News from the world of Physiology

  PMIG the Physiology Majors Interest Group Meeting (Minnesota U campus, Minneapolis)

              Robert Bruininks Hall

The third meeting of the Physiology Majors Interest Group, created in the context of the APS (American Society of Physiology) created by the main departments of Physiology of the American continent (Canada included), was held in Minniapolis (MN, USA) last June 18-19, 2019 at the iconic Bruinink Hall, to enhance the quality and excellence of Physiology, considered essential for any health profession. The SPF interviewed Luis Monteiro Rodrigues, a member of this group and his foundation, who at this meeting coordinated a focus group on the future of Physiology. Here are some of the most relevant notes.


P. The differences in structure between physiology training in the USA, usually at BA (bachelor of arts) or BSc (bachellor of sciences), and our European, outside the UK are known. It is a profession, and at the same time a prerequisite for the medical school in particular, but also for other health schools. Nevertheless, we assume that there are common concerns?




LMR. True, the systems are different, they form with distinct objectives, reason why the teaching of Physiology, in the USA, an importance and a very sharp character.

I must point that in Portugal there is a new profession close in the designation, Clinical Physiology, given by some schools of the Polytechnic, whose creation introduced another contextualization of Physiology in Portugal, still to discuss, both from the point of view of content and of skills.


But, returning to the question, the concerns are essentially the same. Even though higher levels of Physiology in the US have gained an impressive dynamism in recent years, making it a highly competitive field of higher education. However, the courses are many different from each other. Many of these departments (with very varied denominations) are in Art Schools, others in Science Schools. However, there is a general observation that generally after a 3 or 4 years course, about 50% of the students do not continue their studies, preferring to enter the professional path, revealing some inconsistency with the initial objective declared by the students - such as higher schools of health.

In Europe, Physiology is a cross-disciplinary discipline to all health courses. Not much as an area of ​​professional performance, despite the recent example I cited. On the other hand, in research and advanced teaching, there are many physiologists developing this basic science with high quality projects and publications.

The PMIG was created to discuss how to enhance physiology training skills, since American colleges (about 20) train professionals with very distinct competences. Discussion of the central concepts, the adaptation of teaching to the new challenges (public, technologies) and anticipate the future were this encounter themes.  


P. Is there some paralell between this PMIG and some structures? national or international?

LMR. At the national level, as known, Portugal is (was) the only EU country without a Physiological Society recognized by the European Union (FEPS) or by the International Union (IUPS). Special emphasis is due in these domains to APS, to the Physiological Society (UK) and to IUPS, which in multiple ways have led the global events in these domains. All had sought to reflect on the difficulties that in particular in UE have felt in atracting new physiologists for the development of advanced biomedical knowledge. We have lost some relevance to disciplines such as biochemistry, cellular and molecular biology. More recently, artificial intelligence and robotics called again some attention for basic sciences. But its true that we have a long way to, specially in the countries out of Great Britain, reach the levels of notoriety that physiology enjoys in these countries (the last joint meeting of the APS and Physiological Society in 2016 in Dublin, brought together almost 4000 physiologists from all over the world).



P.  What participation did you have in this PMIG?

LMR. As my answers suggest, I have long sought to contribute to thinking and acting in these domains, knowing what is done in human physiology in Portugal and abroad. The laboratory that I run (Modeling Systems, CBIOS center) has developed some basic research that we seek to divulge in large meetings of the sector. On the occasion of the construction of the Physioma 2019 we thought to discuss the "future of Physiology" with a panel of experts related to this activity. From there to the "focus group" in the US and later in Portugal (still to be done due to calendar issues) was a natural step.

What we did was brainstorming with some of the most notable North American physiologists (including one Arthur C. Guyton Award) the trends, uncertainties factors, and possible evolution scenarios of Physiology, its teaching and research, and anticipate potential scenarios over a 10-year horizon (2030). I had the special pleasure of drawing with colleague João Gregório, and moderating this session. We are very curious about the results.




P. What is your expectation for the Physiological Society?

LMR. I think it is launched at a very opportune moment. There are big changes - technological, cultural, social, whose global impact we can not predict. But we know that it is necessary to prepare physiology and future physiologists for multiple challenges. Society can narrow the distance between the different realities - provide the contact with new concepts / active learning techniques applied in physiology; to show the importance of coaching in training the future physiologist, to facilitate networking, and researchers mobility... There are many new things that always arrive here with a delay that I would say "historical". After all ... it was always like this. I believe that with the Society, that is, with the collaboration of those who teach and research physiology with our passion, we will be able to do more and better.


  Lisboa, June 23, 2019


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