Kim E. Barrett

Kim E. Barrett

86th APS President (2013-2014)
Kim E. Barrett
(b. 1958)

Introducing Kim E. Barrett

Kim E. Barrett is Professor of Medicine in the Division of Gastroenterology of the Department of Medicine at the University of California, San Diego, School of Medicine in La Jolla, California.  She also holds joint appointments in the Division of Rheumatology, Allergy and Immunology and the Division of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine.  She is an active member in the Biomedical Sciences Ph.D. program, and also provides instruction in gastrointestinal physiology to medical and pharmacy students.  She has played a number of leadership roles in her department, the School of Medicine, and the campus more broadly, including having served as Vice-Chair for Research in the Department of Medicine, Chair of the Biomedical Sciences Program, Vice-Chair of the Graduate Council, and elected Chair of the Health Sciences Faculty Council.  These and other roles prepared her for selection as Dean of Graduate Studies for the UC San Diego campus as a whole in 2006, in which capacity she oversees all aspects of the graduate education experience for more than 4500 masters, doctoral and professional students.  She has won several institutional awards for her teaching as well as her administrative contributions.

Barrett is a proud native of the United Kingdom, and received her Ph.D. from University College London in 1982.  Her thesis research, under the guidance of Frederick L. Pearce, established functional heterogeneity among mast cells from different species and organs, and has implications for our understanding as well as the treatment of a variety of allergic disorders.  She completed a post-doctoral fellowship with Dean D. Metcalfe, in the Laboratory of Clinical Investigation of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases, focused on developing methods to isolate and characterize mast cells from the gut, including from non-human primates.  In 1985, she moved to UC San Diego to work as a research faculty member with the late Kiertisin Dharmsathaphorn on intestinal transport; she was transferred to a regular professorial series in 1988 and rose to the rank of Professor by 1996.  She has published more than 100 original articles, of which almost one third have appeared in APS journals, as well as more than 100 invited articles, book chapters and reviews.  She has been the lead contributor to the latest two editions of Ganong’s Review of Medical Physiology and recruited colleagues Sue Barman, Heddwen Brooks and Scott Boitano to assist with this project.  She is also sole author of Gastrointestinal Physiology, published by McGraw-Hill in its first edition in 2006, and with the next edition to appear later this year.

Since gaining her faculty appointment, Barrett’s research has focused on the intra- and intercellular mechanisms that regulate intestinal transport and barrier function.  She has paid particular attention to chloride secretion and the ways in which this process is deranged in the setting of intestinal inflammation and infections and may thereby account for diarrheal symptoms as well as defects in host defense.  She has defined the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFr) as a key signaling crossroads that integrates information arising from other epithelial receptors and ultimately serves as a brake against excessive secretion.  She has also shown how so-called probiotic bacteria, commensals selected for their apparent therapeutic benefits, can restore epithelial homeostasis in the gut and prevent the adverse effects of pathogenic bacteria and inflammatory cytokines.  Her most recent research is examining the pathophysiological correlates of diarrheal disease associated with infection with Salmonella spp. in a novel animal model.  Her work, and that of her trainees, has been continuously funded by various institutes and centers of the National Institutes of Health as well as private foundations such as the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America.

Barrett has been highly active in editorial activities as well as other aspects of peer-review.  She served as Editor-in-Chief of American Journal of Physiology-Cell Physiology, among other editorial roles, and is currently on the Editorial Board of Physiological Reviews as well as serving as Deputy Editor-in-Chief (for The Americas) of The Journal of Physiology.  She has served as a permanent NIH study section member and on review panels for the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine and the CCFA.  She is chair of the International Scientific Advisory Board for the School of Biosciences at the University of Cardiff, UK and the Scientific Review Committee of the Center for Gastrointestinal Biology and Disease at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.

Barrett has been recognized for her contributions with a number of awards, including a Science and Engineering Research Council Research Scholarship, Fogarty Visiting Fellowship, Fulbright Traveling Scholarship, the Young Investigator Award of the American Gastroenterological Association and Gastroenterology Research Group, the APS Henry Pickering Bowditch Award, a Kaiser-Permanente Award for Excellence in Teaching, Doctor of Medical Science, honoris causa, from Queen’s University Belfast, the APS Davenport Lectureship, election as a Foreign Member of the Swedish Royal Society of Sciences, the AGA Outstanding Women in Science Award, the APS Bodil Schmidt-Nielsen Distinguished Mentor and Scientist Award, the Distinguished Administrator Award from the Graduate Student Association at UC San Diego, and the Partner in International Education Award from the UC San Diego International Center.

Barrett has been actively involved with the APS essentially for the entirety of her professional career.  She has served the Society in many capacities, which has generated a thorough familiarity with the challenges and opportunities that are facing both the Society and the discipline of physiology.  Perhaps most significantly, her six-year term as Chair of the Publications Committee, following on from three years as an elected Councillor, gave her the opportunity to oversee one of the Society’s most important programs.  She has also served on the Nominating Committee of the GI Section, as member and Chair of the Women in Physiology Committee, on the Steering Committee of the Cell and Molecular Physiology Section (ex officio), as APS representative to the FASEB Excellence in Science Award Committee and FASEB Journal Editorial Board, on the Awards Committee, as Chair of the  Committee on Committees, as Vice-Chair of the Publications Committee in charge of ethical issues, on the Nominating and Finance Committees (ex officio), on the Publications Taskforce, and as a faculty member at every Professional Skills Workshop on Writing and Reviewing for APS Journals since their inception in 2006.

In her personal life, Barrett is married to Peter Pierce (US Navy, retired) and enjoys almost nothing more than using her long-standing annual pass for a trip to the Happiest Place on Earth (aka Disneyland).  She also draws great satisfaction from her role as one of the back-up singers in the band GI Distress, comprised of GI physiologists from around the United States and beyond.  Check them out at the EB closing reception in Boston this April!