interchanges with an interesting and engaging colleague who, while always busy with his writing, was happy to spend time sharing his many experiences and thoughts with you individually.” Dr. Hedge also observed that, even in his eighties, Dr. Van Liere was writing reports that were classic studies of physiology topics.

His friendship with Dr. Van Liere augmented his personal satisfaction at being named the first Edward J. Van Liere Professor of Physiology.  Dr. Hedge is expecting the added financial benefits to bolster the department’s research efforts and educational missions.

Text taken from the Dedication Ceremony of The Edward J. Van Liere Professorship of Physiology in the West Virginia University Mountainlair Gallery, Friday, September thirteenth nineteen hundred eighty-five, at six-thirty in the evening.

Holders of the Edward J. Van Liere Professorship of Physiology

Since Dr. Van Liere’s principle association with West Virginia University was first as professor and chairman of physiology (1921-1955) and then as Dean of the School of Medicine (1935-1960), the Van Liere Chair is given to the chairman of the Department of Physiology.

George Hedge, Ph.D.
David Kruland, Ph.D.
Robert Goodman, Ph.D.




Edward J. Van Liere Memorial Research Convocation:
A Teacher’s Legacy

At the time of Dr. Van Liere’s retirement the West Virginia School of Medicine established the Edward J. Van Liere Award, an annual recognition for excellence in student-conducted research. The award recognizes the honorees because of Dr. Van Liere’s deep conviction that methods of research are essential to the education of the physician. In 1980 the School of Medicine agreed to open the competition to those students who conducted research in fields other than medicine.

Roster of Van Liere and Research Day Winners

Jeffrey Saville Shultz
William T. McClellan
Charles R. Loar
Larry K. Pickering
John R. Hitt
Michael Timothy Smith
William L. Harris
Howard L. Shackelford
Frank L. Schwartz
James C. Jarrell
John White
David Henderson
Roberta E. Galford
Cynthia Olsen Jopling
Vincent Traynelis
Valerie Lazzell
David J. Brailer
Robert Johnson
Douglas Milam
John Dagirmanjian
Anthony Viti
Joel Michael
David Jones
Desiree Livingston
Tamara Maris
Sandi Manus
Peter Wearden
Tucker Jennings & Christina Massinopl (Tie)
Matthew Walker
Betsy Shook
Sharon Strickland
Eugenia Harnagea-Theophilus
Laura Stabile, William McClellan, Tim Nurkiewicz, Brett Hall
Vera Voronina, Michael Taylor, Deborah Lenda
Heath Skinner, Hassan Mir, John Orphonos, Candice Damiani, Erin Sikora
Michael Howell, Kristine Magabo, Bahair Ghazi, Dale Santrock
Zheng Li, Jason Waggoner, Patti Zeidler (tie)
Kasturi Pai, Jacquelyn Bower, Brian Griffith, David Howell (tie)
Heath Skinner, Parco Siu, Indrani Talukdar, Wentao Zhang, Neelam Azad, Suzann Clutter, Saswata Talkuda, Rajesh Garugu, Penelop Baughman, Kelley Bailey
Saswata Talukdar, Jarod Kabulski, Tim Wiltshire, Laura Kelley, Brooke Helfer, Julie Balch Samora, Kelley Baily, Neelam Azad, Vincent DiNapoli, Mei Xu, David Howell, Alexander Rowe, Sanjit Roy, Emily Murphy
Heather O’Leary, Clayton Caswell, Amanda Jo LeBlanc, Etka Choudhary, Murali Sundaram, Dacie Bridge, Ronald Fecek, Janna Jackson, Sanjeev Kumar, Yan Wang, Alison Kohan, Jarod Kabulski, Nicole Bryan, Robyn Ayscue, Julia Balch Samora