Rhythms of Life: Perspectives for Physiological Sciences in the 21st Century

21 Oct 2016

Professor Ken O’Halloran was invited to speak at a strategic workshop organized by the Brazilian Physiological Society held on Thursday August 25th 

at the University of São Paulo in Brazil, ahead of the two-day meeting of the International Scientific Program Committee which selected symposia for the International Union of Physiological Sciences Congress (Rio e Janeiro, 2017). Professor O’Halloran’s lecture “The health of physiology: a perspective” gave a personal account of the contemporary challenges facing physiology and physiologists (and the wider biomedical community) in academic institutions around the globe. Beyond analysis, the perspective offered simple strategies to promote physiology. The lecture will be published in Physiological Mini Reviews.


The health of physiology – a perspective

Ken D. O’Halloran

Department of Physiology, University College Cork, Ireland

What does a health check for physiology in the 21st century reveal? Has it run its course as a research discipline? Will it soon be confined to the lecture halls and libraries of contemporary institutions? Or on the contrary, does it have a bright future, a central role to play in the pursuit of fundamental knowledge for the benefit of human health? Physiology’s current predicament is a paradox of sorts: increasingly invisible, and to some in rapid irreversible decline, yet it appears never as popular in terms of Society membership, and global celebrations of the discipline, which demonstrably go from strength to strength. As with any conundrum, there are elegant solutions, and a growing interest within the community to seek them out.

Against the backdrop of significant failings of the modern reductionist approach, physiology, with its holistic approach to integrative function of complex organisms, has never seemed so relevant and important. Yet there are worrying signs. Morale in many camps is low. Brand physiology appears in poor shape to those pulling the purse strings; past its heyday, dated, maybe even dead! Many others at the centre and fringes of the discipline are optimistic for physiology’s future, but it is increasingly clear that physiologists must take action, not so as to merely protect physiology per se, but critically, so as to ensure it is enabled to contribute to the delivery of ambitious expectations set by the wider community, notably funders spending public monies. Physiology is essential to the realisation of plans for better health outcomes. It is pivotal to progress, once one accepts that progress is a slow incremental affair.

It is timely that many conversations have commenced with a view to charting a course for physiology through troubled waters. I hope to add constructively to the debate with observations and discussion serving to nudge physiology ever closer to centre stage, where she belongs, in the theatre of the life sciences. My presentation will focus on: 1) Physiology—a puzzling paradox; 2) Welcome to the Department of Convenient Amalgamations; 3) Blind spots, deaf ears, hard noses: Has physiology been tight-lipped for too long?; 4) What’s wrong with the P word?; 5) More popular than podiatry; 6) Comparatively speaking; 7) Many languages—one voice; 8) Building the brand: leaders and loyalty; 9) Reach out to outreach; 10) Dare to teach; 11) Turning the tide—let’s agree on integration; 12) After Fernel: Physiologia for the future.


Physiological Mini Reviews

Vol 9 #4, August 2016

ISSN 1669-5410 (Online)pmr.safisiol.org.ar

The full lecture will be published in PMR.

Physiology Department


Western Gateway Building Western Road University College Cork